pixel Conference 2000 week 4 brian j. caldwell

Week 4 - Local School Management

 Scenarios for Leadership and Abandonment in the Transformation of Schools  

Listing of Papers
Victoria, Australia

Victoria, Australia


The centre-piece of this paper is a set of three scenarios for the future of schools. The time is 2020. Starting from developments in several nations in the East and West at the turn of the century, the paper describes how events in the early years of the new millennium lead to quite different outcomes for school education in 2020. Decisions made by policy-makers in the first five years of the century will determine which of these or similar scenarios shall prevail. Each scenario is tested against a view of 'world class schools' that calls for an optimal balance of enduring values in the classical formulation of liberty, equality and fraternity, the realisation of which is dependent on two contemporary values of efficiency and economic growth. Issues currently at centre stage of policy debate are resolved in the balance. Domains for leadership to 2020 and beyond are described. Drucker's challenge to see 'abandonment' as an aspect of leadership is taken up.


Scenario 1: State Schools as Safety Net Schools

It is 2020. The differences among schools in terms of quality and resources that were evident in 2000 have widened. Most students attend private schools. Parents became increasingly dissatisfied with education offered by schools owned by government and other public authorities. They left the system, prepared to invest ever larger proportions of personal resources to assure their children success and satisfaction in a knowledge society and global economy, with access to the rich range of technologies necessary to achieve these ends. State schools in some nations are now simply 'safety net' schools, offering a standard curriculum with little differentiation in program and outcomes. Private financial support is rarely sought and often actively opposed. Proponents of such schools won the day in public policy debates on these particular matters in the early years of the century. However, electoral considerations ensured that governments introduced, continued and then expanded their financial support of private schools. National curriculum and regimes of testing, still maintained in state schools, have been abandoned in private schools, for employers and institutions of higher education, now operating on a global scale, hire and select on the basis of performance on universal but customised measures.

Scenario 2: New Commitment to the Public Good

It is 2020. The differences among schools in terms of quality and resources that were evident in 2000 have narrowed. A new view of public good emerged in the early years of the century when debates on public policy, mired in many countries on the means of schooling, shifted to agreement on the ends of schooling. There was broad community commitment to the values that should underpin the endeavour. An extraordinarily rich range of schooling was offered, with government generally vacating the field of ownership and delivery, focusing on generating revenue to support all schools, with a demanding regime of accountability in the use of public funds. Governments had no alternative but to move in this direction when faced with an electoral revolt on disparities in outcomes, and pressure from an increasing majority of taxpayers who insisted that all schools should be funded on the same educational needs-driven basis. Sophisticated approaches to identifying such needs led to fairer and more transparent approaches to funding from the public purse, but resources now come from a mix of public and private sources, with high levels of volunteer effort and other forms of social capital.

Community support for schools is so high that all can offer a rich range of curriculum, with the support of state-of-the-art learning technologies. National curriculum and regimes of testing have been abandoned in all schools, for employers and institutions of higher education, now operating on a global scale, hire and select on the basis of performance on universal but customised measures.

Scenario 3: The Decline of Schools

It is 2020. Schools are rapidly disappearing from the educational scene. In some communities there is no longer a place called school. The institution that dominated the 20th century was overtaken by a range of educational, technological and social developments. In the view of many, schools became increasingly dangerous places to be, a perception fuelled by media accounts of frequent violence and the prevalence of drugs. Combined with advances in information and communications technology, home schooling gathered momentum in the early years of the century, becoming unstoppable as the media were filled with accounts of successful community-based learning centres drawing on the resources of clusters of families. Support for secondary schools fell most dramatically when traditional approaches to curriculum, teaching, learning and organisation proved impervious to change. They were steadily replaced by adaptations of innovative learning centres, formed initially in partnership with private enterprise that lost patience with the outcomes of upper secondary schooling. Their success quickly spread to all years of secondary schools, with innovative use of new learning technologies enriched by a commitment to the arts and spirituality, broadly defined in each instance.

