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Showing posts from February, 2014

Leading for Sustainability

As I write this post I have been off work for a couple of days due to illness. This has got me pondering the issue of sustainability. I am entirely confident that whether I am there or not, very little will change in either school I lead. What is it that gives me confidence, when I meet so many other school leaders who fail to share my optimism?

Firstly, I have a great senior management team who I work closely with, and who, most importantly, have been centrally involved in the identification of how the schools can and will develop. They have helped shape our direction of travel and have challenged my thinking and ideas, and I theirs, as we have developed our collective understanding of what we can do to improve. This gives me great confidence that they understand deeply what we are trying to do, and how we are going to achieve our aims. So, even when I am not in school for any reason, and for any length of time, I have confidence that they have the same clarity as I about where we ar…

Some Principles If You Wish To Take A Practitioner Enquiry Approach To Teacher Development

For the last three and a half years the schools I lead have been adopting practitioner enquiry approaches to developing individuals, and therefore the schools themselves. In this time teachers have transformed their practices and understandings to such an extent that their individual and professional identities have changed. A key signpost for transformative learning as identified by Knud Illeris in his book 'Transformative Learning and Identity' published last year. As a result both schools I lead have developed in deep and sustainable ways, so that learning experiences and attainment for our pupils have improved greatly. Both schools were recognised as performing at high levels before we embarked on this new developmental journey.

I have long held that the sharing of 'good practice' is something we should be vary wary of, as all schools and all situations are different, and what this can promote is copying and mimicry, with little understanding. Instead, we should sh…

Teachers Are Needed In Nurseries, Says Headteacher!

I was a bit dismayed to read today's TESS with the headline for one article screaming 'No 'Need' For Teachers In Nurseries, Council Says.' My heart sank. This is another example of how in times of fiscal restraint and pressures local authorities, or their finance departments, seem to look on the provision of teaching expertise in nurseries as an easy target for savings. Forgive me if I'm wrong but aren't we supposed to be delivering a curriculum and learning that is supposed to be a 'coherent, flexible and enriched' progressive whole from 3 to 18yrs? This is what we have been working towards since 2002 as we have engaged with the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland. I wonder why the necessity for trained, professional teaching staff in nursery classes is seen as any less important than the need for such expertise at every other stage of our pupils' learning journeys? By some people, I should add.

My point of view has always b…

Stop Looking At Plans and Plan To Look!

I took in three planning folders from teachers today. Each was well organised, easy to access and full of lots of useful information about the learning they were planning for their pupils. There were lots of assessments and evaluations about the previous teaching and learning block. I dutifully completed a pro-forma for written feedback, pointing out how good they were and finding a few things we could discuss further in our consultation session.

So, if everything I was seeing was so good, why was I still feeling uneasy about the process I was undertaking?

Headteachers and senior management teams have had the monitoring of planning folders as a regular part of their expected duties for as long as we have asked teachers to actually have a plan for what they are about to do. HMIe and local authorities have enforced and spelled out this requirement and expectation of school leaders by requiring written evidence of it having taken place in the form of feedback pro-formas and minutes of su…

Twenty's Plenty For Leadership!

The following are intended as slightly tongue in cheek leadership messages. Within them though are what I believe are some key principles for school leaders. I hope you get  them and even agree with some of them. There are lots of different leadership styles and approaches, mine is reflected in the following.
Prioritise!People are always the priority!Only in Fifty Shades of Grey are people tied to desks!Be like Bear Grylls and get out and about!Only on Mastermind are you expected to have all the answers!Collaborate to celebrate!Out of tiny acorns mighty oaks do grow, so deal with issues when they're tiny!Good flag makers and good leaders establish standards!Walk the walk, not just talk the talk!Would you buy a car from you? Build trust!As a true fan, support your team!Laugh at the leader in the mirror and don't take yourself too seriouslyDon't be dumb, tell people when they are doing well!Be proactive rather than reactive, but react when you need to!Like a good librarian, b…

Hide and Seek School Leadership

School leadership is not easy!

Just in case you were in any doubt, thought I would start with this basic observation. School leaders face a multitude of challenges on a daily basis. However, I still believe it's one of the best jobs in the world. It is certainly one of the most rewarding and allows any post holder to feel they can make a difference to so many lives.

So why do we struggle to find applicants for Headteacher positions when they are advertised?

Well undoubtedly the negative interventions of politicians, media and inspectorates would have any sane individual thinking at least twice before they put their name forward for a Headship. When it seems everyone is willing to have a go at you, and be more than prepared to lay every issue and problem, and associated blame at your desk, you do need to be thick skinned, sure of yourself and very committed to still want to take on such a role. Also, many Headteachers do not help themselves, or the profession, by constantly bemoani…

Beware of Sea Squirts, or of Becoming One!

"The juvenile sea squirt wanders through the sea searching for a suitable rock or coral to cling to and make its home for life. For this task, it has a rudimentary nervous system. When it finds it's spot and takes root it doesn't need its brain anymore, so it eats it! " Daniel C Dennett

Dennett is an American philosopher and in this particular quote he was taking aim at the practice of tenure. This is common practice in North America and other countries and it basically protects employees from dismissal from employment without just cause. It is common in academic areas including schools and the quote was shared with me by a colleague from Germany, where the practice of tenure is common in schools. What he described was a situation where school leaders were severely limited in what they could ask of their teachers as basically each teacher with tenure had complete autonomy over their practice and what they did in their classrooms. This meant that they could refuse to …

Leading Change

Leadership can either encourage and facilitate change and development, or it can inhibit such development and stop it dead in its tracks. Surely all leaders want to promote development and improvement. This is certainly true for the majority. Most want to be seen as successful leaders, able to manage change, get results and develop the teams they work with. Trouble is that too many fail to deliver on this because of the methods they employ.

So, what kind of leadership practice best promotes positive development and progress?

We need leadership that is based on clear values and principles. Leaders need to be clear on what their personal values are and understand how these are reflected in their actions as leaders. They need to be principled, and their principles should help shape their actions and, more importantly, their decision making. Having their own values and principles clear should allow them to articulate a personal vision and how they might help facilitate the development of …