Category: Leadership

Subject Leadership – Reflective Questions

The majority of this post is a list of questions I wrote for subject leaders considering the progress of their GCSE students (though the questions can easily be adapted for Post-16 or KS3 students).

Leadership requires reflection; and this list of questions – although not exhaustive helps think through exam results and how to improve. That is not to say that as equators we should only focus on our examination results; but examination results are important – our students will carry them with them for the rest of their lives.

Last Year’s Exams

  • Which teaching groups did better than others? Why?
  • Which papers did students do better than others? Why?
  • What questions did students do better on than why?
  • Why were predictions not accurate?
  • What did the examiner’s report say?

The Current Cohort

  • Coming from Year 10 to Year 11 – which groups have the weakest progress? Why? What is being done to improve that?
  • Do all teachers who are teaching Year 11:
    • Have the ability to answer GCSE questions?
    • Have the ability to teach all topics?
    • Know what is required of students for each question time?
    • Are they able to accurately mark?
  • Are you address gaps in knowledge for any failures in teaching in Year 11?
  • How confident are you about what is going on in every lesson – are teacher ‘following the script’?
  • How are teachers and the department as whole building relationships?
  • When will you finish the syllabus?
  • Do students have revision materials?

Planning for the Year Ahead

  • What is being done every week between now and the mocks?
  • How are assessments being planned for?
    • What is being covered in each assessment?
    • How do you know that teachers are not ‘over preparing students’?
    • Are the grade boundaries set at the right level (the Goldilocks Zone)?
    • Is time for feedback in long term plans?
  • What intervention is taking place in lessons?
  • How are you using extra support in departments? (consultants / trainees / NQTs)
  • What is going to happen in interventions that is different than in lessons?
  • What are other schools / academies doing that we are not? Look for next level schools!

Future Planning

  • What are Year 9 / 10 teachers doing?
  • What is being done to upskill teachers that don’t teach Year 11?

Note and Key Takeaway points from ‘The Naked Leader’

This book is a general leadership book and is self-described as ‘The bestselling guide to unlimited success’. It takes a unique approach – as a choose your own adventure book with the author advising you to at the end of each short chapter (there are 51 in the 340-page book) go to the next chapter of your choosing based on choices at the end of the chapter. I ignored this advice, and instead read it from cover to cover. I think it provides lots of useful advice; although most are uncontextualised. This is useful however in some ways as it means the reader can apply it to their own context.

The rest of this post lists some of the takeaways or quick lists that I would like to remember.

The formula for guaranteed success:

  1. Know where you want to go.
  2. Know where you are now.
  3. Know what you have to do, to get where you want to go.
  4. Do it!

The seven principles of Naked Leadership:

  1. Succes is a formula, and it is simple.
  2. This formula does not ‘belong’ to anyone – it belongs to everyone.
  3. To be successful, you need rely on no one other than yourself.
  4. Succes is whatever you want it to be, it is yours to define.
  5. Success can happen very fast, often in a heartbeat.
  6. Everyone has value, can be anything they want, and is a leader.
  7. The biggest mystery of life, is to discover who we truly are.

The top five human motivators:

  1. A sense of personal power and mastery over others.
  2. A sense of personal pride and importance.
  3. Financial security and success.
  4. Reassurance of self-worth and recognition of efforts.
  5. Peer approval and acceptance.

The benefits of a mentor – to the person being mentored:

  • A mentor can assist, and transform personal and career development.
  • He or she can also be a sounding board, perhaps before a major presentation.
  • If the mentor is more senior, there are opportunities to learn.
  • with a mentor, people feel the organisation is taking a genuine interest in them, and what they are trying to achieve. This is highly motivating.

Leadership is a skill and a habit. Like most skills and habits, one that improves with practice. As we become more skilled – the habit takes over – we worry less about the mechanics of doing it and focus more on the outcomes to be achieved.

