Keep calm and be awesome!

While the SLT meeting was in full swing, I realised that every member of the team that I line manage appeared to be under some sort of attack from members. Perhaps ‘attack’ is too strong a term to use but there was no denying that the level of challenge was much higher than had been experienced before.

Being a newish SLT, not yet engaged in team building activities, I feel, has meant that the team have quickly moved from what Tuckman coined the ‘Forming, storming, norming and performing’ model of team development and transition towards becoming high performing.

I also quite like the idea that the team moves form ‘performing’ to ‘adjourning’ when the team then spends time reflecting and planning and also recognises the contributions from all members!

Something very much needed as I watched and winced (a little) at some of the backlash from members of the team about the exposition of our school to others perhaps, or the need for a curriculum that would allow our students to both have breadth and balance but ensuring our ‘Russell Group’ cohort can still achieve, as well as securing the Ebacc for all those who we believe have a good chance at obtaining it and meeting the government’s accountability measure of progress and attainment 8!.  Or should I say ‘attainment LATE!’ given the delay in deciding upon it’s actual calculation and just to add more confusion and anxiety into the melée, we need to consider that this very year group will be judged using the new 9 – 1 GCSE scale and the new year 7 and current year 8 will have assessments without levels.

It made me wonder if we were at the ‘storming’ phase or on the cusp between this and the ‘norming’ phase. No matter how uncomfortable it may feel, it would lead to decisions being made and movement in a direction – let’s hope it is the right one.

Being a leader of others, being conscientious, you think about how you are leading; is it effective? do they have enough direction? if so, why is the idea they are presenting being met with so much challenge or resistance? How can I support them satisfactorily, empower them better and enable them also to exercise their impact and influence effectively? My emotions were up and down during the meeting where one after another each colleague would present their section of the SLT meeting. Not sure how it is done in your schools but I’m sure they would combine some form of discussion, task or activity with summary and decision making – usually a list of actions ‘to do’ for the individual who has presented their section of the school improvement plan. Throughout the meeting, this is when the leadership powers kick in, powers of being calm, measured, attentive and composed.

What a surprise it was then, when after reflecting on the meeting, how, as the SLT line manager you have stepped in to support without dominating your colleague’s presentation section, to be told that you have been ‘superb’ in leading, managing, supporting, reassuring and re-instilling confidence in members of the team. Awesome feedback, did I just say ‘awesome’? Yes I did! Because I intend to be the world’s most awesome headteacher… with some way to go of course till then. Someone once said to me ” you know when you are ready for headship when you look at how something is done and you think about how you would do it differently… or dare I say it… better.”

I think in terms of NPQH I can say I demonstrated analytical thinking and developing others.

‘Multiple Literacies’

To be a good head one must have…
Academic literacy
Emotional literacy
Data literacy
Financial literacy
Any others..?

You can’t leave it to others to have lead on in every way. True leadership is the ability to manage and juggle multiple ‘literacies’ a new way of understanding the role.
I’ll return to this in due time

Great teachers or great teaching? Why McKinsey got it wrong

How apt! I was completing some reading for my NPQH and wanted to find the true source to the quote “The quality of an education system can never exceed the quality of it’s teachers” and came across this article. So now, this has confirmed my thinking also in that we need to acknowledge true source and give credit where due. I always believe that when stealing ideas, the ‘robber’ as it were, will never deliver the message with the same conviction as the source. It just doesn’t happen that way and so we see that it orignated in South Korea and though this may not be Singapore, we see how the philosophy of having an empasis on classroom instruction bears fruit and is validated by what you have now changed to ‘teaching’ and not ‘teacher’ as I agree, we can all teach better. The challenge, is getting everyone to do so and then doing something about those that ‘can’t’ or even ‘won’t’. Thanks for this, I’ll reblog and eventually add my own musings.


Chris Husbands

It’s a fabulous quotation: “The quality of an education system cannot exceed the quality of its teachers.” It has the sense of an underlying educational law, as compelling as Newton’s laws of motion. It’s routinely attributed to the 2007 McKinsey Report, How the world’s best performing education systems come out on top.

But if you dig into that report, you’ll find a footnote acknowledging that the quotation came from a senior government official in South Korea: yet another illustration of the old adage that a management consultant is someone who steals your watch and then tells you the time. But as an aphorism it has done its job, and is now routinely quoted by government ministers, education reformers and academics  the world over. A Google search yields over 180,000 uses of the  quotation since 2007. It crops up again, in disguised form, in Andrew Adonis’s contribution to last week’s

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Weekender 3 reflection: Headship… ready or not…here I come???

Well! I can’t say I am feeling charged and ready to go after this weekender… as brilliant as it may have been. Something to do with an overwhelming feeling about exactly the amount of knowledge and skills a head teacher needs and at the level of complexity also. I am aware that everything does not need to be in-depth, but having a working knowledge of key areas, the curriculum, finance, HR to name a few of the important strategic aspects, is crucial to the successful leadership of a school and the confidence with which one leads. It is also clear that these very aspects are the ones likely to come up at interview for which the aspirant head teacher had better ensure they have their succinct and compelling response well-rehearsed….. implication, some ‘swatting’ up to do and continuous development in this case really is continuous as the reading, discussing, questioning, never stops to arrive at a fulfilled vision of what one wants to accomplish as a head in all of these areas.

