How to be bad SMT

October 19, 2013

Are your school’s results not poor enough? Are your staff too happy? Do your students behave too well? Are there people in school who don’t think you are a complete arsehat? Here’s a short guide for all you office-jockeys and teacher-botherers telling you how to change all that.


How to wreck teaching and learning

1) Judge teaching only by what you think OFSTED want. Don’t feel obliged to tell anyone what that is.

2) Pressure staff to make lessons entertaining and to avoid anything that looks like deliberate prolonged practice.

3) Make observations as divorced from reality as possible, ensuring that nothing that is used in them could ever be used regularly. Requests for differentiated work and to show progress every 20 minutes should achieve this.

4) Turn everything into a checklist of activities, discourage thinking about how learning actually works.

5) Make observations as stressful as possible. Have them early in the year; require a lengthy lesson plan and don’t say what the focus will be.

6) Introduce a marking policy and a homework policy that no full-time teacher could ever hope to follow.

7) Promote people to “teaching and learning” positions whose classes do get poor results but who constantly go on about how great their lessons are.

8) Judge lessons by pupil enjoyment. Unless the kids enjoy hard work and learning.

9) Fail observation lessons at random by declaring “insufficient progress was shown”.

10) Use NC levels as the Bible for deciding whether lessons were at the right pitch, ignoring all common sense.


How to ruin behaviour

1) Stay in your office as much as possible, particularly during lesson changeover. Instead insist teachers monitor the corridors and settle their classes at the same time. If possible, arrange to be off-site during particularly stressful times of year.

2) Set rules that cannot be enforced. Uniform policy is a good area for this, as are rules about where students should be at break and lunchtime or routes students should take around the school.

3) Make excuses for poor behaviour, particularly based on poverty, SEN or blaming teachers.

4) Encourage teachers to ignore bad behaviour by the worst offenders.

5) Criticise teachers for enforcing the rules or enacting punishments. Tell them that if they are using sanctions then they must have a bad relationship with their students. Make them feel bad for telling you about poor behaviour they have encountered.

6) Make sure the rules are as confusing as possible. Particularly over things like mobile phones, taking off jumpers or whether you can drink in lessons. Rules should never be written down and certainly never displayed on signs.

7) Delegate all sanctions and punishments to people without the time or power to actually deliver them. Serious incidents should go to middle managers, removal from lessons to people who are teaching at that time, detentions and phone calls home left to classroom teachers.

8) Make sure all CPD on behaviour management is actually about relationship building, making lessons engaging and how kids will behave as long as you are nice to them.

9) Don’t ever permanently exclude. Try to dodge temporary exclusions or even internal exclusions. If possible ensure teachers cannot even remove students from their classroom.

10) Don’t have a clear set of sanctions. Instead improvise based on relative importance of the staff members involved and your prior relationships with students. make sure nobody knows when it is acceptable to shout, send kids out or refer an incident.


How to lower morale

1) Have favourites who you praise as often as possible. If possible, make sure they are poor teachers who are only interested in promotion or departments which actually under-perform.

2) Introduce new initiatives all the time, particularly those that add to workload and do no good to anybody. Never think through the workload consequences of any decision.

3) Abandon the initiatives without telling anyone.

4) Make sure performance management and threshold applications involve people being repeatedly judged, particularly by those less competent.

5) Show no interest in education, only in having an easy life and passing OFSTED.

6) Discourage the expressing of opinions. Make it clear that there is only one acceptable opinion about everything and only you know it. Generally it should be that every problem the school has is the result of lazy and incompetent classroom teachers, or outside events beyond your control.

7) Expect people to do things that you would never do yourself. This applies particularly to covers, duties, teaching methods, enforcing rules around the school site and putting up with poor behaviour.

8) Act as if your position implies that you are very clever and very good at teaching compared with those in the classroom.

9) Expect teachers to respond to emails while they are teaching.

10) Never praise teachers who get good results.


Please feel free to add further advice in the comments

P.S. I genuinely don’t think I have ever written a blogpost this quickly. It was like there was no end of inspiration.



  1. Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.

