Time in the helicopter not on the express train…

Some excellent reflections relating to our recent College Leadership Team Away Day. May well have some resonance to other school leaders relating to the need to press “pause” at times or step back to see the big picture. Worth keeping ourselves honest with and finding others time to do the same.

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A reflection of our College Leadership Team Away Day – January 2014

It’s a busy life for everyone in school.  Thankfully at St Paul’s we are not summoned by bells, but the pace is very fast, and every day is action-packed.    And there is sometimes a risk that in dealing with all the day-to-day stuff we lose sight of the big picture.  That is why Inset days, learning communities, staff meetings and so on are so important – they give us a little bit of breathing space to sit back and reflect on what we are all here for and, hopefully, they re-energise and inspire us.

Being on the College Leadership Team is no different.  We meet every Monday after school and every Wednesday before school but, inevitably, much of this time is spent discussing what is happening now, and planning for things coming up later this week, this term…

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Labour Education Policy: Let’s take a moment to think it through

Worth a read when thinking about the recent discussion on “licence to teach”.

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Being in opposition is a nightmare.  You don’t have the resources of the DfE at your disposal to research ideas; it’s a shoestring affair.  If you float policies too early, they’ll be shredded before you can cost them or get them started as a pilot OR they’ll be stolen and you lose political traction.  If you leave it too late, or leave out key details, you get slammed for not having credible policies or ones that are well thought out.  And of course, ideas are just ghosts and empty air unless you get elected – and that’s a dirty business; it’s not for the faint-hearted or for idealists.

So, with 17 months to go to the election, Tristram Hunt has broken cover:  the germ of a policy idea has been announced – and is fighting for air amongst the multi-sensory media mishmash  (a McDonald’s Daily Deli Deal) and the pre-emptive…

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What will 2014 be like for you?

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Any new year holds great promise of what we will be expecting, perhaps professionally or personally. I am sure a few of us have made (and perhaps broken!) some resolutions for the year ahead.

Mine is to ensure that I live life in the moment and really experience each day to the full. Partly prompted by the joy of spending time with my children, friends and family but also through a YouTube clip I recently have seen.

A few questions that it prompted me to think about were…

  • How much do we rely on technology to survive? Perhaps a power-cut as many experienced in the recent storms brings us back to the basics of what matters most.
  • Do we own technology or does it own us? I would be very lost without my various i-devices. What would you do?
  • How can we live life and experience it to the full…

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The future’s bright…

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As we start a new year there is often an opportunity for us to think about the way ahead and what we can expect to find. A few people have already said to me they have noticed the change of pace as we get back into life at school. This is normal and also shows that people have really stopped to refresh themselves in whatever way they needed to over the Christmas and New Year break. I hope you too found some time to stop for a moment and gather yourself for all that 2014 holds for us.

The work that we have done as a Teaching School has been a great source of energy, ideas and development over the last year. This has included a wide variety of different things to pull it all together including leadership development, school improvement and a range of opportunities to really embrace the chance to learn. It is, however, two factors that I think are really significant…

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1. A revolution in teacher training… 

Through working with all the schools and university partners in the teaching school alliance we have had the privilege to lead and develop an innovative and exciting way into teacher trainer from advertising and recruitment to ensuring they have the best experiences as trainee teachers and beyond as they embark on their vocation and career. We have had the chance to work with, and support, some fantastic, enthusiastic and professional trainee teachers who will without a doubt become outstanding teachers. One colleague said “it feels like working with newly qualified teachers already” which is a great compliment to their hard work, engagement and potential. School Direct is here to stay and gives a very well rounded approach to the first chapter in your career. It has also enabled many staff across all schools involved to express their love of teaching and the joys and rewards it brings – how often do we hear about that in the press today? Have a look at what staff at St. Paul’s had to say.

2. We want to be together…

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The most rewarding aspect of this work has been the opportunity to work closely with our strategic partners  every step of the way. It makes a real difference to work with like-minded, dedicated schools that have a vision for education. In a book called the “Speed of Trust” by Stephen R. Covey he talks of how easy communication can become in high trust relationships. I hope this is what we have started to develop. Schools can sometimes act in an isolated way, only looking to do what is right for them individually at any one moment in time. I believe that by freely sharing all that works there are a number of benefits;

  • A language of reflection and self-evaluation develops beyond saying “it’s just what we do around here”!
  • It enables you to evaluate what works and why in a clear and cohesive way
  • A wide variety of people in the school and alliance can be nurtured and developed to lead this work – this in turn “feeds their growth” too
  • We learn so much from one another – it is essential to be challenged to think by others beyond “the school down the road” – it actually leads you to seek out national and international benchmarks
  • You can never stand still – by giving away your “best secrets” you have to find new ideas to help move the school on in all we do

So in essence the future is bright in 2014. If we have a new generation of exceptional teachers coming through and have a deep rooted moral commitment to work collaboratively then I think there is a firm foundation for an exciting year ahead.

If you want to get involved in the work of a teaching school alliance click here to  find one close to you or contact us for details. I hope you start 2014 full of life and hope as we welcome a new dawn in the school year. I wish you every happiness, success and blessing in the year ahead.