John Dunford’s election blog, 29 April 2010

This blog is reposted here from John’s 2010 election blog for ASCL.

The leaders’ debates are compelling and I am greatly looking forward to tonight’s debate. I watched the first debate and, not having Sky, listened to the second debate on Radio4. In some ways, I preferred the radio, which had none of the distraction of watching the facial expressions and being influenced by how the leaders stood and how relaxed they looked. On the radio, the policies seemed to come across more clearly. Nonetheless, I shall be watching tonight to see who wins – and in particular to hear about the effect of spending cuts on public services.

While the debates have engaged more people in the election and have given extra exposure to the Liberal Democrats, thus moving away from the old one-two bang-bash politics, they have personalised the election into a presidential beauty parade to the extent that, for almost the whole of the first half of the election campaign, policies were barely discussed. It was all about Nick, Gordon and David.

So little has been the exposure of other leading politicians that most electors would be hard pressed to name more than a couple of members of the Conservative and Liberal Democrat front benches.

That is the way that the media is reporting the election and it is similar with schools and colleges. The media always focuses on principals and heads (still, alas, ‘headmasters’ in some cases) and shows as little recognition of the team leadership of schools as of the government. Britain’s Got Talent politics is as flawed an image as X-factor school leadership.

Does it matter, provided that the reality has moved away from the autocrat hero-head model to the distributed leadership that exists in schools and colleges? Well, yes it does, because the media is not presenting schools as they really are. The National College is consistent in its message that the leadership of the head or principal is vital, but the school/college can only be successful if the team around the principal works well.

So let’s hear more from the Labour, Conservative and Lib Dem leadership teams. It’s vitally important who is the prime minister, but Britain will only have good government if the whole leadership team works well.

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