What are the skills and attributes that are demonstrated by great future leaders:

  1. Wider vision – a compelling future plan – shiny, relevant, and involving other people in its development.
  2. Personal profile – a high profile and visibility – know everyone’s name by heart.
  3. Warrior – ability to take account and lead by example.
  4. Alliances and Friendship – form powerful alliances with other companies, directors and external groups.
  5. Spirit – higher self – at one with themselves and have their lives in balance. Combine an energetic spirit with a sense of priority and perspective and know how to relax.
  6. Imagination and mind skills.
  7. The ability to inspire.

Five pitfalls of leadership:

  1. Mistaking position for power – respect has to be earned.
  2. Practicing communication and not openness.
  3. Providing answers instead of guidance.
  4. Putting popularity before respect.
  5. Being visible but not available.

Rules for email communication.

  1. Be aware of the impact of the written word – it is direct and often comes across as aggressive. To overcome this make emails friendly – dear name and end on a friendly note avoiding kind regards. Always read through before sending it.
  2. Never send an email reply when you are angry – it starts a negative spiral that can be difficult to break.
  3. Avoid copy-copy disease. Only include who is necessary.
  4. Ensure your emails are crystal clear.
  5. Never give bad news by email.
  6. Never include information on other companies in emails.
  7. Be aware of information on individuals.
  8. Avoid / limit personal emails / non-work correspondence.
  9. Electronic communication is no different than other communication.

Notes from “This Much I know about Mind over Matter…”

John Tomsett, Headteacher at Huntington School in York is one educational blogger you should be following (https://johntomsett.com/); and on Twitter (@johntomsett). Has written two books; the first about his ideas on creating a positive school culture (well worth a read!). This second book is specifically about issues surrounding mental health in schools. Tomsett has a really readable style in which he discusses his personal and family history; alongside what works in his school and linked to bigger ideas and the views of others.

This book starts with a quote:

“It used to be the ‘C’ word – cancer – that people wouldn’t discuss. Now it’s the ‘M’ word. I hope pretty soon it’ll be okay for everone to talk openly about their mental health without fear of being treated differently” – Ruby Wax

The opening chapter of the book talks about the increase in mental health issues in young people, and also the growing obsession with results and the resultant increase in exam anxiety. This is something I have seen an increase in over my 10 years of teaching; and something experienced by my wife, who works in student support at a Russell Group university.

Part of a key feature of this book is interviews with others conducted by John Tomsett; this is with Claire Fox, Director of the Institute of Ideas. She talks, among many other things about the fact we talk about young peoples mental health and in some ways directly tell them they can’t cope with the trials of life. However, what we don’t do is effectively give them strategies to cope. This is something that is really important, and something the school I work in is partially addressing through the Strengthening Minds Programme (https://strengtheningminds.co.uk/); although this is not something I am directly involved in.

The book not only talks about mental health issues surrounding young people; but also that of teachers. There are some mental health issues that are linked to the nature of the job; this is summed up by Tomsett on Page 87:

“Teaching is a selfless job. We spend a whole career prioritising the needs of others over our own. And teaching is a bloody hard job. I know we don’t go down a mine to dig for coal, or clean the underground railway track all night, or fight for our country, or perform heart bypass surgery, b ut teaching expertly for five hours a day takes some doing. When dicussing the difficulty of teachin ga class of therty students, Lee Shulman says, ‘The only time a physician could possibly encounter a situation of comparable compelxity would b ein the emergency room of a hospital during or after a natural disaster’.”

John also discusses the culture of fear in education; linked to the aforementioned pressure on results. He talks about how this culture of fear breeds backside covering. He goes on to say that this can lead to a huge amount of extensive interventions; so that if results are disappointing you can turn around and say that although the results are rubbish you tried lots of things. He talks about the importance of confidence and doing fewer things well.

This is summed up by the image on page 178:

Tomsett quotes Rita Pierson’s TED talk (video here):

Teafching and learning should bring joy. How powerful would our world be if we had kids who were not afraid to take risks, who were not afraid to think, and who had a champion? Evry chid deserves a champion, an adult who will never give up on them, who understands the power of connection, and insists that they befcome the best they can possibly be.

The book then goes on to discuss how this is implemented through the tutor programme. This is implemented through GREAT conversations (Goals-Resilience-Effort-Attitude-Tools). Page 184-190 provides some more details on this and gives questions that are used in framing the conversations. The book then talks about providing strategies for students to tackle problems; specifically exam papers, and Maths problems (among others).

