Who says Headteachers do not have a glamorous time during the school holidays?
I have had two “grand days out” this week. Firstly I have had the opportunity to attend a seminar and roundtable discussion at Reform in Westminster, a think tank grappling with some significant educational themes. The topic of discussion was “Geography, isolation and the white working class” and the educational challenges linked to this today. In essence I believe that the challenges are complex but worth engaging with. A few thoughts on the way forward…
- Schools can set the culture independently of their local community – the atmosphere and culture can be defined as students walk through the gates. It is up to each school to achieve this and engage with the local communities in meaningful way. So it’s not “the end of the pier” that becomes the end of the road when we talk about aspiration even in challenging coastal areas.
- Parental engagement in learning and supporting education is a key factor to grapple with. You will find out more through Engaging Parents in Raising Achievement – Do Parents Know They Matter? It’s not just about telling parents what is going on in school but empowering them to guide and lead learning. Remember we only have students in school 15% of their time!
- Leadership matters – a hard fact when you look in the mirror as a senior leader in school, especially a Headteacher, is that your impact matters and defines the culture and expectation. If the wrong people are leading the school then nothing will ever change. Governors and school leaders need to take this seriously. It was great to hear at the seminar of the success of Ormiston Venture Academy which had gone on that journey to change expectation and culture. They have just been designated as a National Teaching School so don’t let anyone say “it can’t be done around here”!
- Get the balance between support and challenge – we need to be clear where to find this. At times this will be from schools around us but we need to “belong” in some way and choose this peer group. We find this as a Catholic school through some strong secondary schools in the South East led by inspirational school leaders whom I am lucky to have “grown up with” professionally. Others can find the same support and challenge through an Academy chain – having some opportunity to work alongside the Ormiston Academy Trust I can see they do this well. They engage with the school and their local community to take time to understand the context and allow time for change, at the same time they are not willing to accept excuses for underperformance. There is no “one size fits all” approach and a commitment to allow leaders to lead and initiate change.
- Every young person wants a chance – deep within every young person wants to do their best, learn, make their parents proud and achieve their potential. In every school I have been in primary or secondary, irrelevant of demographic or location, I have met children who want to learn and be taught well. It’s up to us to provide the right culture, environment and teachers to achieve this.
So… on to my second day out. Tomorrow I fly to Belfast for a “Train to Teach” event to encourage and engage with trainee teachers for school direct and hopefully bring some back to join us in the Inspire teaching school alliance.
Maybe this brings us full circle. If we want to lead change it is up to us to “think different” and find the right people for our schools. We also need to set a culture where there is no “glass ceiling” on what young people can achieve. I think every student deserves it! So what’s holding you back?