I remember a while ago having a discussion with my sister, she is the engineer and for a while she had a job making sure the wings stayed on aeroplanes.  I know, you’d think that this post was already filled.


I was reminded of a conversation we had about how engineers make decisions about complex issues and how these are rated and scored.  I blogged about it some time ago. It was around the time the new specs were coming out and there was lots of debate about them.

Last month I was visiting my current teacher trainees in their alternative placements and got to chatting to one of my old trainees who had a job in the same department.  Dan had been at the school for a year and it was lovely to catch up with how things were going (very well) and how he was finding having a classroom of his own (fantastic).

What he was musing over was how to find his voice in the department.  The maths department had a number of staff who also were on the SMT, and were assistant heads. Dan felt his opinion was less well-formed than the others in the department and, as a result, he did not feel confident expressing it. Specifically, there was a discussion in one of the meetings about changing the exam board and he felt he did not have a chance to raise his thoughts.

You may not be as fully informed as the others in the department, but your voice is important. A good department listens to its staff. Remember the old adage..

If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together’

So here is the summary of our conversation about choosing a board, it was based about something he wrote in one of his assignments.

Stewart (1996) proposed that any change (a decision to change board for example) ‘people would accept or even embrace the change’ where:

Alternative Benefits (AB) + Current Dissatisfaction (CD) > Energy Forecast (EF) + General Hassle (GH)

Dan wanted to understand the reasons behind the views the staff held. He did not want to feel he had imposed his view on the others.

He felt that the perception the staff held was not accurate and he wanted to challenge others about their view on this basis. It is ok to ask a question that says ‘I am not convinced about this, can you convince me?’

Everyone claims their decision is ‘in the best interests of the students’, but that argument alone is not sufficient, you should make the link as to why this is the case. Dan thought that the questions set by their current board did not suit the students as well as other boards might. He felt that staff were concerned about how much energy (EF) and hassle (GH) it would take to change board, so they were over measuring the current situation.  Rather than saying that changing board is a hassle and difficult to do, they were saying that the current board was fine, so the benefits of changing were limited.

Dan was frustrated by this position as he felt the staff were trying to make the decision more palatable, rather than giving him a convincing answer.  I suspect he would have accepted the answer, ‘do you know what, this other board is probably better for the students, but I don’t have the time and feel scared about the risks of changing’.

You might find that the HoD makes a decision that you don’t agree with, but you should feel that you have had a fair innings and that they have made a good attempt to explain the reasoning behind their decision. You never know, in 3 years’ time Dan might be the HoD and then he can have the same conversation from the other end.