By the end of the first decade of the new millennium, some governments provided all citizens with lifetime entitlements to education and training, giving access to world class learning opportunities that could be supplemented by private contributions for further enrichment. Debates about vouchers were no longer heard. National curriculum and regimes of testing were abandoned, for employers and institutions of higher education, now operating on a global scale, hire and select on the basis of performance on universal but customised measures.

Such scenarios are but a sample of the possibilities. These three, and more may be mixed and matched, with other elements included from a range of developments already in train. A particular scenario may be more feasible, or at least seem more readily applicable, to some nations than to others. Those selected here for illustration have their foundation in trends that are already evident and reported in the literature.

The first scenario ('state schools as safety net schools') is evident in David Hargreaves' recent contribution to an OECD report - 'public schools would only be for those students whose parents could not afford the alternatives: a kind of safety net for the disadvantaged' (Hargreaves, 1999 as reported by Kennedy, 1999).

The second scenario ('new commitment to the public good') is based on the policy framework for public schools in the new millennium proposed in The Future of Schools: Lessons from the Reform of Public Education (Caldwell and Hayward, 1998). Four concepts were addressed: 'public good', 'entitlement', 'contribution' and 'design'. The view that core values should shape a new view of the public good was given recent expression by Jerome T. Murphy, Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Education and by Pope John Paul II.

Murphy believes that, 'what will determine whether we call them public schools is not so much the vehicle that's providing the education, but really whether they ascribe to a certain set of public values. Values like equal educational opportunity, values like non-discrimination, and so on. We'll have multiple delivery systems to achieve public values' (Murphy, 1999). The pontiff argued that, 'Without doubt, to move beyond a situation that is less and less sustainable, the main problem to be solved is the full recognition of the juridical and financial equality of State and non-State schools, by overcoming a long-standing resistance that is alien to the basic values of the European cultural tradition' (Pope John Paul II, 1999, p. 8).

The third scenario ('the decline of schools') reflects the stunning growth of home schooling. In the United States, for example, current estimates are that between 1.2 and 1.8 million children are educated at home (Archer, 1999, p. 24). Hedley Beare developed this scenario in his account of the 'neighbourhood educational house':

'At the very least, the very youngest learners - toddlers and children - need somewhere in their own (or the next) street where they can physically go to access programs; to learn with other groups of learners; to interact physically with their 'teachers', 'tutors', counsellors, co-ordinating educators; to access richer learning materials than those they have online from their own home; and also to develop an identification with their neighbourhood 'storage house of learning'. The same holds true of learners of all ages.'

'The problem which educational authorities have always faced is that when neighbourhood buildings are put up and labelled 'school', their use becomes limited, they are reserved for only some learners, they become identified by age, territoriality sets in, and they are no longer considered a community or common resource. Furthermore, there is no guarantee in a mobile society that we can predict accurately how permanent they need to be or how many rooms or spaces need to be provided.' (Beare, 1997, p. 6)

Lifetime entitlements for education and training have been canvassed for new Labour's second term in the UK (Slater, 1999).

Foundation 2000
>The foundation for each scenario for 2020 is thus in conditions that prevail in 2000. A more detailed description of these conditions is set out below in two parts, first, an account in broad terms of trends that are evident at this time and, second, a listing of key issues at centre stage of policy debates in school education.

Tracking Change at the Turn of the Century

The concept of a 'track' may be more helpful than trend or stage in describing conditions at the turn of the century. We adopted this approach in Beyond the Self-Managing School (Caldwell and Spinks, 1998) in describing three developments that were evident in almost every nation.

The first was the building of systems of self-managing schools wherein significant authority, responsibility and accountability is decentralised to schools that continue to operate within a centrally-determined framework of goals, priorities, policies, curriculum and standards. The second is the unrelenting focus on learning outcomes for all students in every setting, and this is very much the school effectiveness and school improvement agenda. The third is the creation of schools for the knowledge society, in which almost every aspect of school design is transformed, largely energised by developments in information and communications technology. Schools, systems, states and nations vary in the extent to which they have progressed in each of these developments, hence our use of the concept of track rather than trend or stage.

Michael Barber has provided a detailed account of what is arguably the most far-reaching manifestation of change on these tracks (Great Britain), noting that 'none of us involved in the process of modernising our education system underestimate the scale of the challenge' (Barber, 1999, p. 3).

Key Issues in Public Policy

A number of issues, or unresolved matters of concern, are evident as progress is made. The list is extensive, and five are selected by way of illustration. These are concerned with (1) the rhetoric of 'world class schools' and the extent to which there is realisation; (2) complexity in teachers' work; (3) technology and the growing divide among schools in its utilisation; (4) the funding of public education; and (5) the impact of societal transformation on school education.

1. Rhetoric and Realisation

A global consensus is emerging on expectations for schools, if documents from key international institutions and the espoused policies of governments are taken as a guide (Chapman, 1997; Chapman and Aspin, 1997; Delors, 1996). It goes something like this. All students in every setting should be literate and numerate and should acquire a capacity for lifelong learning, leading to successful and satisfying work in a knowledge society and a global economy. Nations that achieve these outcomes may be said to have 'world class schools'.

Nations differ in the extent to which rhetoric is matched by realisation. Current indicators include measures of student achievement, and commitment of resources to support the effort, with resources ranging from expenditure from the public purse to volunteer work and the building of social capital across the entire community.

For the first indicator (measures of student achievement), many nations contribute to, and draw on, broad brush international measures, and are building a capacity to monitor the level of achievement of students across schools in different settings. There is a difference, however, between having a capacity to measure over a limited range of outcomes and meeting the benchmark expectation of success for all students.

For the second indicator (commitment of resources), there are differences among nations in respect to the proportion of their national wealth they commit to school education, and in the extent to which communities provide support through volunteer effort and other approaches that draw on and build the social capital of schools.

2. Complexity in Teachers' Work

The complexity of schooling increased in dramatic fashion over the last half of the 20th century. In the 1950s, populations in many nations were largely homogeneous, most students returned home to their natural parents, and were assured stable employment in local communities. There was no drug culture, teachers and others in authority were generally held in high regard, and there was broad community support for schools.

By the 1990s, many nations were multicultural, and schools required an astonishing array of communication networks and other mechanisms for dealing with multiple expectations. Most students in many schools no longer share a home with both natural parents. Stable career paths with the same employer are rare. Drugs are endemic. Community support has fragmented. As Lawrence Friedman (1999) has observed, we have moved from a 'vertical society', with respect for authority, secure relationships across generations, and support from, and for, key institutions, to a 'horizontal society', where we can create our own identities and live almost entirely in a cyber world without reference to traditional social arrangements.

A stunning example was afforded in the mass killing at Columbine High School outside Denver, Colorado in 1999. The perpetrators apparently assembled bombs and an arsenal of weapons in the basement of their homes, without the knowledge of parents, and transported them to school, without the knowledge of teachers and students. Their social space was cyber space. The tragedy has apparently led to a loss of faith in schools as safe places, giving impetus to the home school movement (Archer, 1999, p. 24).

Without engaging in national stereotyping, or asserting that they prevail in every school in each nation, these conditions are more a phenomenon of the West than of the East, where vertical society is largely intact and social capital for schools is high.

3. Technology and the Growing Divide Among Schools

It is a cliché that it is a knowledge society and a global economy. Few would dispute that the world is passing through one of the great social transformations in history, experiencing, in a decade or two, changes far more sweeping than the last great change through the industrial revolution (Drucker, 1993). Knowledge workers are displacing industrial workers, who displaced agricultural workers, as the largest broad classification in the work force.

