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Help me understand

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by Louand, Jan 30, 2020.

  1. Louand

    Louand New commenter

    Hello WPD

    I've been reading on this board for over a year. The advice on here has got me through some very difficult times so thank you all for that. I'm now at a point where I just need to understand and there is no one better to help with that than all of you.

    Some background: its a very familiar story. Large junior school requiring improvement. Long term head leaves. Interim Heads for a period of time including the SLT of a secondary school. New SLT arrive. Over two years to date 10 of the 16 class based teachers leave. Two as the new SLT are coming in as they decided it was finally time to move on. 4 including myself down the combined routes of mental/physical ill health combined with support plans/capability. 4 others in the last two terms with no job to go to and wanting out before their mental/physical health evaporates completely. Oh and 2/3 others who have had periods signed off but managed to make a success of going back on phased return so far - perhaps not forever. One of these being an injury/surgery/recovery situation. Most of these but not all are experienced/expensive staff. Union rep told me I wasn't the first on her patch and wouldn't be the last to fall. Budget cuts + expensive staff = new cheaper staff. I get the maths completely.

    After nearly a year signed off situation resolved before Christmas (and probably at least a year prior to this of high level work stress I ploughed on through) So now its a new job lined up out of teaching. So to those in the middle of the OH, GP, Union, being signed off, on Anti Depressants/anxiety medications, absence meetings - it does eventually get better. The key being the remaining being signed off if you are unwell, GP, OH, union involvement (especially for the absence meetings). The bad phases don't 100% disappear but I can do life again just about.

    So my question to which I could do with some varied perspectives - how do the ruthless new SLT do this? Is it lucky coincidence? Or do they look at which teachers have steered the school, children, parents through the chaos and up the pressure so they crack? Do they line up the replacement middle leaders from their previous school/social network in advance? What do the parents, governors, children think? Do they notice or care?

    I know I sound cynical, skeptical...it is all for the good of the children apparently. I know it is only theorising based on anecdotal evidence. I know it happens elsewhere too. I don't get the psychology? What is the psychology/mechanism for this? If you have any thoughts please share.
    Thank you
  2. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    You may as well ask me how or why a serial killer is motivated. I'm sure I could look at individual cases and come up with suggestions, but in general, I have no idea why a person would choose to murder several others. In the same way, I have no idea why there are so many SLT that appear to be trying their best to destroy schools. I can only assume that both groups think in the same way.
    bonxie, nomad, Alice K and 2 others like this.
  3. Louand

    Louand New commenter

    Perhaps they do. I'm fairly sure the crime/thriller section of my local library probably has several books which might help me understand. Sadly there don' t seem to be any based in the realm of education with a career-destroying head so I am asking the good people of the TES WPD while someone writes one.
    Alice K likes this.
  4. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Many SLTs are on the quest for the holy grail of teaching: Get the best possible results from all students at the lowest possible cost with the cheapest teachers who will work every hour they can implementing questionable initiatives so the school gains an outstanding grade from Ofsted.
  5. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    What @Shedman said.

    Plus people achieving promotion too soon. Lack of experience. Stupidity. Too big for their boots. Just don't "get it".

    It isn't just teaching. I can't remember when I last encountered good customer service or a good GP.
    corgie11, Shedman, hhhh and 4 others like this.
  6. cornflake

    cornflake Senior commenter

    It happens to SLT too....
    nomad, notreallyme75 and MissMinton like this.
  7. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Perhaps the main reason some SLTs do what they do is the high-stakes accountability regime of Ofsted, You're only as good as your last Ofsted result. Slip below Good and your governors will want you out or the the DfE will forcibly academise or re-broker you (that may not be true but many heads/SLTs believe it is what will happen). It's treating heads/SLTs like football managers.

    If you subject schools to that sort of accountability it's not surprising some heads react the way they do. Especially when Ofsted blithely move the goal posts almost overnight and results got you Outstanding last year now gets you SM for having too narrow a curriculum. Orwellian is rightly used to describe it.

    The 'all HTs are sociopaths and like hurting people' explanation is popular on here but really I don't buy that. Heads may be insecure and/or incompetent but very few are sociopaths or psychopaths
    CWadd and phlogiston like this.
  8. Shedman

    Shedman Star commenter

    Spot on!
    nomad likes this.
  9. 50sman

    50sman Lead commenter

    Remember Gove’s Law: Everyone has to be ABOVE average!
  10. Louand

    Louand New commenter

    @Shedman I can identify with that....the lack of willingness to up hold this philosophy I suppose puts you directly against the leadership team as well as the tendency to raise issue with it.
    @grumpydogwoman yes. yes and have no idea what experience they lack yet hold all the power. Yes but comes across as the opposite. Yes class based staff have zero time to do even a quarter of the things tht are supposed to resemble 'outstanding' learning as judged by observations etc.
    Shedman and agathamorse like this.
  11. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    I'm not anti-management! I had mostly good bosses. It's the current system. But how did it get this bad? And why don't people SEE it's wrong?
    hhhh and Sally006 like this.
  12. Louand

    Louand New commenter

    Thanks @Rott Weiler. That makes more sense and more reasonably helps with feeling like a fool for not seeing it sooner. I'm finding the co-dependent/abusive nature of the relationship between teacher and school difficult to recover from.
  13. magic surf bus

    magic surf bus Star commenter

    The HT who's bullying leadership style prompted my resignation had an uncomfortable past. Their first attempt at headship in quite a prestigious school had gone badly wrong, and they'd come to an 'arrangement' with the Governors before their first year in post was up, ie they were booted out after the staff objected to their leadership style.

