The news over the last two weeks has been dominated by floods and the coronavirus, it is as if we are living in a Hollywood disaster movie. The news that I have found most alarming however is the sentencing of Harvey Weinstein for rape and sexual assault and the ongoing revelations about the now deceased Rotherham MP Cyril Smith. The behaviour of both of these powerful men was abhorrent and their abuse and criminality has rightly been uncovered. What I have found most worrying however is the cultures that emerged around these two men. It seems that Weinstein had a team around him that would organise for women to meet him and a subsequent team that would organise non-disclosure agreements to silence those who were abused. Revelations this week suggest that Smith had admitted his crimes to his superiors, who allowed him to continue.
When I am asked about how you improve schools my answer is always ‘culture’. It is culture that allows young people to be safe and have their needs met. It is culture that empowers staff to work professionally without fear of workplace bullying. It is culture that holds leaders to account and requires them to be servants to, not masters of, the people whom they lead. Toxic, abusive leaders create toxic, abusive cultures and I am glad to say that increasingly those leaders are held to account for their actions. That it has taken so long to uncover these crimes and their perpetrators, suggests that we still have a long way to go before institutional abuse by those in power becomes a thing of the past.