Can you be an ethical school leader in the current education system?

What is ethical leadership in schools, do we need to define it, and if so, why? I have been pondering this question ever since attending a packed event organised by a new group called the Ethical Leadership Commission. Teachwire reports.

If this Commission’s existence is an admission that leadership is currently unethical, that should prompt some serious soul searching. But of course, it’s not that straightforward.

School leaders and teachers are mostly principled, decent people, and amongst the most widely respected in their communities and nationally (certainly when compared to say, politicians or journalists).

A tiny minority may have dishonest, self-serving motives; you only have to look at the spate of recent stories about fraudulent, even criminal, conduct in some academy chains to see that. But there are others who are pushed or lured into dubious behaviour by the very system in which they are expected to succeed.

Manipulating intakes or the subjects pupils choose, teaching to the test, and even cheating are inevitable byproducts of asking schools to compete in a high stakes environment where professional status and security are permanently on the line.

Nevertheless the eminent bodies behind the Commission range from head teacher organisations, Ofsted and the National Governor Association to UCL’s Institute for Education.

They are determined to have a go at defining what ethical leadership means, to give heads and governors confidence to resist temptation when faced by difficult decisions under pressure.

Around 100 pathfinder schools are already working with the framework, which involves ethical audits on leadership and management, challenging questions for schools about how they handle issues like exam malpractice, pupil behaviour, curriculum choices, the use of public funds and SEND.

An ethics forum will meet several times a year to consider the thorny dilemmas that leaders face in the context of the seven principles of public life: selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership, to which the commissioners have added trust, wisdom, kindness, justice, service, courage and optimism.

Will it work? The pathfinders are oversubscribed and I suspect there is a hunger amongst many leaders (head and governors) to have their existing ethical approaches, which may mean their results don’t look quite as good as some other schools, validated.

Read the full article Can you be an ethical school leader in the current education system?

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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