He concludes by talking about the steps his school is taking to tackle mental health over the longer-term and concludes with his own and his families story. The final section talks about the value of a policy in his school – every student is spoken to by the teacher in every lesson. This is something I try to do, but reading this has resolved me to be more systematic about it.

The book is available on Amazon here.

Research Ed National Conference 2017

This weekend I was lucky enough to attend the Research Ed annual conference, and as I work at the host school, I received a free ticket. The below is a brief summary of my chicken scratch notes – mainly for me to refer back to at a later date. Due to other commitments, I only stayed for the first 4 sessions. In the next few weeks, I hope to catch up with some of the other sessions that were videoed/blogged about.

The image below was shared by David Weston at the start of his session, the third I attended, and this is an important reminder about both ResearchEd and all professional development opportunities.

Session One – The Lean Department – Amir Arezoo

This session focused on the way that department leaders can work in a ‘lean manner’ focussing on the what is likely to have the biggest impact. Amir drew from his experience in engineering and explained that we should view education more systematically rather than simply intuitively.

The session began by setting the current education situation, constant change with uncertain staffing and funding. This desire for change leads to searches for panaceas; over time there have been a number of these APP, VAK, ICTAC, SEAL, all of which later fail or fail to deliver the desired impact. This is in part as they are not structural changes but instead ‘bolt-ons’.

This is in part due to the problem of waste, a cycle occurs:

  1. A new idea appears
  2. A plethora of resources are produced.
  3. Poorly realised, executed, or understood.
  4. Shoved to the back of the cupboard.
  5. People go back to what they know and understand.

Raising standards is notoriously hard; however, it is much easier to improve 10 things by 1%, rather than improve one thing by 10%. Success comes from accumulative advantage. It is important that ground rules are deinfed, establish core processes, and share cognitive boundaries.

All improvement strategies should feature a feedback loop – ensuring there is a mechanism to evaluate the strategy and look at its impact.

Amir then went on to talk about Lean Thinking talking about reducing waste (through time, money, and materials) and improving quality (through planning, creation and execution) to have optimal action.

This can be done though in part considering process and flow:

  • How actions are carried out
  • How problems are identified
  • How decisions are delegated
  • How information is shared
  • How data is obtained
  • How learning takes place

This should also allow a reflection on what takes the most time and intellectual challenge; this may include buying in resources to ensure teachers then are able to spend time in planning how to use them. Furthermore, questioning is the most important so time sould be spent on planning good quesitons.

Amir then went on to discuss the logarythmic nature of time, and considred the importance of hitting the difficult topics early so they can be revisited.

The next part of the talk discussed data driven approach and the importance of validating the data. This is important as if we base our actions on data developed on too much of a micro scale in a lesson situation it may not be representative of what would happen in an exam situation.

The talk concluded by reminding the audience to consider, teachers don’t perform ideas in isolation, and the best results come from, fixing the route for critical action, and ensuring effective communication.

Session Two – School Census – What you need to know – Jen Persson

Jen Persson campaigns for safe, fair and transparent use of data, particularly with relation to the national pupil database, which contains records of 23 million pupils and dates back to 1996. This data is collected through the national school census. This personal data is collected by schools and lots of data is not thought that much about, schools also have conflicting duties under their statutory obligations to submit data to the Department for Education and the data protection act. Schools need to be clearer about what happens to the data collected

Jen talked about examples of how personally identifiable information has been provided to Telegraph journalists, and even private tutoring companies from the Department of Education. The information that is shared in these cases is published in their data access log. However, they don’t list information about access from the Home Office and Police. This information is used by the home office who request data on up to 1,500 pupils a month to insist with their investigations.

This use of data is not safe, nor is it fair within the definition of fair as defined in the data protection act. There are four fields in the national student census that parents can refuse to provide:

  • Ethnicity
  • First Language
  • Country of Birth
  • Nationality

Jen discussed ways that schools can allow parents to refuse this data and the importance of people refusing this data; if the data becomes poor quality it will be less likely to be used this way.