  2. Nothing to disagree with here as examples of bad SMT.

    Clearly there are some bad MT out there.

    Fortunately most I have worked for (or in) exhibit none or just odd examples from the list provided.

  3. I’m amazed you haven’t mentioned lying through your teeth.

  4. Sounds very much like my former school.

    I would advise converting 6 to 6a, and adding 6b.

    6b – prevent any change without an extensive consultation process where you have to talk to world and dog. During the process make it clear that it is a consultation so views may not be taken into account. Expect a lengthy report with analysis but do not use it in the decision making process. Final decision must only take account of the head’s wishes.

    • 6c: Use any views of individual teachers as sticks to beat them with, so that ‘consultation process’ actually becomes a way of flushing out people who disagree with you and getting them to admit to their ‘unacceptable’ views. This is a particularly good way of destroying naïve NQTs who still believe that SMTs still mean what they say and are to be trusted.

  5. Beneath the hyperbole there is a terribly serious point about “leadership” as it’s been conceived of in UK schools for the last 30 years or more. An anecdote to illustrate. I was once having lunch with five experienced colleagues and we were discussing head teachers. I said I’d worked with five. Two should never ever have set foot in any classroom, never mind run a school, two would have been the first to admit they weren’t perfect but did their very best and were at least honest and sincere… and one was outstanding. My five colleagues unanimous response, “You were lucky!” Not one of them could honestly say they had ever worked for a head teacher they admired or would describe as excellent. And they were all more considerably experienced than me at the time.

    I’ve seen a lot of leadership practiced in working environments outside of schools and I can’t say I see much similarity in any shape or form to the models and ideas currently used by the UK education system.

    • I’m describing the overwhelming majority I’ve encountered. Can think of two heads I worked for who were exceptions.

  6. Please add stealing the credit for other people’s work. No matter how high up you are your work will still be stolen from above and glory taken for themselves. I found this out first hand yesterday.

    As part of SLT myself I can see how some of these things occur. Shoddy people who aren’t fit to be in schools occasionally make it to the top. Once there it’s difficult to remove them. No excuses, they shouldn’t be there if they are incompetent.

  7. I’d add
    ‘Tell teachers who complain about poor behaviour that the school will become a forced academy or that it will run out of money and teachers will have to be made redundant if just one student is removed from roll. Meanwhile, spend a fortune on vanity projects which do nothing to improve the school’

  8. Utter genius. I imagine every teacher works in a school where at least one set of these rules is observed. Wonder if I have the balls to print the whole thing out and stick it above my desk in the work room…

    • oh LOL put it in all the staff toilets instead… much less traceable!

  9. You’ve forgotten about using pupil voice as a measure of how well your teachers are doing – after all if you do your job properly you are unlikely to be universally popular & get across the board “excellent” reviews…

  10. […] no expert at leadership, and so I read @oldandrewuk’s post, How to be a Bad SMT, with a wry smile and a deep sense of sadness. Firstly – it caricature’s the very worst […]

    • Not a caricature of the worst in my experience. Only joined the ranks of secondary teaching about a dozen years ago and since then things seem to me to have become exponentially worse.

      I tend to disagree with OA on a good many things but on this one I am in almost total agreement. My experience is that incompetent leadership/management seems to be an all or nothing sort of a thing in education. Have worked for one outstanding head and a few ouststanding deputies. Almost all have left the profession either jumped or pushed. All that I still know are in a better place.

      I appreciate that my experience is mainly limited to inclusive comprehensives and that my little experience of grammars has tended to provide exceptions (not the Headteacher). For this part of the sector I agree with AO.

      • I’ve only ever taught in Primary. There are some echoes in the school where I’ve taught, but when it comes to secondary, I don’t know what I’m talking about.

  11. Genius post! Whilst the SLT at my current school exhibit intermittent glimmerings of sanity, I can tick off the majority of points.

    Gosh. Now I think I know what being an Ofsted inspector feels like…thanks, TB!

  12. This sounds like it has been written after a week studying my current schools slt. Well done.

  13. I will not state which school (it is not the school I currently work at) but I have worked at a school which was guilty of many of these things.

