From compliance to conviction

Robin Hughes looks ahead at a big week for education in Wales.

Education Secretary Kirsty Williams AM will make a statement in the Senedd on the latest OECD report on Wales next Tuesday, 28 February.

Back in October 2016, the Secretary commissioned the OECD to look at the strategies Welsh Government has adopted for reforming education – strategies that are, in part, a response to a 2014 OECD report.

Insiders have been briefing already that this latest OECD report will be favourable.

That shouldn’t be a surprise.

No surprise that the spin is suggesting that the OECD are backing current Welsh Government reforms.

But also, no surprise that this OECD report should be favourable – the 2014 OECD report made recommendations and Welsh Government has stated that it has been pursuing these recommendations; it would be politically explosive if OECD were to report that this isn’t true.

Tuesday is also the first day of a rather hastily arranged two day event where the Secretary has invited every secondary headteacher from across Wales to Cardiff.

Every headteacher has been offered an overnight stay.  Headteachers who weren’t prompt in confirming their attendance have been chased down.

This is an unusual event.

It isn’t difficult to get access to all headteachers as they frequently attend other meetings at a local, regional and national basis.

It isn’t difficult to get messages to headteachers; one person in a single morning could lick all the stamps you’d need to send a letter to each of our 214 secondary headteachers.

This meeting is clearly intended to secure the engagement of our headteachers with Welsh Government’s programme.  They will be encouraged to ‘get with the programme’ and ‘get on message’.

Citing OECD as a supporter of the reforms is meant to encourage stakeholders to accept the message.

This might not work with all headteachers.  OECD’s PISA tests have made many both wary and weary of the gurus from Paris.

Andy Buck’s excellent ‘Leadership Matters’ has a chapter called Building Trust.

He says that educationalists often talk about partnership and collaboration.  He could have added co-construction, and that all these are claimed to be characteristic of a ‘self-improving system’ (an idea also often heard).

However, he says, it is not often that people reflect on the conditions that allow partnership and collaboration to flourish and be successful.  A key condition is trust.

Getting people to trust in you as a leader might involve three elements: they need to know you have faith in them and care about their success as individuals; they will need to believe in your integrity; your judgement and competency are persuasive (or at least you are persuasively working on getting both right).

These are tough tests if applied to Welsh Government’s relationship with headteachers.

By offering stakeholders an opportunity to shape the message, Welsh Government is taking a big step towards getting the message right and getting it adopted.

Adoption is a much stronger association than mere acceptance.  It is the difference between pursuing a policy with purpose and seeking nothing more than compliance.

This adoption can only happen if the offer of contributing to shaping the message is genuine, evident and made real.

Robin Hughes is an education consultant with specialisms in stakeholder management, reputation management, strategic development and qualitative research.

4 thoughts on “From compliance to conviction

  1. The Welsh government has put many sound measures in place over the last 5 years. Those measures are not necessarily popular with Head teachers but Head’s do not all think alike by any means.
    The literacy and numeracy framework and testing make a solid difference and banding/ colour coding with its attendant attainment measures give schools and parents a way to compare how well schools are performing.

    In amongst the good things we have “the enemy within”; someone’s vanity project that should have been knocked on the head long ago. In this category lie the “Welsh Bacc”, the Donaldson curriculum reforms, the Curriculum Cymreig and most pernicious of all the drive to harness increased Welsh medium schooling to attain 1 million Welsh speakers by 2050.

    Nothing that the OECD can say will stop the education wreckers who dwell within the Welsh Education department.

  2. Summoning the Heads in this way looks like breathtaking arrogance, the right to which has to be earned and it hasn’t been, and for what?

    More of the same failed policies, more jam tomorrow, more wasted chalk-time on compulsory Welsh, more promotion of under-performing Welsh-medium education to the clear detriment of the majority of kids in Wales, more failure to grasp that only streaming and preferably selective schools can fix Wales’ chronic problem of wholesale under-achievement with so few high-achieving outliers…. When the WG aimed for the bottom after devolution nobody should be surprised that they succeeded in getting there! Guess what, they’re still aiming for the bottom! You can put lipstick on a pig but it’s still a pig and the state education system in Wales is a pig.

    There’s one thing the assembled secondary Heads could and should tell Kirsty Williams and that is that the failure starts in early years and primary and that secondary schools spend too much time doing remedial work to the detriment of their GCSE course-work. Even without the disastrous Welsh Bacc secondary schools are working with one hand tied behind their backs, but they could tell her that in an email!

  3. @J.Jones. Thanks for contribution which gives objective balance to debate. The current state of education does not directly involve myself as children long gone ‘over the border’ and grandsons being educated by Conservative controlled local authority and so far they seem very happy and progressing well. As I look back both my children were educated in Church in Wales Primary school in village,and then transferred to comprehensive in Bridgend which at that time was rated by the Sunday Times as one of best in UK. At that time we had the old Welsh Office which of course was part of the government run by the late Baroness Thatcher.In all they years they went to both schools ,and we had friends with children also in the state system,but other schools I cannot ever remember the ‘quality’ of education they received being a source of continual agitation.You are right in that now education is now part of the nation building process and the slightly ‘maoist’ policy of creating 1 Million Welsh speakers by 2050 is one that would have caused me concerned if that had been around in the 1980’s.

  4. Dear J. Jones, John R Walker, Howell Morgan,

    The answer to your antipathy to all things Cymraeg is to be found in the east.

    God speed, bon voyage & gwynt teg ar eich ol.

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