Session Three – Toxic Schools and how to avoid running them – David Weston

David began by introducing his list of  features of Toxic Schools:

  • Low trust
  • Lack of improvement
  • Low clarity
  • Low morale
  • Poor communication
  • High monitoring
  • High Beaurocracy

David then went on to discuss research that identified key features of non-toxic or high performing schools.

  • School Culture
  • Peer Collaboration
  • High Order and Discipline

Also important (but less important)

  • Professional development
  • Teacher Evaluation
  • Principal Leadership

A thriving school will need all, particularly a clear culture. Further more staff should be involved in setting the goals rather than just knowing what they are. Leaders should engage in CPD and participate in CPD. It is important to avoid sunk cost bias – because something has been worked hard on does not necessarily believe that it is effective.

Weston then went on to talk about the importance of curriculum and shared language. However too often the focus is on lesson plans rather than the learning arc or scheme of learning.

The final point made about toxic schools is how damaging Appraisals can be, and the way that schools appraisals are typically carried out go against the recommendations of the chartered institutute of professioanl development, some key ideas are below:

  • Separate developmental and evaluative appraisal.
  • Most of your data is much less valid than you hope.
  • To make appraisal effective people need to be involved with their own targets.
  • Forward facing feedback – give people ways to improve their strengths
  • Target/goals that are outside teachers controls are damaging.

More information can be found here on the Teacher Development Trust website.

Session Four – What can we do about the growing Educational Divide in Politics? – Sam Freedman

Education has become the biggest predictor on how people vote. Sam went through some examples stating how in the Brexit vote education and age were important and linked, but education was most important. This report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation was referenced. He discussed that in the 2017 General Election class was not a major factor, people were more likely to vote Labour if they had a degree, and much more likely to vote conservative if they only have GCSE. The same was seen in the 2016 US election, with 67% of white voters without a degree voting for Trump, but only 47% of white voters with a degree voting for trump.

This is an area with a huge potential impact and should be viewed in the context of the increasing numbers of graduates in the United Kingdom.

1990 – 77,00

2000 – 243,246

2011 – 350,800

This is in part due to the increasing number of universities, 73 since 1990, and courses awarding degrees that may not have previously, but is also just due to the number of graduates increasing.

Freedman went on to share research that explained it was the status of employment that mattered rather than the income. For example, a tube driver earns more than a teacher, however teaching is considered a higher status profession.

Why does going to university make people more liberal – three potential theories:

  • Psychodynamic Model – university increases knowledge, creators self-esteem and psychological security meaning higher tolerance of difference.
  • Cognitive Model – improved reasoning means better able to think through new ideas and accept non-conformation.
  • Socialisation Model – meeting a wider range of people and socialise with more people makes you more likely to be liberal.

Sam also discussed some really interesting research about once an issue links with your values it is very difficult to use reasoning to change your mind, and he quoted a particular paper, Kahan et. al. here. I found this so fascinating that I don’t want to discuss what he said about the paper now as I want to read the entire thing and may blog about it separately. However, he said that although it is difficult to change people’s values through reasoning smarter people are better at cherry picking data to support their pre-existing view points.

The talk then quoted Runciman in the Guardian in 2016 – an article well worth reading here.

Implications for Education

  • Education drives polorisation.
  • Formal education becomes considered a negative by a large part of society.
  • Increasing polarisation at school level between parents and teachers – pupils caught between.
  • Social mobility creates tension between individuals and community success.

What can educators do about it?

  • Switch the vocational argument – its not about parity of esteem of qualification but what jobs are available to non-graduates.
  • Managing value clashes at the school levle – how do we help pupils understand underlying values rather than clashes over symbols of cutlural identity?
  • How do we build a sense of community into the concept of social mobility?

Notes from ‘Leading from the Edge: A School Leader’s Guide to Recognising and Overcoming Stress’

Stress is something that is prevalent in everyday life, and impacts all school leaders in one way or another. Not only is it important that leaders recognise stress themselves, but also in their colleagues and team members. This book is written by a former headteacher and shares personal anecdotes, information from interviews and structured advice. A quick read that has has a large range of practical tips and advice for all working in schools.