These changes are impacting schools in many ways, especially in communities where industrial work is disappearing. The major impact may be in the use of information and communications technology, the chief energiser of the social transformation. In some nations, skill in its use has become one of the basics, along with literacy and numeracy. The expectation that each student will bring a notebook computer to the classroom is becoming the norm in some schools.

Several observations are offered. First, there is a big divide among schools as far as the use of technology in the classroom is concerned. More generally, as Tom Bentley, director of the British independent think-tank Demos, describes it: ' ... while more knowledge, and more wealth from knowledge, may produce economic dynamism, they do not guarantee social cohesion' (Bentley, 1999, p. xviii). Second, associated with the first, is the challenge of raising funds if expectations are to be realised in all schools. Third, is the paradox that schools in many nations at the leading edge of technology have not placed the same priority on technology in the classroom.

4. The Funding of Public Education

Issues related to the funding of public education are of two kinds, one related to the source of funds, the other related to the extent to which public funds should be granted to private schools. In respect to the first, public schools in some nations are increasingly dependent on so-called voluntary contributions to raise funds to support their programs. Some people call for higher levels of funding from the public purse; others point to competing demands for additional resources in other public sector services, such as health, and contend that a parent contribution is reasonable. After all, it is argued, landmark legislation in the late 19th century that specified that state education should be free applied only to primary schools, with rudimentary resource requirements by today's standards.

In respect to the second, some nations, notably Australia and the United States, have not reached a settlement in their approach to government (state or public) and non-government (independent or private) schooling. Public schooling remains synonymous in the minds of many with government direction, government ownership and government delivery. In this view, government support for non-government schools is tolerated or even resented: those who seek it should pay the full cost. Compare this situation with what prevails in Hong Kong and, especially, the Netherlands, where there is no discrimination in public funding on the basis of who owns and operates the school.

5. The Impact of Societal Transformation

More fundamentally, however, most nations are struggling to come to grips with the epic transformation of society that many writers have described and prescribed, including Peter Drucker (1993, 1995, 1999) and Alvin Toffler (1970, 1980, 1990).

Consider the work of Toffler, with his trilogy Future Shock (Toffler, 1970), The Third Wave (Toffler, 1980) and Powershift (Toffler, 1990). It is exactly twenty years since Toffler described the scale of the transformation in The Third Wave:

'A new civilisation is emerging in our lives [bringing] with it new family styles; changed ways of working, loving, and living; a new economy; new political conflicts; and beyond this an altered consciousness as well. Pieces of this new civilisation exist today. Millions are already attuning their lives to the rhythm of tomorrow. Others, terrified of the future, are engaged in a desperate, futile flight into the past and are trying to restore the dying world that gave them birth'. (Toffler, 1980, p. 9)

Toffler argued that every civilisation has a hidden code - 'a set of rules or principles that run through all its activities like a repeated design' - and that industrial society (the 'second wave') had six: standardisation, specialisation, synchronisation, concentration, maximisation, and centralisation. He contended that 'much of the angry conflict in our schools, businesses and government, today actually centres on these half-dozen principles, as Second Wave people instinctively apply and defend them ...' (Toffler, 1980, p. 46). He sketched out a code for the 'third wave' in post-industrial society, centred on the new source of power, namely, knowledge [described more comprehensively a decade later in Powershift (Toffler, 1990)] including 'the end of nine-to-five' and the notion that 'small-within-big is beautiful'.

Toffler was specific about the positions being adopted by 'second wave' and 'third wave' protagonists in 1980 as far as schools were concerned. Defenders of the second wave 'oppose efforts to de-massify the schools' while the forces of the third wave 'call for a crack-up of the giant bureaucracies' and 'fight for less standardisation, more individualisation in the schools' (Toffler, 1980, pp. 437 - 438).

My point in citing Toffler at length is that in 2000, twenty years after the publication of The Second Wave, these conflicts are unresolved in education in some settings. There are many who would turn the clock back to the six rules or principles that underpinned industrial society, long after the 'powershift' to a knowledge society has occurred.

