John Connell’s superb dissection of The Delusion of Status-Conferred Authority has prompted me to write this piece:

Imagine this.

A teacher who, like many others, spends much of her non-working life reading, thinking, breathing education, is denied permission to attend an event not unlike the one described here. Denied, because she does not have a strategic role in The Authority (though the manager’s name was not Mrs Coulter!). Denied because it is not her place to have opinions about the future of education. She is to wait patiently until her superiors deliver directives, which she should then carry out. And to stop being so uppity.

This, despite the fact that she offers to cover the (not inconsiderable) costs (or to take unpaid leave); despite the fact that she needs no supply cover for the 31/2 hours she needs to be away from the chalk face; despite the fact that the rhetoric of distributed leadership is loudly proclaimed.

The teacher requests a rationale for the decision. Others are attending, so the quality of the event is not necessarily in doubt. It must be a question of status. Another professional – one with a larger pay packet – is referred to. The event is pronounced ‘bone fide’. (No one was to know that the reality reflected a little the hierarchical mindset of her own managers.) After many negotiations, the teacher (eternally grateful for the beneficence of her betters) is allowed to go.

But when she returns she shares her learning only with those colleagues with a like interest, surreptitiously so as not to rock any boats. And she dreams of a future education system in which all are recognised as learners; one in which even those who have taken conscious decisions to remain in the classroom are treated with equity and respect.

But she’ll be long retired by 2020.


(Thanks to agrewe22 for the photos)