The author starts by stating “the pressures have been building for a while. Most people have higher imposed targets than ever before, yet fewer people to help them achieve them. The result is that most people are working harder for longer. There is an increasing sense of disenfranchisement, with school leaders experiencing a far higher degree of accountability set against a background of a decreasing sense of empowerment”. He states that pressure is part of work. It helps to keep us motivated and can improve our performance. However, excessive or unrelenting pressure can lead to stress and have a negative effect on performance. Stress is therefore a response to pressure. It can be costly to employers, but more importantly, it can make people ill. A good understanding of the nature of stress is central to maintaining our own personal resilience and to leading others effectively.

One headteacher interviewed stated his ability to cope with the role was linked to his ability to be able to unwind relatively easily; the techniques he listed were personal to him, but provide potential ideas for other leaders, these are:

  • Avoiding educational programmes on TV;
  • Taking his dog for long walks;
  • Listening to music, watching films and , increasingly reading stories;
  • Foreign travel.

One of the most important pieces of advice that this interviewee gave was ‘have the confidence to know that there are some things that you can ignore’

People tend to become stressed when they feel out of control in a situation. There is much in education which is unpredictable; so it pays to take control whenever you can, ‘control the controllable.’ Some tips for time management are listed below:

  • Preparation is key, so start well in advance with whatever task you are planning.
  • Build in quick wins, however small, into large projects allowing everyone to feel progress is being made towards the goal.
  • Plan long term so that everyone knows the key priorities for each half term and where the ‘pinch points’ will be be in terms of key tasks and deadlines.
  • Set yourself clear deadlines. We are usually more focused and productive when time is limited. Don’t let tasks drift on.
  • Have a master to do list and then daily ones broken down into ‘must’, ‘should’, and ‘could’.
  • Start each day by reviewing your list and by completing a short task that will allow you to get back into the work zone and give you an early sense of achievement.
  • Keep lists of what you have done as well as what you plan to do.
  • Be realistic about what you are likely to achieve each day. Work on the basis of five hours of ‘planned’ work. In education there will always be enough ‘unplanned work’ such as phone call or visits from parents to fill the rest of the day. Over-scheduling your day can leave you feeling frustrated and reduce your sense of control.
  • Give yourself short five-minute breaks during the day.
  • Getting things done is often better in the long run than achieving perfection. Sometimes ‘OK’ has to be enough.
  • Set yourself one or two nights a week to stay later and get through tasks with fewer distractions. Some people schedule that for Friday, so they can take less work home over the weekend.
  • Plan a regular no work evening at home, e.g. ‘No work Wednesdays’ to give  yourself a proper break in the week to socialise, spend time with the family, or to pursue outside interests. Do not compromise on this.
  • Try to reserve some time with no interruptions.
  • Don’t dwell on what happened yesterday, it won’t change it. Concentrate instead on today and tomorrow.

This quote gives the importance of maintaining positive behaviours “repeated ingrained behaviours, or habits, are generally accepted as the way in which your perosnality is demonstrated, so behaviours are often worth changing if they are unhelpful”.

Another key take away was this list of early indicators of stress in staff:

  1. Increased absence from work.
  2. Poor timekeeping.
  3. Failure to complete tasks on time.
  4. Rushing everywhere.
  5. Unwillingness to accept feedback or advice.
  6. Resistance to change.
  7. Inability to reach decisions or delegate tasks.
  8. Becoming withdrawn,
  9. Tearfulness.
  10. Irritability with pupils or colleagues.

The final quote from this book that is worth concluding with is:

“Positive thinking in itself will not change the world, it has to be combined with decisions and action. however, in itself it is a massive start and it has been proven that positive thoughts actually enhance our health – not surprising really, given that stressful ones clearly do not help us” – David Taylor – The Naked Leader

How school leaders can optimise behaviour.

In March the report ‘Creating a Culture: How School Leaders can optimise behaviour’, was published by Tom Bennett, commissioned by the Department for Education. This is a really interesting document and should be read by all school leaders. The full report can be found here or here (alternative link).

The report begins by summarising the impact of improved behaviour:

  • Students achieve more academically and socially
  • Time is reclaimed for better and more learning
  • Staff Satisfaction improves, retention is higher, recruitment is less problematic.

The are a number of illustrations used throughout the report – the one below is used to illustrate the commonly found features of the most successful schools.

Features of Effective Schools

The report describes what good behaviour is: “Good behaviour is not simply the absence of ‘bad behaviour’ (swearing, fighting, or retreating from classroom tasks). Good behaviour includes aiming towards students’ flourishing as scholars and human beings. So, while good behaviour does include the absence of, for example, vandalism, rudeness and insolence (which we can describe as negative good behaviour), it also describes behaviour that is more broadly desirable. This could mean helping students to learn good habits of study, or reasoning, or interacting with adults, coping with adversity, or intellectual challenges (positive good beavhour). School leadership needs to create circumstances for both forms of good behaviour.”

The report talks about the importance of clarity of instructions from leadership and gives an example: “Don’t only say, ‘Assemblies should encourage good behaviour’. Say, ‘For example, in every assembly, I want to see merits given out to the best students for [behaviour x]’. This should be at the end of the assembly, and the pupils should be asked to go on stage to collect their certificates.”

As well as clarity of instruction the report talks about the importance of routine. “The school must have well-established and universally known and understood systems of behaviour, fo example, student removal, consequences, and sanctions, corridor and classroom expectations, behaviour on trips, arrival, transition and departure behaviour and so on. Any area of general behaviour that can be sensibly translated into a routine should be done so explicitly. This removes uncertainty about school expectations from mundane areas of school life, which reduces anxiety, creates a framework of social norms, and reduces the need for reflection and reinvention of what is and is not acceptable conduct. This, in turn, saves time and effort that would otherwise be expected in repetitive instruction. These routines should be seen as the aspirations of all members of the school community whenever possible.”

On sanctions, the report quotes Bill Rogers saying their “certainty is more important than their severity”.

This is linked to the need for students to meet expectations “All students need to meet the expectations set of them. Anyone not meeting the expected standard must expect an intervention of some form, a reaction from the staff body. Any member of staff not maintaining these boundaries and expectations must be challenged, retrained or otherwise engaged to aim more closely to the standards expected”.

The final aspect of the report that is worth repeating is the list of obstacles to developing a culture of good behaviour:

  • lack of  clarity of vision
  • poor communication of that vision to staff or students
  • demonstrating values or routines contrary to the stated ones
  • lack of perspective, considering low standards to be high
  • inadequate orientation for new staff or students
  • staff overburdened by workload, unable to plan for effective behaviour
  • unsuitably skilled staff in charge of pivotal formal roles
  • remote, unavailable, or occupied leadership
  • inconsistency between staff and departments
  • unfair consequence systems that punish industry or reward poor conduct
  • staff unable or unwilling to promote the school routines
  • lack of support for staff to promote the school routines.

 

 

 

 

 

Notes from ‘Braveheads’

The book ‘Braveheads’ by Dave Harris is one headteacher’s guide to leadership. Although it is written to guide headteachers there is much that can be applied to any leadership position in a school. The guiding principal is that leadership requires bravery, “the good leader, indeed the great leader is marked out by the way in which his other internal roller-coaster of self-doubt, negativity and sheer desperation is rendered invisible to the outside world.”

The book begins with the motivations for leadership “The money is good and it serves as some form of compensation, but if you do the job for the salary you will soon realise that it will never be compensation enough for all that you go through. Nor will it compete with the feeling you get on those occasions when it all goes right and you see those young people – and their teachers – really shine in ways that you know you have helped make happen. Rather than simply serving as a boost to their bank balance, their pension or their ego, most of the heads I have met are in the job because they feel that they can make a genuine difference where it is needed.”

Although fear in some degrees is health Harris states that  FEAR can stand for ‘False Expectations Appear Real’ and at least half of the things that you fear are never going to happen.

He talks about the importance of school leaders protecting and nurturing the staff in their teams. “As a leader, your job isn’t to do what is asked of you at the expense of the people in your care. Your job is to do whatever you need to for the people in your care, and that includes often resisting doing what you are supposed to do. And that’s why people need you to be brave”. He talks further about leading staff stating “everybody wants to do a good job, and more often than not simply needs the right support from the top in order to achieve this.”. He goes on to state “good leadership, like good teaching, is all about relationships”.

Harris sums up his four rules for brave school leadership as:

  1. Be Yourself
  2. Be Yourself
  3. Be Yourself
  4. There are no rules. Be Yourself.

In conclusion, he states “Changing a school is tremendously demanding but recognizing the immensity of the task – and that there are no short cuts – is the first step. The only way to make real change is through determination and hard work and lots of passion.”

Small Things Matter … Impact of Leadership

The pointy-haired boss – the frustrating manager featured in Scott Adam’s Dilbert Cartoons.

A few weeks ago I was reading Andy Buck’s ‘Leadership Matters’, and there is a section in which he talks about the impact that the way leader’s conduct themselves have on their colleagues.

Buck has produced a list of frustrating behaviours  that leaders can exhibit:

  1. Don’t reply to a letter or e-mail within a day of it being sent;
  2. Regularly turn up late to teach or to meetings because they have been dealing with ‘more important’ matters;
  3. Leave colleagues out of the loop regarding a particular issue or event;
  4. Forget to do things that they say they would do or even do something differently from which had been previously agreed;
  5. Ask for feedback at the end of an event, and then fail to act about it or even acknowledge the feedback the next time the event is organised;
  6. Don’t meet deadlines that all staff are expected to meet;
  7. Make (often poor) decisions ‘on the hoof’ because they have failed to plan ahead effectively.

This is an important list, poor organisation as a leader limits the performance of the team. In addict as Buck states ‘their ability to inspire and motivate is diminished; they don’t have the same level of credibility with colleagues and morale is inevitably lower’.

On a personal level, I try to always respond to all emails within 24 hours, keep colleagues in the loop (though this is a potential minefield as we all suffer from information, often via email overload). Furthermore, I attempt to ensure that I have good timekeeping and remember what I have promised through the use of a to-do list and calendering everything!

This post was based on ideas in:

Leadership Matters: How Leaders at All Levels Create Great Schools

Key Stage 3: the wasted years? – A Summary

In September Ofsted published a report which examined Key Stage 3 provision in secondary schools – this is part of the Ofsted survey and thematic reports; more are available here. This is my summary of this report.

“The importance of a good start to pupil’s secondary school education cannot be over emphasised. Leaders of successful schools set the right culture for learning that is embrace by their pupils from the outset.”

  • In 2013/14 HMI reported that primary schools continued to improve but secondary schools had stalled; with one of the contributory factors being poorly handled transition from primary to secondary. Gains made by pupils at primary school were not embedded and developed at Key Stage 3.
  • In MFL, history and geography lessons too often failed to engage and challenge pupils. In part the weaknesses in teaching and progress can be attributed to the lack of priority given to Key Stage 3 by school leaders.
  • Leaders prioritise the pastoral over the academic needs of pupils during the transition gem primary school. This can have a detrimental effect on progress and engagement of the most able.
  • Secondary schools do not build sufficiently on pupils’ prior learning; repeating work is more of an issue in mathematics and English than in the foundation subjects.
  • Developing literacy is a high priority but there is not the same level of priority evident for numeracy. Schools should ensure they have literacy and numeracy strategies that build on pupils prior attainment.
  • A number of pupils interviewed made an explicit link between quality of teaching at Key Stage 3 and their option choices for Key Stage 4.  When pupils had not continued to study a subject, reasons most frequently given included finding the subject difficult or dull.
  • Only a small number of the senior leaders spoken to were able to articulate a clear vision and rationale for their Key Stage 3 curriculum. In one of the most successful schools visited the headteacher had changed the philosophy and culture of the school. He believed this was the bedrock of future success, commenting “If you get Year 6 to Year 10 right then Year 11 looks after itself.”
  • Homework is not consistently providing the opportunities for pupils to consolidate or extend their learning in Key Stage 3.
  • The importance of secondary schools working closely with their partner primary schools was clear from the good practice visits; where primary and secondary schools worked closely together the results were powerful.
  • Only half of the pupils that were interviewed said that their Year 7 teachers built on what they had learnt at primary school. One Year 9 pupil said, “when I began Year 7, it was as if I had started my education again; nothing from primary school continued”.