The Way Forward

The way forward may be to start with the fundamentals, first in respect to the consensus that seems to be emerging around the world on what ought to be accomplished in schools and second, in respect to the core values that underpin that consensus.

Core Values Underpinning a Global Consensus on Expectations for Schools

The global consensus on expectations for schools was stated at the outset: 'All students in every setting should be literate and numerate and should acquire a capacity for lifelong learning, leading to successful and satisfying work in a knowledge society and a global economy'.

The core values implicit in this consensus are liberty, equality, fraternity, efficiency and economic growth (drawing on a classification of Swanson and King, 1997). Liberty or choice respects the right of parents and students to choose a school that meets their needs and aspirations. Equality or equity refers to assurance that students with similar needs and aspirations will be treated in the same manner in the course of their education. Fraternity or access means that all students will have access to the kind of education that matches their needs and aspirations. Efficiency refers to the manner in which resources are deployed in order to optimise outcomes given the resources available. Economic growth is essential if resources are to be adequate to the task. Several of these values may surprise, especially efficiency and economic growth, but these are critical if the global consensus is to be realised ('all students in every setting').

A unifying value is 'public good'. For the most part, public good ought to be concerned with both ends and means. Regrettably, public good has become associated more with the means than the ends, especially where it has become synonymous with public ownership, public funding and public delivery. Insistence that it should be exclusively so may harm the public good and, in the case of public education, may lead to its demise.

Mansbridge's tour de force on the contested nature of the public good is worthy of close attention. She acknowledges that the concept is 'unendingly contestable' but that such a contest should be welcomed to help 'retrieve the public good from platitude, disdain, and justifiable mistrust to rebuild it as a centrepiece of politics'. She observes that, 'the moral language of the Western tradition has typically contrasted the public good with private goods' although 'Western thinkers [including Adam Smith] have also suggested that the opposition between public good and private benefits so prominent in ordinary language might conceal a different congruence' (Mansbridge, 1998, p. 3).

After reviewing a range of meanings, she proposes new tools and new solutions that involve 'nesting' altruism or public spirit within 'a return to self-interest', acknowledging that 'several different institutional arrangements and mixes may be equally efficient' (Mansbridge, 1998, pp. 13 - 17). Anthony Giddens expresses a similar view:

'Modernising social democrats have to find an approach that allows equality to co-exist with pluralism and life-style diversity. They must also recognise that classical liberals were right to see conflicts between freedom and equality. We should develop a more dynamic conception of equality, placing more stress on opportunity than the left has done in the past.' (Giddens, 1999, p. 25)

Which Way?

A focus on the emerging global consensus on expectations for schools ('world class schools') and the core values that underpin its realisation brings to mind the approach to public policy that has gained currency in Europe and, to a lesser extent, other Western democracies in recent years that goes under the rubric of 'the third way'.

Despite an initial and generally uncritical acceptance, connected in part to its association with a leading and popular advocate in the person of UK Prime Minister, Tony Blair, there is now evidence of resistance to the point that continued reference to 'the third way' may be counter-productive.

The problem seems to be in the name itself, and attempts to present it as a reaction to old Left or new Right, to socialism or capitalism, to government control or free market, drawing on, or balancing, each in some measure. It becomes relatively easy to dismiss the approach, whatever it may be, by citing a history of earlier action along similar lines.

It may be more productive to identify the approach with the issues it is attempting to address. Anthony Giddens draws attention to the limitations of old Left and new Right as a prelude to the identification of these issues, or dilemmas as he prefers to call them, namely, globalisation, individualism, left and right, political agency and ecological issues. He contends that:

'The overall aim of third way politics should be to help citizens pilot their way through the major revolutions of our time: globalisation, transformations in personal life and our relationship to nature.' (Giddens, 1998, p. 64)

Identification of purpose is just a starting point. We need to go deeper to the underlying principles and values. Peter Thomson, a major influence on the thinking of Tony Blair on these matters, finds the roots of the third way in 'the search for the sacred in the secular', drawing on key figures in theology and spirituality, and seeking to ensure there is a powerful connection between thought, knowledge and action (Thomson, 1999).

