Leadership at school

The key differentiator of a good school is good governance and leadership development at all levels. The Board, the staff, the students, the parent body and the community all need to be part of the leadership development ecosystem. It all begins with the Governance and this is where a good school leads the average.
Members of the Governing Body of The Fabindia School (Photo courtesy Neha Parmar)
Applying principles of good governance to schools
Principles of corporate governance must be considered and applied in light of the complex school environment. Unlike traditional corporations, schools operate on a not-for-profit basis; its stakeholders have long-term personal and emotional investments, relationships and friendships; participation in the school may cover many generations of family members; members of the Board participate on a voluntary basis; the school is engaged in the education, development and welfare of children; teachers are expected to be dedicated and provide a contribution well beyond the normal teaching day. Schools rely on family philanthropy, legacies and benefactors. It is not a simple matter for disaffected stakeholders to change allegiances. Changing schools can be a traumatic and expensive exercise.

It is pivotal to good governance that the Board recognises and manages the School’s main stakeholder groups. The management of stakeholders requires skill and tact and relationships must be delicately balanced at all times. 
The main stakeholder groups are depicted in this diagram
We will examine the role of the Board / School Management Committee, the Staff, the Parents, the Community and the Students too. 

Governing Body (Trust / Society) should be an independent body that ensures the vision of the not-for-profit schooling organisation is not compromised. There must be a set of Rules and Guidelines to focus on the mission of the charity that is formed to govern the school organisation. As the schools can be established by a Trust or a Society, it is imperative that there is no conflict of interest and yet the school is independent and a sustainable enterprise. We have to give regard to professional acumen and the sentiment of the founders. There must be a leadership showing a disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. Setting up a school is often "an entirely altruistic act", with an element of selfless, self-sacrificing, self-denying, considerate, compassionate, kind, decent, noble, public-spirited and charitable motive. We must not forget above all it must be 'sustainable'. The Boards' biggest challenge will be to become a public charity over a period of time, it is often a challenge for the investor to let go. The social enterprise will give dividend in the form of better human capital and a good citizenry, this alone is the cornerstone for a developed economy and society.

Role of the School Management Committee (SMC) in the operations of the school is very important and a good SMC will be an asset to for school operations. Section 21 of the Right to Free and Compulsory Education Act 2009 (RTE), mandates the formation of School Management Committees (SMCs) in all elementary government, government-aided schools and special category schools in the country. The RTE Act envisions an SMC as the basic unit of a decentralised model of governance with an active involvement of parents in the school’s functioning. This body involves the parents and the community in running the school and also works as a conscience keeper for the institution. The members of the SMC should be involved in the operations of the school and assist Principal in effectively managing the school.

The School Staff should be involved beyond the classroom, and there must be a model of effectively having them involved in the decision making and effective functioning of the school. Clubs, Societies, Sports and Extracurricular activities must all give the staff members to pursue their passion and lead. Right from the position of the Vice-Principal (deputy head), the Deans, Heads of Department, Teachers and Administrators all must be able to see the ladder for climbing up in the school organisation. The Staff should see a way forward in the professional careers and be empowered to take decisions at all levels. The more we delegate, the better will be our leadership at the school. As teaching is a profession that is by chance and not by choice, we have to ensure that the staff feels much wanted and valued, this alone will bring about a change from average to the leaders that they must become. The most important step is building learning communities and the teachers must join organisations like Learning Forward and find out how to plan, implement, and measure high-quality professional learning so that the team can achieve success with the school system.

Good schools have a good Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and the school is a partnering of parents and teachers to build an ecosystem to help children develop emotionally and intellectually. The children must care for the environment, care for the community and care for the country; this is only possible when the family and the institutions work for the betterment of the young people. Today most teachers rue the fact the parents have no or little time for their children as they have to juggle their lives between profession and economic necessity of a family. This makes the role of a PTA even more paramount as parents can together work to help each other in addition to depending on just the teacher/tutor to lead the learning process. In good schools, the parents are involved effectively and this is the single most factor in contributing to the making of a good school.

The students at school and the ex-students must be involved in institution building too. Schools must develop the minds of the children and also their physique, their skills, their personality and leadership traits and create a sense of fellow feeling with their less fortunate brethren if they are to be good citizens. 

Public Schools lay emphasis on all-round education. To develop latent talents and skills, a variety of hobbies are offered and the choice of one per year made compulsory out of Photography, Art, Pottery, Sculpture, Carpentry, Metalwork, Electronics, Aero-modelling, Philately, etc. In addition, to build talent and develop leadership abilities these schools are well organised in Debating, Dramatics, Music and have special interest Societies in disciplines such as Astronomy, Wildlife, Literary Affairs, History and Human Rights etc. Each school endeavours to have its own student-run publications, newsletters and magazines. Pupils are encouraged to compete against themselves in the programmes of the Royal Life Saving Society, St. John’s Ambulance Brigade and the International Award for Young People. (Refer to http://www.goodschoolsofindia.com/introduction/thepubschethos.asp)

The Prefect system and a strong adventure programme (mountain climbing, river swimming and other outward-bound activities) inculcate character and leadership. Good citizenship is inculcated by the actual practice of democracy in letting the students run all the activities. A care and concern for their fellow human beings and for the environment is created by a strong social service programme which includes working in the villages, going on disaster relief expeditions, working with the blind, deaf, dumb and mentally retarded, working on tree planting, gardening, compost pit making etc.

The alumni association is an association of graduates or, more broadly, of former students (alumni). These associations often organise social events, publish newsletters or magazines, and raise funds for the organisation. Many provide a variety of benefits and services that help alumni maintain connections to their educational institution and fellow graduates.  Additionally, such groups often support new alumni, and provide a forum to form new friendships and business relationships with people of similar background. This network is the most important determinant of the brand value of a good school. The must be involved in the governance and have due representation in leadership positions in a good school.

What Makes A Good School?
  • A good school cares for its students, studying and knowing the needs, interests and strengths of her students and motivates them to learn and grow.
  • A good school ensures all students acquire strong fundamentals of literacy and numeracy and develops them holistically, in character, knowledge and critical competencies.
  • A good school creates a positive school experience for each student, making him a confident and lifelong learner.
  • A good school has caring and competent teachers who are steadfast in their mission to impact lives.
  • A good school has the support of parents and the community, working together to bring out the best in our children, and
  • A good school cares for and provides opportunities to all students, regardless of family circumstances.
Leadership at school is a major catalyst in helping build a Good School. Promoters and social entrepreneurs have to think way beyond just investment and the ROI (return on investment). The school works for the future generations and crystal ball gazing is not easy at all. A student may end up for fifteen years in a particular school, and to prepare a child for a decade or two ahead is the most complex task and not a mere economic enterprise. Developing strong vision and mission statements can help stakeholders in your school reach such a common understanding. This can only be achieved by ensuring that we build leadership at school at all levels.

The author  Sandeep Dutt takes the onus of the content and the opinions expressed are his alone. You may please email the author on sd@ebd.in for comments if any. For more about the author www.sandeepdutt.com

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