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Things ain't what they used to be! A school's tale.

Once there was a school, and this school liked to do lots of things. The headteacher did lots of things. The teachers did lots of things. The support staff did lots of things. The learners did lots of things. This was a busy school. Visitors to the school said how wonderful it was that they could see so many things happening. Sometimes, the visitors gave the school more things to do. People came to see the school and all the wonderful things they were doing.

But something was wrong. This was not a happy school. The headteacher was not happy. The teachers were not happy. The support staff were not happy. The learners were not happy. 'What's wrong?' asked the headteacher. 'I don't know,' he said as he shook his head. 'We are doing all these things, and yet I am still not happy.' So he asked the teachers. 'What' wrong?' They said, 'we have too many things to do.' He asked the support staff. 'What's wrong?' They said, 'we have too many things to do.' He asked the learners. 'What's wrong?' They said, 'we have too many things to do.' It seemed that no-one was happy.

'What shall I do?' The headteacher thought. He could see everyone was right, everyone was doing lots of things. They had been told by people outside the school that it was super that they were doing so many wonderful things. People came to the school to see all the things they were doing. Yet something was still wrong. This was not a happy school. 'If everyone is unhappy, how can all the things we are doing be right?' he asked himself. He wanted to be happy. He wanted his teachers to be happy. He wanted the support staff to be happy. But, most of all, he wanted his learners to be happy.

He went to everyone again. 'Teachers, you say have too many things to do, but what shall we stop doing, because they are all important?' The teachers shook their heads, 'you tell us what not to do anymore.' He went to the support staff. 'You say you have too many things to do, but what shall we stop doing, because they are all important?' The support staff shook their heads, 'you tell us what not to do anymore.' He went to the learners, 'you say you have too many things to do, but what shall we stop doing?' he asked them. 'You tell us what not to do any more,' they replied.

'Oh, this is hopeless,' he thought as he sat in his office. Everyone told him they had too many things to do, but no-one was helping him to find an answer. 'Everybody always expects me to have all the answers,' he groaned aloud. Suddenly there was a knock at the door. 'Come in,' he called, secretly pleased to have something else to, do rather than all the things he was struggling with. He failed to see the irony in this thought.

It was Angus from the P7 class. 'Sir, you asked us what things we should stop doing. I have been thinking about that. No-one could say what things we should stop doing, so why don't we just stop doing all those things?' 'Stop doing all the things we do, but what would we do instead?' asked the Head. 'Sometimes, when I have too many things to do, I just decide to not do anything, then I have time to think about what I should do,' replied Angus. The headteacher thanked Angus and said he would think about what he had said, when he had some time. 

He thought to himself about what Angus had said as he was driving home that night. 'We all can't stop doing everything, then we would be doing nothing. Perhaps if I stopped doing a lot of the things I do, I could find time to think about what everyone else is doing.' So he decided to stop doing lots of the things he was doing. He stopped going to, and having, unnecessary meetings. He stopped writing policies. He stopped writing reports. He stopped doing lots of paperwork for other people. He stopped going to courses about different things. He stopped replying to every email as soon as possible. The list grew of things he stopped doing. Suddenly he realised he had more time, because he wasn't doing so many things. He started thinking more. He had time to read. He had time to visit classrooms and work with learners. He had time to speak and listen to teachers.  He had time to speak to parents. Others noticed and appreciated him being around more and having time for them once more. He was happier, but he knew things were still not right.

As he was reading now he came across Michael Fullan, Andy Hargreaves, Alma Harris, Maryln Cochran-Smith, Helen Timperley and many others. He began to see the importance of being relentless, being focused, slowing down, impact for learners, enquiring into practice and the dangers of initiativitis, fads, trends, snake-oil salesmen, and doing too many things. He began to realise that by doing less it was possible to achieve more. He saw that if he slowed down he could achieve more. He saw how if he connected what he did to the core business of learning and teaching, he could achieve more. He began to feel that if he could do more through having these insights, and acting on them, so could everyone else.

He went to the teachers and said 'I want us to stop doing lots of things. First we need to stop all the things we are doing so that we can decide on what we really should be doing, and how we should be doing it. I want us to collaborate and come up with the solutions ourselves. I want you to have time to read and talk to each other. I want us to think about our values and how we should work together. We need to share a common purpose and we need to engage in a process that is sustainable, because it's what we need to do here. I want everyone to be supported to be their best and to see that they can help everyone else be their best. This is not just about me, it's about everybody. I want us to slow down, connect what we do and focus on how we develop our practice for all our learners.' There was silence. Eventually one teacher said, 'but what about all the things?' 'The thing about all those things,' he replied, is that they are just that, things. They are not connected and are just a lot of random things we have been told, or decided, to do.They are not helping me, not helping you and certainly not helping our learners. We are just busy for the sake of being busy. It's time for us all to make a difference, and the change starts here with each of us.' The teachers smiled and agreed to help him achieve what he wanted. 

He spoke to the support staff and gave them the same message. Some asked, 'but what about the local authority, the government, the HMIE?' He replied, 'I believe if we are focused on the right processes, and can demonstrate all our learners are achieving and thriving, all of those will take care of themselves. We need to take charge of our own agenda, because no-one knows ourselves or our learners as well as we do. We are going to base everything we do on sound research, so it will be difficult for anyone to challenge or criticise what we will do. I will have time to support and protect everyone from all the different and conflicting demands we face each day. We will continue to do what is right, rather than what is required.' They thought this all sounded great and said they would support what the headteacher wanted to do. 

Then he spoke to the learners. 'I want to stop you from feeling you're doing too many things. I want you to help us understand what you would like to do in your learning. I want to connect as much of your learning as we can, not only to other areas of the curriculum, but to the outside world and our local community as well. I want you to use your imaginations, I want you to be creative and I want to help you develop the skills, aptitudes and attitudes you are going to need to be successful. I want to slow down your learning and give you time to think and talk amongst yourselves. I want you to see how you can help everyone to learn. I want you to learn from mistakes and not be afraid of making them, as you understand how they help your learning. I want you to question critically the world you live in and think about how you can help solve some of the problems we face. I want you to reach, and exceed your potential. I want to support you to take charge of your own learning and use all the tools at your disposal to help in this.' They listened and told him they were really looking forward to all the changes. He thanked Angus for helping him to see how to deal with all the things he had been doing. Angus blushed. He finished by telling them all that he wanted them all to be happy and wanted everyone in the school to be happy, 'because happy people are better people and make better learners.'

From that day, the school changed. It was more like the new vision the headteacher had talked about. This was developed further by everyone talking about what they wanted the school to look and feel like. They agreed shared values together and they identified what they were good at, and what they needed to improve on, together. They developed a plan for the new journey they were on. They had a long term vision and identified the steps they would need to take to achieve their vision. They identified how they would know if they being successful with their plan. They slowed down, did less but soon began to achieve more. They were strong in the face of pressure from outside agendas as they began to be informed more and more by research, their own data and the professional judgements of teachers. They truly became a community of learning and wellbeing with concern for all and each other. Attainment rose and improved and the learners began to achieve and contribute in lots of different ways. 

Another thing happened. People noticed what was happening. People started to visit them now, not to see all the things they were doing, but rather to see how they had reduced what they did and still achieved more. They were fascinated how they had slowed down and how learning had improved. Everything that they wanted came to be, and happiness levels had risen. The headteacher was happy. The teachers were happy. The support staff were happy. Learners were happy. Parents were happy. They still have things to do, but now their actions were part of a continuous journey of development. Connections were made with everything they did, and everything was measured by improvements for learners, and everything started from that learning. 

Their journey continues. Where are you on yours?


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