THE QUALITY SCHOOL: The Head teacher (Sharing no.3)

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C   The Head teacher

Over all the qualities described in my section, B - The Staff, was the ever-present shadow of the headteacher ! Without this shadow of support and encouragement, the staff  have a tough task indeed.

Management within a school carries an immense responsibility. Whether one considers the position from the view-point of a specific village development or the wider embrace of national progress, it is a task which cannot be accepted lightly.  It will be the headteacher who will put the stamp of congenial professionalism on his school.  It was stated in Shresta’s report following the implementation of The National Education systems Plan in 1972 that teachers perform very satisfactorily where the atmosphere is congenial : and this over-riding quality is the responsibility of the head teacher to foster. After interviews with head teachers while researching for my dissertation, it was evident that this congeniality comes with a degree of paternal ism – which is a cultural asset to be recognized.

There are two quotes within this report (1982) which highlight the width of the headteacher’s role :

‘The dedication, commitment, efficiency and leadership of the headmaster have been more important factors that led to the successful development of the case schools’                                                                                                                                                    Of course the question is – ‘more important than what? I would say more important than the material needs we often assume are essential for a ‘quality school’. I have heard so many teachers bemoaning the fact that they do not have the materials they learnt about in Teaching Training Courses. (This is often used as an excuse for absenteeism and low grades)  But the making of low-cost – no- cost materials is just another motivating task to be encouraged by an effective head teacher. Poor school building is another prompt for dissatisfaction amongst staff.  An enlightened headteacher will circumnavigate that inconvenience with imagination and enthusiasm for possible alternatives within the school.

These are just a few negative situations which can be met by the headteacher successfully. And of course there are many others.  After working under several headteachers, we all know that his/her personality will determine the ‘atmosphere’ within the school. Can a headteacher be ‘trained’ to develop these personality traits ?  One would think not, although in talking to many head teachers, I have been aware of their determination to by-pass practical problems and focus more on the support of their teachers and in-school training of their new staff particularly.  Good exam results are some indication of the quality of a school, so the pursuit of effective teaching will encourage a headteacher to supervise and support his staff. In turn this will reflect on his/her own effectiveness. But the good for the student must never be lost sight of.

Participatory decision-making is also important for promoting a feeling of self-esteem and team work. Regular staff meetings are essential.  Every teacher, however experienced, has a quality (or two!) that is waiting to be harnessed.  Hierarchy needs to be sensitively managed .  I talked to a Head Teacher who told me of his difficulty with cash flow, and after showing his staff the accounts and explaining his plan for recovery, everyone was prepared to wait for their delayed  salary. This demonstrated an enormous trust and sympathy with their headteacher. In this circumstance the school’s integrity and future was assured.

I would like to conclude this series of short articles with the last page of my dissertation on the development of professional values and the support of young nepali teachers –

‘It will be some time before young teachers in Nepal reap the benefit of a full support network:

Parents who have a vision and pride in their child’s choice of career in teaching.

A training that gives time for reflection as well as content for instruction

Mentors with time to listen and suggestions to impart.

Pre-service training taking higher profile, possibly in tandem with modules from the in-service programme.

A salary which reflects the importance of the task and hours which the teachers are expected to work.

Libraries, radios, visitors with stories to tell, playing fields and footballs to fill them, paper and paints musical instruments and maps.

A telephone, first aid kit, a mum/secretary etc,

Meanwhile the headteacher carries the disproportionate weight of responsibility – to welcome, nurture, appreciate and support. S/he is the lone promoter of national plans, standing to compensate for the distance and scarcity of human and material resource. Without his or her commitment, the staff will have no use for their professional values.’







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