  14. Reblogged this on teachsmith.

  15. Reblogged this on Physical Education, sport and nutrition..

  16. […] Teaching in British schools « How to be bad SMT […]

  17. This makes for sad reading and I’m
    Glad to say as I scanned I can hand on heart say I don’t act in any of the ways described. However I wonder if my staff think I do? A moment for reflection I think …

  18. The quickest way to ruin behavior is to make sure that the rewards pupils want most and the courses pupils most want to study are only accessible by the poorly behaved students.

    I worked in a school where the worst behaved pupils got taken out of lessons for “sports mentoring” (aka playing football or rounders). Pupils in my form were told they didn’t have severe enough behavior problems to get in. After that their behavior had to be seen to be believed.

    There were several college courses that lots of pupils wanted to do that only the behaviorally challenged got to do. My form realised this and the pupils wanting to do the courses were awful for the duration of year 9 in order to make sure they got in.

    The best rewards were for “improvement” and won by pupils that had gone from truly dreadful to barely tolerable. Pupils that were well behaved all the time got nothing (unless they were gifted and talented of course). Thus all good pupils that wanted a reward quickly realised that the best course of action was to behave appallingly for most of the year (telling anyone who would listen they had some unspecified and vague “problems”) and then behave normally at the end of the year.

    This system combined with all of the other ways of ruining behavior (except 6) resulted in a school in which any day I did not break up a fight or get threatened and/or sworn at was a brilliant day…

  19. […] have also read an interesting blog from @OldAndrewUK about How to be bad SMT- and I used it as a checklist of what not to do… or what not to become… but I do think […]

  20. Nicely put – I think before I left the profession I’d seen most of that behaviour – especially supply teaching in London. On the flip side though the opposite of what you were writing about was also evident, though sadly in very few schools. Funnily enough they were pretty amazing places to work, even for a short while.

  21. Reblogged this on Tales from the bottom of my classroom.

  22. A few years ago I was very, very unhappy in the (previous) school I was in. I thought I couldn’t teach. I couldn’t get anything right – even though I got ‘good’ observations and my classes passed their exams. I moved schools and it was like a magic wand – and for a while I just could not work out why … on paper, my current school is in a ‘rougher’ area, with steep targets for exam results so should be more stressful.

    This blog sums up what the problem was.

    Whenever others ask me why the so-called “nice” school in Surrey gave me more stress than my current London school I will show them THIS. THANKFULLY my new school has clear rules, SLT based all round the school and they must be seen actively teaching: yes, it’s tough and I sometimes feel tired, but I also feel I’m measured on the facts of what I do not a whim (as before).

    It hit the nail on the head. My top tip now is “when you go for a job interview – interview the school right back… what are they hiding?” Cynical but true. My old school didn’t seem to want me (good results, good classroom management, dependable …) – their loss. It’s no easy ride at my new school but I know where I stand.

  23. All of the above applied to one guy in particular I recall from my teaching days. When you multiply this effect nationally, the result is now the UK is near the bottom of the comparison league table from the OECD. Very depressing and entirely avoidable.

  24. […] really should read the excellent blog from @oldandrew entitled ‘ How to be bad SMT’ (https://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/how-to-be-bad-smt/). I think there are many elements to this that we have, at time to time, experienced in our careers […]

  25. […] leadership and management are unlikely to be good. Andrew Old posted about how to ruin behaviour https://teachingbattleground.wordpress.com/2013/10/19/how-to-be-bad-smt/ A number of senior leaders are using this as a ‘what not to do guide’. And one […]

  26. […] How to be bad SMT by @OldAndrewUK […]

  27. […] studying successes. For instance, I had a really positive response from so many managers to my How to be bad SMT post. It is also why I found it easy to comment on this post from Tom Sherrington in which he […]

  28. Reblogged this on Alackof.

  29. […] the above as something we aspire towards, @OldAndrewUK‘s blog on How to Be A Bad SMT serves as a pertinent reminder for the worst of school leaders. For the year ahead and with these […]

  30. Bloody brilliant blog post

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: