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I Don't Encourage Innovation!

Yes folks, I really don't encourage innovation in the schools I lead. I expect it!

Amongst the characteristics I expect to see in all staff, teachers and support workers, is a constant curiosity that is enshrined in the question, "what if?" I want staff to ask this of themselves and their work constantly. I want them to ask it of each other and importantly of me. I want staff who are reflective and professionally curious. If I wanted sheep, I would be a farmer!

I expect staff to be constantly engaged in an examination of what goes on in classrooms and around school, and thinking about, and identifying, how we might do things differently, and better. That is not to say that everything is in a constant state of flux, or that we promote change for change sake, because that is not what we do. Therein lies madness and is the surest way to destroy practice and morale in staff. Innovation and change should be not based on whims, they have to be based on sound research and practice, but they are expected. We expect the same from our pupils and this makes it even more important that staff model such behaviours themselves.

I don't want staff who are afraid to take risks or ask hard questions. I don't want staff who are always in their comfort zones and don't want to push and change the status quo. I want them to learn from their own experiences, from those of their colleagues and from the wider professional education body.  I want them to develop as people and as professional practitioners. I want them to read and I want them to think! If one of them is the same in their practice and their understanding as they were five years ago, they have wasted five years and I have let them down.

Such an approach can be challenging for all staff, for senior management and for headteachers. Therefore time needs to be taken to build a school culture and ethos that promotes such behaviours and expectations. Staff will not take risks if they do not trust their Headteacher and senior managers. Why would they take risks if they feel errors or mistakes would be frowned upon and used to judge them negatively? Why would they take risks if they felt they were on their own and unsupported? They just wouldn't. No-one would put their heads above the parapet to ask questions and truly innovate. But if we are being honest, hasn't this part of the culture in schools, and around education for many years. I don't  blame schools and headteachers for this because I think this is a direct result of the play-safe approach engendered by how schools have been judged and reported on for many years. The traditional hierarchical approaches to organisation within schools has also had a negative impact. Ideally this too needs to change to really support innovation. I live in hope and there are signs of movement in some of these areas.

I admit some might think I ask a lot of staff in my schools, but my experience is that all staff will respond positively if given the right conditions, encouragement trust and support. They know that I ask nothing of them that I do not ask of myself. All this keeps me on my toes and means that I work in schools that buzz with excitement and purpose, and which have high expectations of all.

So, don't encourage innovation, demand it! You owe it to your schools and all your learners.

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