Schools as learning organizations LO16450

DLedingham (
Thu, 8 Jan 1998 14:32:12 EST

I haven't made a contribution to the list for a while but had an
experience today which I feel is of some relevance to the development of
schools as learning organizations.

On Monday I took up a position as an acting headteacher (the headteacher
was taken ill during the Christmas holiday) of a medium sized secondary

At a staff meeting convened before my arrival the establishment of a Staff
Association was discussed. The key point discussed at the meeting was
whether or not senior staff should attend meetings of the association.
Many coherent points were made in support of both sides of the argument,
although there was agreement that the presence of senior staff would
inhibit open debate about school issues. I suggested that I perceived
myself to be a member of staff and that I would like to be able to attend
the meetings in person as I could only get a flavour of people's concerns
if I was actually present, rather than through a third party or a record
of the meeting. I also stressed that I hoped staff would feel comfortable
saying anything about my behaviour in my presence, although I did
recognise that they hadn't got to know me or establish a trusting

The issue came to a vote (by the way I had invited a senior head of
department to chair the meeting). The staff were split, almost exactly
down the middle, on the matter. It was at this point that I would like to
think I put my knowledge of Learning Organizations into practice, I
suggested that it might be better to begin the Staff Association without
senior members of staff being present. I stated that I hoped that in time
the staff Association would evolve to a point to where it would regarded
as unnecessary to keep senior staff out of the meeting as staff would feel
just as comfortable expressing their opinions on a face to face basis as
they would in a public meeting in the presence of senior staff.

As you may have guessed there is some baggage to contend with in respect
of relationships between senior management and the staff but I sincerely
believe that the only way we can truly develop a learning organization is
to learn to trust one another. Perhaps today's decision will prove to be
a starting point in that tranformational process. On the other hand it
might be that the staff association acts as a further wedge between the
staff and the senior management. Nevertheless, I believe it is a risk
worth taking and one which carries the chance of a much higher reward than
if we had forced through a decision where 50% of the staff did not want
the senior staff to be present.

I must hasten to add that this singular gesture will not operate in
splendid isolation but will be supported by a range of simialy motivated
decisions and behaviours.

I will let you know how things develop over the next few months but it
will certainly prove, if nothing else, to be a fascinating journey.

I look forward to your observations.

All the best

Donn Ledingham


DLedingham <>

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