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EDITORIAL – Head teachers must be held accountable

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EDITORIAL – Head teachers must be held accountable

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TOMORROW,?teachers?across Barbados will be away from classrooms for a day of introspection and reflection.
It will be Teachers Professional Day for our primary and secondary school educators.
Whatever the theme of this year’s activity, it is critical that teachers recognize the importance of their being held accountable. This is particularly true of head teachers.
Accountability is a prerequisite for any modern business, and the management of our schools must be treated as any other business.
Barbados has over many years placed a priority on education and human resource development as evidenced by the allocations in the national Budget, regardless of which political party has held office. It has been a wise decision and must be continued.
We know that much still needs to be done with our educational system, from nursery to tertiary.
Teachers, and more so head teachers, are critical to the solving of these problems. Indeed, a good head can have a positive impact on a school and the lives of its students. Primary and secondary schools need to have clearly stated targets, and principals must be held accountable for student performance and conduct.
Both the Ministry of Education and Human Resource Development and the boards or committees of management of schools have a duty to ensure that head teachers are evaluated in a meaningful way on an annual basis. All heads must know how they are performing or underperforming and what corrective measures are required.
Such measures are critical if the country is to have schools which are not only delivering excellent academic results but scoring high in all other areas.
Extra-curricular performance, timeliness of annual reports and the upkeep of the physical plant and the role and involvement of stakeholders – from unions to PTAs – are also critical elements in the success of our schools.
The practice of giving head teachers tenure upon their appointment needs to be reviewed. In the same way that a chief executive officer in the commercial world is held accountable by customers, on the one hand, and by a board of directors and shareholders at an annual general meeting, on the other, head teachers, even good ones, must also be held accountable.
In an age when there is a demand for greater transparency, we need to change the governance structure in our schools. The Ministry of Education and boards of management must recruit, prepare and retain head teachers qualified to do an efficient and effective job. Heads must be well prepared and exposed to constant professional development while evaluation must take place on a consistent basis. The focus of heads must move beyond pedagogical issues to school transformation and innovation.
We can no longer encourage and protect principals who work primarily towards securing a higher gratuity and pension. As such, there must be sanctions to remove ineffective heads. Change must come.