Poor learner performance means there are serious systems issues at the school.

A new school year marks joy or agony for schools

Another school year has begun. Again, school heads and their leadership teams confront the question: how can they lead and manage their schools so that they have inspired, committed staff that will deliver superior classroom teaching.

Schools that are delivering excellent learner results,  will obviously look at ways to raise their game even more so.  However, there will be poor performing schools that may repeat history if they do not take stock of their own reality.  Poor learner performance means there are serious  systems issues at the school.

Leave the children out of the equation to get to the deep systemic issues at school.

Many  school heads and their SMTs that are quietly questioning why their school performance is poor when compared with schools with similar contexts as theirs, are already starting on the wrong foot.  Everybody at the school knows deep down what the real problems are, but they are afraid to acknowledge their own culpability.

If schools want to raise their learner performance, they have to start with themselves and not target the children. Children depend on their teachers to help them learn well.  Children also  depend on their principal , SMT, teachers and school friends to help them build healthy relationships.  If the children are performing poorly, then who is really to blame?

We cannot use children to mask the systemic problems at schools.  In many schools, the deprived children already come to school, steeped in domestic and social problems that they have to own and navigate.  If these children are then being blamed for the poor  school-wide performance  that is not even their domain, schools are courting disaster. Such a mindset is dangerously harmful to the children and it  affects the school staff's psyche. Such a victim mindset also prevents schools from addressing the real problems that are preventing them from doing well.

Schools can start being brutally honest and fix what is broken.

Use TED and Youtube videos as part of staff development

Change is hard and messy but if it the process is managed well by the school head and the SMT, the whole school will lift. Sometimes the biggest obstacle is that schools do not know how to start the process of making deep, meaningful changes that will impact on learner performance.  There are so many useful TED and Youtube videos available that can be used as part of the school's staff development programme.

I have included two TED videos that I find very useful. Simon Sinek speaks about how great leaders inspire action and  Margaret Heffernan shares her research on what drives high-performing teams.

Be inspired.  Be the change you want to see - Mahatma Ghandi.

Are there any other ideas schools can use?


  1. Hi, fellow tattlers. You must all have a brilliant year.
    In response to the article, yes I agree. SMT's must really interrogate their performances, however the staff must be engaged through-out the process.
    My personal challenge is that NO one is brutally honest. Schools submit brilliant improvement plans - however consistent implementation thereof is the challenge. So, yes I agree, systems at schools work well on paper.
    I also want to remind you that contextual factor are crucial - you cannot wish it away.
    Recently I've read The Best Schools by Thomas Armstrong, a really good read.
    This what he says:
    School currently focusses on an Academic Achievement Discourse, these are their Assumptions:
    1. Academic content and skills are the most important things to be learned.
    2. Measurement of achievement occurs through grades and standardised testing.
    3. It favours an academic curriculum that is rigorous, uniform, and required for all students.
    4. It is primarily future orientated.
    5. It is comparative in nature.
    6. It bases its claims for validity on scientifically based research.
    7. It generally takes place in a top-down environment in which individuals with greater political power impose programs, procedures, and policy on individuals with less power.
    8. The bottom line, “It hinges on grades, test scores, and ultimately, money”

    Having this view leads Negative consequences:
    1. It results in a neglect of areas of the curriculum that are part of a well-rounded education; all students need in order to experience success and fulfilment in life.
    2. It results in a neglect of positive instructional interventions that cannot be validated by scientifically based research data.
    3. It encourages teaching to the test.
    4. It encourages student cheating and plagiarism.
    5. It encourages manipulation of test results by teachers and administrators.
    6. It encourages students to use illegal substances as performance aids.
    7. It transfers control of the curriculum away from educators in the classroom and towards the organisations that set the standards and exams.
    8. It produces harmful levels of stress in teachers and students.
    9. It increases the chances that students will be retained from year to year and drops out before graduation.
    10. It fails to take into consideration individual differences in cultural backgrounds, learning styles and rates, and other crucial factors in the lives of real children.
    11. It undercuts the intrinsic value of learning for its own sake.
    12. It results in the institution of developmentally inappropriate practices in schools.

    To cut a long story short - PD is important, please read the book.
    The million dollar question: "Are we serious about producing learners that meet the requirements of the CO's or are we focused on the Academic achievement discourse?"

  2. Let us in this forum also be brutally honest - Most, if not all teachers are suck in this Academic Achievement Discourse. Our biggest challenge is to MOVE them into a Human Development Discourse.

  3. Apologies - it should be STUCK.

  4. Welcome back to you to Kevin. I agree that we can't ignore the contextual factors and YES, most of our teachers, SMTs and the education system are stuck on trying to improve learner achievement via a testing model. The challenge is; how do we get schools to shift despite the burden of operating in a 'more testing' system? Let's keep this discussion alive.

    Thanks for your contribution and let's see if we can get our Tatlers to join the dialogue.


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