The esteemed (by some) Her Majesty’s Chief Inspector of Schools, Mike Wilshaw, has suggested that successful headteachers should get statues erected of them. We have this obsession with honouring people with this sort of thing. If it’s not blocks of marble it is a mention for some “celebrity” in an “honours” list. The idea that we might work as servants for the common good is somehow lost. And because it has been lost, and replaced by a culture where every job can be rewarded by a moment of celebrity, we do not make the necessary investment in training or expertise in order to ensure, as governments do elsewhere, that the provision that children gain from their teachers is of the very highest quality, with a high level of subject expertise (not just “knowledge”), and a wide variety of skills in being able to ensure that all can learn and grow. We end up instead with a teacher shortage because the esteem in which teaching is held is continually assaulted by government. A statue will not fix that. And as any headteacher knows, we are no better than the quality of the teachers we have working for us.
When we were in Holland, one of the more intimate communal moments came when we were together in the Town Hall in Franeker, and each of us read out, in various languages that we were familiar with or spoke, a simple, and perhaps even rather cheesy, poem. In English it goes like this:
One hundred years from now
it won’t matter what car you drove.
What kind of house you lived in.
How much you had in your bank account.
Nor what your clothes looked like.
But the world may be a little better
because you were important in a life
of a child.
You may not see the fruit of today’s work,
But you have seeded a lifetime of knowledge.
I am afraid for Mr Wilshaw, that he has rather got the wrong end of the stick. Any statue that is worth its weight in bronze will be far less than the smallest impact by the least teacher in the lives of the children they care for and lead.
So for those of you who for a fleeting moment thought it might be a good idea to erect a statue of a headteacher, put the idea right out of your mind. Immediately.