Being one of only 2 people prepared to bring the lamb for the slaughter’ in the form of a semi-prepared presentation to trial beforehand on the task 3 presentation on ‘Journey to successful headship’. Moments of self-doubt led to the unstoppable bubble of butterflies in my stomach as we all know it’s far worse to present to peers than to those more distant from where we sit professionally or personally. Nevertheless, I felt the fear and decided to do this anyway, reaping the benefits of high quality questioning and feedback to further sharpen my presentation. Thanks guys! nerves nervous
One of the best sessions of the weekender was the chance to respond to the ultimate curriculum question for headship interview:

“What is your vision for the curriculum in the 21st century? Given the government’s agenda, the needs of employers and our freedom as an academy from the national curriculum, how would you ensure a curriculum appropriate for the 21st century?”

More about that in my post:Weekender 3 Reflection: Curriculum vision

It was interesting hearing from one newly appointed head who asked a question during panel time about how to keep going in the face of being the most tired she had been during her career to date!. Hang on, we are all supposed to be enthused and passionate about wanting to take the next step, not put off. But isn’t that exactly it? The type of people sitting in this room display the drive and tenacity by staying in the business, hard it may be, of striving for achievement for all children in spite of hearing such comments. We recognise that it is ‘hard’ but we also know the vocation and purpose we have at hand and ultimately the long-serving rewards to gain, not just ourselves, but everyone who ultimately is touched by the success of every young person in our care.
It wasn’t until the section on data that I thought ‘blimey, do we really have grasp on all of these concepts and juggle all of the data as wells as the management of the information it churns out and the managers of this information, including the data manager/ assessment team or whatever they are referred to in your schools? And as I sat there listening to our talk on data, partially thinking about my own situation at school (for instance, having inaccurate data, changes in exam results, attainment and progress 8 not quite at the forefront, teacher consistency of assessing and moderating and standardising) I became overwhelmed with the thought of the conversations I would need to have with individuals if these things were not being done effectively and efficiently.

I also began to think about how well versed, or not, I may be and asked myself the question “does this mean I am not ready?” Well I suppose the answer is of course you are not! How many people apply for jobs they can do already? Admittedly, I know this answer already and considering that this is a ‘course’ in order to develop the skills, knowledge and aptitudes for headship it is probably only natural. Like having a first child, no one prepares you, or can prepare you adequately for what unique experience you will have.

child-teeth-happy-toddler-smiling-315x315 first child

We left with the opportunity to consider what our next steps will be and where our goals like in relation to the headship vision and wrote these on a postcard. I always enjoy this exercise and hope I am doing myself justice by scribing a creative, aspiring vision and goal that will make me get a warm feeling inside and a sense of completion when I look back. Posting these back to ourselves, I look forward to the day it lands on my passage floor from the postman

Weekender 3 reflection – Curriculum vision

“The curriculum is the totality of experiences which are planned for children and young people through their education, wherever they are being educated. It includes the ethos and life of the school as a community, curriculum areas and subjects; interdisciplinary learning: and opportunities for personal achievement.”

Okay, so I didn’t think up that quote myself, but I was able to think about the idea that

curriculum wordle

“the curriculum is provision of planned educational and enriching experiences which prepare young people to make informed choices for their futures”.

Not bad for just being put on the spot to respond to being asked “what is the curriculum?”.

If my values include; respect, equality (of opportunity), excellence, success for all, achievement for all, happiness and moral purpose, then my principles in relation to shaping and design of my school’s curriculum must reflect these. curriculum for excellence

The principles need to include;

  • meeting the needs of all children, suitability
  • flexibliity
  • ease of transitions for children into adulthood
  • preparation for adult life, academia but not just that also for employability and ‘personas’ that can fit in any society
  • ensuring that they allow the best value, the best results for children with courses which are highly credible

ace curriculum

Pathways have a place as long as they are balanced with transparency with parents, the governing body and staff and studnets. As a head of a sponsored school, I would find it a challenge to respond solely to requests or demands on me for a curriculum that serves to fulfil the motivation and ego of the sponsor. Being a stubborn-minded person when needed, I am pretty sure this would lead to certain clashes and so I need to really consider, when the time comes, whether this would work for me in any school and if I would be prepared to be the head of a sponsor school. Either by applying to one, or in the unfortunate eventuality of this being proposed to me.

I don’t believe in change for change’s sake however, I am of the opinion that every child should have access to certain experiences, subjects or ideas they would not necessarily have. Why shouldn’t children from postcodes such as NW10 and NW2 and SW6 not go skiing or play chess, experience horse-riding or even play backgammon at break-time?

Research has shown how music acquisition leads to an enhanced ability to learn and persevere so it would be perhaps an ideal of mine to ensure that every child in my school had the opportunity to experience 1-2-1 music tuition to achieve a credible level of musical talent in any particular instrument of their choice. expedition curriculum

One of the best sessions of the weekender was the chance to respond to the ultimate curriculum question for headship interview:

“What is your vision for the curriculum in the 21st century? Given the government’s agenda, the needs of employers and our freedom as an academy from the national curriculum, how would you ensure a curriculum appropriate for the 21st century?”

An ideal response would include; starting with clarification of having 3 elements; moral purpose; 21st century reference and preparation and would consider, includion, alignment to values, what the demands of the 21st century are, for instance preparing our young for jobs not yet created and building on the foundation of an existing curriculum which would better meet the needs of the students in the given school in terms of skills and knowledge and experiences.

The moral purpose remains the same and at the forefront of my mind, securing good outcomes to allow students to have social mobility and choice and it can begin with good curriculum planning supported by high quality teaching for every child.