Evidence-Based Learning at School

Modern management for secondary modern schools

The aim of our schools must be not only to safeguard but also to improve the quality of teaching as well as student and teacher performance. One vital prerequisite for this is modern management.

The entire school community benefits from good governance: school management, teachers, parents, and students. Respectful and benevolent cooperation, a transparent division of labor that provides space for participation and shared responsibility, optimized organizational processes, intensive communication, clear structures, and a willingness on the part of the staff to change approaches at any given time presuppose modern management.

But what is good, modern management? Good management means more than  just effective administration. Among other things, it requires a span of control that allows individual development among teaching staff. It provides support, advice, and encouragement. One condition for a span of control that leads but does not dictate is achieved by introducing advanced school management.

The improved quality of leadership at Bavarian schools is not an end in itself. It aims to improve the education of students and raise the self-perception of teachers, likewise improving teacher satisfaction and health.

In recent years, the Bavarian State Ministry of Education, Culture, Science, and Art subjected secondary schools to a process of change that moved away from a centralized school system (where school management was merely an executive body of the ministry) towards a decentralized one, where the school board must exercise management and development tasks with the appropriate decision-making power.

What concrete challenges does this present to modern management?

It is therefore of paramount importance that school management show transparent behavior, delegate tasks to qualified employees, and include all those involved in the decision-making process (as much as possible): away from heavy-handed decisions  and towards “leadership”.

Ensuring the proper functioning of a school is naturally a central task of school management and needs no further execution.

But ensuring innovation and improved quality in schools requires closer examination. The freedoms granted to each secondary school must be used by individual schools to improve quality and pedagogical development.

The school board is responsible as an initiator of the school’s pedagogical development. This is why it must use its decision-making powers in full.

Without an awareness of leadership, development cannot be realized in an autonomous school. Since the school board is responsible for errors and defects, it is also necessary to recognize these and develop remedies.

Hierarchy versus pedagogical thought and action?

Just to ensure a functioning school environment, a structure is needed in which all those involved know what tasks they have and who is responsible for what. Faulty workflows automatically lead to inconsistencies and damage cooperation.

Structuring tasks also leads to differing levels of control. An organizational hierarchy is not a problem at all if the recognition of man and his needs consists of benevolent cooperation and adherence to clear rules.

It is precisely the free development of educational thinking and action that some colleagues do not meet with open enthusiasm. It happens time and time again that some are critical of courage, innovative power, dedication to curriculum planning and design, and willingness to perceive other official activities. If this criticism is objectively justified and can be resolved through constructive dialogue, this has very commendable consequences. It is often difficult to find the time and place for such talks within a packed school day. This is another reason why it is necessary for school management to make full use of its powers and ensure that colleagues spend enough time together at school. Regular educational conferences, student council meetings, and workshops are suitable instruments for this.

But the critical evaluation of active teachers is often not objectively justified; rather, it is grounded in personal space. As long as one performs the same way as everyone else, individual performance doesn’t stand out, regardless of how it may be assessed. If some teachers are occasionally more innovative or productive, however, their individual performance is up for discussion at the school board, among colleagues, students, and parents.

In this case, it is up to management to protect educational thought and action. A hierarchy is necessary to allow the development of these things. It is always a minority that provides changes to begin with.

But that’s not necessarily negative; rather, the opposite is the case. Every school needs development, but not a revolution. But this development must not be stifled, and strong leadership ensures a positive environment for school development. This refers not only to the organization of lesson plans, teaching classes, or equipping classrooms. The school board must do more to position itself so that school development is desired and deliberate disruptions are not tolerated.

A democratically run school is conceivable in theory but not feasible in the reality of everyday school life. For this reason, hierarchy is not only a good idea but also a guarantor of successful school development.

According to Prof. Dr. Fischer (University of Regensburg, 2014), an academic staff fundamentally consists of 20% multipliers (those who are technically competent and have human integrity), 60% indifferent colleagues (those who look where things are headed), and 20% worriers (those who block).

Management must be set apart from each of these groups. It must know and promote the multipliers. Together with the multipliers, it must try to win as many indifferent colleagues as possible who will favor the common cause. The small portion of blockers who cannot be reached must be overruled.

Wilfried Krauß, Zweiter Konrektor ZwRSK