A story from Tony Benn – adapted for education

There was a boat race between a crew of teachers from a Japanese school and a crew of teachers from an English school. Both sides practised long and hard and the Japanese team won by a mile. So OFSTED, faced with this problem, set up a working party which reported that the Japanese had eight teachers rowing and one person steering and the English school had eight people steering and one teacher rowing.

So the governors of the unfortunate English school were encouraged by OFSTED to bring in management consultants. This was costly for the school, which had to make a teacher redundant, but it was felt that the payback would be better rowing performance. The management consultants confirmed the diagnosis, suggested the English school be completely restructured to make it more efficient, more cohesive, with streamlining and all-round better performance. A strategy document detailing an Action Plan was drawn up and the recommendations encouraged restructuring for the entire school.

As part of the restructuring, a number of appointments were made including an Executive Head, three Deputy Heads, three Assistant Heads and a Director of Rowing Sciences. The teacher rower was given an incentive to row harder, namely a move up the pay scale, which was then formalised in a performance management objective. The wording of this objective was reviewed over the course of the year and the teacher rower was obliged to attend a review meeting once a term, to ensure they were on track to meet the objective. The teacher rower’s training was observed in a series of learning walks by the assistant heads, which were followed by impact meetings to discuss “what went well” and “even better if“. The progress of the teacher rower was then assessed against a personal learning checklist of 50 essential rowing skills (drawn up by the Director of Rowing Sciences) and the information was put onto a spreadsheet. The data was analysed by the Assistant Heads and the teacher rower was asked to attend intervention sessions on a regular basis, where they were asked to self assess their rowing progress against the checklist and give themselves a score on a 1 to 10 scale for each item.

After a year they then had another race; this time the British school lost by two miles. The teacher rower was put on capability procedures for poor performance, the boat was sold and, despite concern that standards had not risen, OFSTED acknowledged that the Executive Head had taken the necessary ‘hard decisions.’ The final OFSTED report also commended the Director of Rowing Sciences for his “innovative and forward thinking” Rowing Techniques Tracking and Monitoring Policy. He left shortly afterwards to take up an executive headship.

A story from Tony Benn (adapted for education).


About fish64

Full time teacher for over 30 years - last 9 years as Head of Department. Broadly traditional - I support the idea of core knowledge - but disagree with scripted lessons! All views my own
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3 Responses to A story from Tony Benn – adapted for education

  1. ijstock says:



  2. Shireen says:

    This is hilarious, yet mostly so sad. Good read.


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