Critically important are the values that should underpin this connection. Giddens proposes equality, protection of the vulnerable, freedom as autonomy, no rights without responsibilities, no authority without democracy, cosmopolitan pluralism, and philosophic conservatism (Giddens, 1998, p. 66).

The most helpful view of the third way is indeed one offered by Tony Blair. It combines the concept of core values with flexibility of action, the latter freeing us from a definition of third way in terms of left or right, socialism or capitalism, and so on. For Blair, the third way calls for an absolute adherence to core values but, in respect to how to get there:

'We should be infinitely adaptable and imaginative in the means of applying those values. There are no ideological pre-conditions, no pre-determined veto on means. What counts is what works.' (cited by Midgley, 1998, p. 44)

We should add, of course, that the means must be underpinned by core values, and must certainly be legal and ethical.

Applying this view to education enables us to see the possibilities in a manner that is immensely liberating. It is possible to discern an impact on learning outcomes even though it is early days. In England, for example, the Blair Government was willing to privatise the school support services in the London boroughs of Hackney and Islington, previously provided by a public authority. In the most recent round of results for secondary schools, Islington has proved to be one of the fastest improving authorities in the country (Barnard, 1999) with a 3.9 per cent rise in the number of students getting five good passes in the GCSE (see Levacic, 1999, for a comprehensive account of third way initiatives in Britain).

In concluding this exploration of the way forward, it is worth reflecting on whether the third way is adequate to describe what action should be taken in education. Leadbeater (1999a) even suggests a 'fourth way', based on the importance of knowledge:

'Knowledge is our most precious resource: we should organise society to maximise its creation and use. Our aim should not be a third way, to balance the demands of the market against those of the community. Our aim should be to harness the power of both markets and community to the more fundamental goal of creating and spreading knowledge.'

Which Scenario?

Which of the three scenarios is likely to unfold if there is 'absolute adherence to core values' in public policy on school education? Here is a suggestive rather than exhaustive view that assumes that the core values are liberty (or choice), equality (or equity) and fraternity (or access), the achievement of which calls for a commitment to efficiency (for optimising outcomes) and economic growth (for adequacy). The emerging consensus on expectations for schools is also assumed ('all students in every setting should be literate and numerate and should acquire a capacity for life-long learning, leading to successful and satisfying work in a knowledge society and a global economy').

Scenario 1 ('state schools as safety net schools') is likely to prevail if public policy emphasises equality and fraternity but down-plays liberty, efficiency and economic growth. A particular manifestation of this balance is if there is an exclusive commitment to comprehensive schools and a retreat from specialist schools, despite recent evidence in England, for example, that achievement is higher for more students in the latter (Barnard, 1999), and if the drive for efficiency and economic growth is not sustained.

This scenario minimises choice among state schools. Scenario 3 ('the decline of schools') may be the outcome if the emphasis is on liberty, efficiency and economic growth, with a loss of commitment to equality and fraternity. Scenario 2 ('new commitment to the public good') may unfold if there is a balance among all five values. The reader is invited to re-read the three scenarios, in the light of the aforementioned assumptions on core values and expectations for schools, to obtain a sense of this analysis.

Continued on Page two


Week 1: 15-21 May 2000
Major internet tutorials

Week 2: 22-28 May 2000 - Theme: Healthy School Communities
Conference papers
Internet tutorial

Week 3: 29 May-4 June 2000 - Theme: Outcomes and Standards
Conference papers
Internet tutorial

Week 4: 5-11 June 2000 - Theme: Local School Management
Conference papers
Internet tutorial


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