    They went to ground for a year then applied for the headship at our school. Out of interest I Googled the various candidates' names and lo and behold, this individual's uncomfortable past turned up in a local newspaper story. When I queried this with one of our existing SLT he said it was already known about and not to worry about it. Well he would say that wouldn't he, because as soon as this individual got the post the SLT member became their Lackey-in-Chief. He's now a Headteacher somewhere else.

    Within a couple of years of the new junta beign established, people in their 50s started retiring early as fast as they could. The only long-serving SLT member for whom the staff had proper respect was sidelined. New SLT were appointed including a ***** who was put in charge of the ICT network and rapidly made it unfit for purpose. As an ICT specialist that made my every lesson harder to manage.

    I won't go into huge detail, but the school quickly became a very unpleasant place to work if you'd been in the job more than a few years and weren't desperate for advancement at any cost. I became a Union rep and was blatantly lied to by the HT on more than one occasion.

    I suspect the HT had personal control issues, and was angered by their previous failure in the role. They weren't going to make the same mistake again so they got tougher. In the end they got their OFSTED brownie points, but at what cost?

    After I quit my post and I walked the supply wilderness for a few years I went into plenty of schools that OFSTED were just as happy with and were far pleasanter places to work. This was because SLT had earned their places at the top through hard graft over a number of years and were generally respected by their staff. This whole thing about forcing out the older staff who dare to question key decisions and packing SLT with uncritical imports is so costly in terms of wasted experience, ignored wisdom, and human misery. It's not a sign of strength in leadership at all, it's a sign of laziness, lack of empathy, and weakness, and I deplore it. It's far easier to scare your employees than it is to motivate them.

    (As an ironic footnote, I have worked twice on a self-employed basis in the prestigious school that the above HT was originally booted out of, and neither time did they sack me. A source of some personal smugness I have to confess. :))
  14. Louand

    Louand New commenter

    @grumpydogwoman I know you are not anti-management. Sorry if my reply implies so. I was agreeing with you. I can see how difficult being a Head/SLT must be. I've always got on well with my bosses too - mostly!
  15. Louand

    Louand New commenter

    That is a detailed and well explained reply. Thanks for your post @magic surf bus. You have described the school I was in perfectly. Good to know there are schools OFSTED are happy with and that they are pleasant places to work.
  16. grumpydogwoman

    grumpydogwoman Star commenter

    It is good to know that genuine education can be recognised. I'm glad of that for the sake of my grandchildren.

    If I'm going to look further? I do think the job attracts conformists and people who don't like to rock the boat. There are a significant number of them and I dare say they have their place but they aren't the colleagues I most respect. Tickle my tummy and I'll roll over. Teacher knows best. And just plain gullible. They want things to be neat and nice and easy. I don't think that's best for kids and I don't think it makes for strong and decent schools.
    Shedman, Alice K, hhhh and 1 other person like this.
  17. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    I expect quite a few serial killers (maybe not strictly the right term as I'm also thinking the mass shootings you get in US schools) are probably just insecure and/or incompetent rather than sociopaths or psychopaths too. I apologise if people inferrred that all SLT are like this, but there are definitely some who think in a way that is unfathomable to me.
    I empathise with the pressures of Ofsted but
    React by making members of staff's lives miserable in the hope of forcing them out? It may not be surprising but it should be. If a teacher is threatened with capability, wouldn't you find it surprising if that teacher then went around bullying their
    students with the sole aim of getting them to leave the school?
    Alice K likes this.
  18. CheeseMongler

    CheeseMongler Lead commenter

    (No idea why the formatting changed when I corrected my error in spelling... no intended empasis!)
  19. Rott Weiler

    Rott Weiler Star commenter Forum guide

    Yes, that's exactly what they do if they think getting rid of someone will enable them to achieve Outstanding, or at least avoid SM/RI. To avoid any misunderstanding here, I'm not defending or justifying heads who do that, just offering one explanation of why some heads behave as they do. Which was what OP asked about. It's not the whole story of course.

    It does that from time to time when you have 2 separate quote boxes and you Edit. Text you add after the second quote box changes font. No idea why. A glitch somewhere in the platform software.
    CheeseMongler likes this.
  20. afterdark

    afterdark Lead commenter

    As usual, only the side of story that supports SLT.
    Other cases are where the head is a psychopath. Headships and similar position attract psychos.
    My contacts in the UK increasing describe capability procedures or hounding out for older more expensive teachers. OFSTED is sometimes a convenient excuse at the time.

    You have far too many questions; to put it briefly I do not think answering these questions will bring you closure not will it bring peace of mind.

    Many people network. Networkers may line up people that they know for jobs. Jobs for chums is part of the problem. Cascade failure has begun. Terrible Leaders are promoting others who in their turn aim to become (terrible) leaders.

    I am not sure who is writing, all HT are psychopaths but I do not recall reading it on here.
    To me it seems to me that you are deliberately misrepresenting what folks on here say.
    Post a few quotes.

    Psychopaths get angry at people who get in their way. Even if that person has no inkling that they are in the way.

    Jon Ronson has some insights into Psychopathy.

    Louand, you only need to adapt. Learn to see these people coming. Stop cooperating with their madness. Learn about the law and only do what you have to do.

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