Overall the findings indicate that too many secondary school leaders are not using Key Stage 3 effectively enough to develop pupils’ learning. Key Stage 3 must become a higher priority for secondary school leaders. They must not allow Key Stage 3 to become a lost opportunity.

For the full document click the link below to the full Ofsted document.

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Notes from “This much I know about Love over fear…”

trulygreat

One of the many books that I read over the summer holidays is this book by John Tomsett. This is one of the best books that I have read on the field of education ever.

You need to know your core purpose – what is it that gets you out of bed each day to come to work? Schools should be re-structured to accommodate their core purpose; and that core purpose should guide every difficult decision. For example Hutchinson School’s core purpose is “to inspire confident leaners who will thrive in a changing world’.

“Target your resources on what matters most and just make do with everything else. Teaching is the thing that makes most difference to children’s academic performance so invest high quality continuing professional development CPD – train people to be good teachers.”

“In order to stay focused on professional development we need to stop worrying about things we cannot control and focus upon what we can do something about – our own practice. The only way to develop truly great schools is through each one of us taking responsibility for improving he quality of our teaching. We need to break the glass ceiling which surrounds great teaching so that we all aspire to it and see it is achievable. We need to foster a growth culture which is founded on the belief that all of us can improve.”

In the book John Tomsett quotes Professor Chris Husbands:

“We can all teach well and we can all teach badly.  Even good teachers teach some lessons and some groups less well; even the struggling teacher can teach a successful lesson on occasion. More generally, we can all teach better: teaching changes and develops. Skills improve. Ideas change. Practice alters. It’s teaching, not teachers.”

Taken from: https://ioelondonblog.wordpress.com/2013/10/10/great-teachers-or-great-teaching-why-mckinsey-got-it-wrong/

Another key quote, this time by Tomsett is:

“The one thing that destroys the energy of a workplace culture is a climate of fear. Conversely, people’s energies are maximised when they feel loved and safe. Love wins over fear every time. Ron Berger has never been so right when he says ‘Culture Matters”

Tomsett also quotes Roland Barth when talking about school culture:

To change a school’s culture requires mustering the courage and skill to not remain victimised by the toxic elements of the school’s culture but rather to address them.”

Some other notes that I took from the book:

  • Every teacher fails on a daily basis. If you are not failing you are just not paying attention. Because we fail all the time.
  • In building a classroom culture, I have based my whole career upon a line from Virgil, ‘Success nourishes them: they can because they think they can’ [when working with a difficult group Tomsett stated], I never, ever ,ever, ever diverged publicly from believing that every single one of them would get a minimum of a grade C.
  • When teaching hard classes, laugh with them and let them laugh at you. Trust them. Choose your moment and use the phrase, ‘I’m going to rust you to do this,’ looking directly into their eyes. On some things you have to compromise. I know it encourages learnt helplessness, but just buy a stack of biros and don’t get precious if you lose a load.
  • When giving explanations, pare down what you are explaining, have more than one way to explain something, and try to use subject specific vocabulary in your explanations.

Tomsett also gives some strategies to make time:

  • You have to privilege the time for teachers to work on their teaching if you want to grow a truly great school.
  • Beware of asking colleagues to do anything which impinges on their time without it being to their benefit.
  • Work in twenty-five-minute chunks and use the Pomodoro Technique.
  • Cut corners if you have to – sometimes just good enough is good enough.
  • Some things won’t get done. Period.

There is also a section about the things that are needed in order for teaching to become an evidence-based profession; creating structures in schools where classroom teachers:

  • Work in an environment where continual improvement is the cultural norm.
  • Can access good evidence easily.
  • Feel encouraged and safe to change their practice in the light of the evidence.
  • Are supported by a school-based research lead with a higher education connection.
  • Can evaluate the impact on student outcomes of the changes to their pedagogy.

The final take away from this book is this quote:

“The bottom line is that to be any good at teaching it has to matter to you, properly, right there in your chest.”

Get this book on Amazon here.