Keynote speech given by Charmaine Roche at the Optimus Education Teacher wellbeing conference 27th November 2019.
Wellbeing Led Change Management.
My professional experience has led me to believe that there is a problem with the way that we currently think about the relationship between change and wellbeing.
In general terms we see change as the new normal and it’s the role of human beings to become more adaptable flexible and agile in order to accommodate it.
Role of managers and leaders.
The role of managers and leaders is to be aware of the psychological responses to change and to manage the change process in order to make it successful. There is an unspoken assumption that change is beyond our control- an act of god.
I would like to take a more critical and ask a question of leaders, coaches, and consultants working for improved performance in the education sector. What are the ethics of doing this in what some say is an oppressive culture? This oppressive culture is described by the term Performativity. Performativity affects not just education but has become the norm across the public sector.
In a now famous piece of research published in 2010 called, The Soul of the Teacher and the Terrors of Performativity. Professor Stephan Ball describes it as “a new mode of state regulation which makes it possible to govern in an advanced liberal way. It requires individual practitioners to organise themselves as a response to targets indicators and evaluations. to Set aside personal beliefs and commitments” (my paraphrase) as a result live an existence characterized by a sense of alienation from themselves.
In the second piece of research called ‘What motivates people to teach and why do they leave’ published in April 2019 carried out by the Institute of education.
This calls into question the current focus on workload reduction as the central strategy to addressing the retention and recruitment crisis.
“The general government response to the retention and recruitment crisis is to focus on reducing workload this may help but asked today this may help however our study indicates that part of the problem lies within the culture of teaching the constant scrutiny the need to perform and hypercritical management, reducing workload will not address these cultural issues.”
Performativity is a form of psychological oppression which erodes our wellbeing from the inside out. It attacks our autonomy and sense of purpose as professionals and the service we feel committed to providing to the young in the pursuit of an holistic, humane and useful education for the young.
So, this is what I would like to focus on here today.
How will we lead and manage change in ways that support wellbeing?
This conference is taking place at the end of another term during which the profession has had to take on board yet another change to the inspection framework.
To give Ofsted their due the new framework is an attempt to reverse some of the damage created by the performativity culture that they have been part of putting into place and maintaining. They have recognised and acknowledged the link to wellbeing.
The new shift from data to curriculum as the focus of inspection and evaluation of school effectiveness ( academy and MATs) is accompanied by an attempt to get schools to reduce their focus on data on over assessing, over marking in order to reduce workload and this is to be embraced.
But this good intention will – and probably is being – be undermined by the very nature of the performativity culture itself and the roles that we play (not just Ofsted) in maintaining it.
Jeremy Hanney, a leading headteacher gives voice to this.
“many schools fearful of poor inspection results are likely to source a prefab curriculum and use their own inspection approaches to ensure it is embedded across the school at pace this pressure will also come from other angles such as local authorities, mats, governors, trustees, parents, all of whom are under pressure to comply with what they believe is the correct way to do the curriculum.”
This panic to redesign curriculum should only be justified if you belong to a school, academy or MAT that has reduced the curriculum in secondary, for some pupils down to core subjects and barely anything else; or primary that has over focussed on teaching to the test; or deprived our most vulnerable pupils access to the curriculum.
The rest can chose – as Jeremy Hanney is doing – to celebrate the curricula that have been built and nurtured since the amended national Curriculum came into force in 2013. Which gave schools a mandate to develop a broad balanced curriculum which meet the needs of specific communities, the need for creativity as well as a grounding in literacy and numeracy.
So, let me put this question to you. So, let us test this out…
What would you do with your curriculum tomorrow if you woke up to find the Ofsted no longer existed?
Would you panic or would you meet their disappearance with relaxed alertness- zen like calm?
What has my coaching experience and research journey so far taught me…
Wellbeing led change management
Wellbeing led change management needs warriors who can operate in the field with zen-like calm and a steely sense of purpose in the face of the performativity-based technologies of oppression- replacing those technologies with ones that bring about sustainable, humane change. This is being done by schools like Three Bridges Primary School, led by Jeremey Hanney.
What do I mean by this – performativity is a form of oppression which is maintained by the actions of the ‘oppressed’ out of fear of being judged and evaluated as failing.
The teacher appraisal systems, the data tracking, the new focus on demonstrating curriculum intent, or provision for developing social capital, or mastery in learning – are all part of the narrative of oppression.
What we need is change management that grows the six factors of psychological wellbeing in individuals and teams.
Instead of appraisal we have lesson study or collaborative enquiry; our young people do not only master content and knowledge they also co-create it with us.
Instead of change based on coercion we have change that arises out of Generative Conversations, we co create solutions with those we lead. Followership is seen as a proactive state, not a passive one. This is the challenge for managers and management.
We need to transform cultures along the lines of the six management behaviours research shows are protective of wellbeing and prevent stress in the workplace.
Find your own voice, have the courage to use it. Say no when change does not serve the best interests of those you serve; or implement the change in line with organisational values and in an inclusive way. Say we will do it our way. Serve the needs of our young people. Nurture your autonomy, environmental mastery and sense of purpose three of the characteristics at the heart of psychological wellbeing.
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