Better Together

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Overcoming the challenges we face in education

As leaders we face some of the most significant challenges seen in education. We are at a pivotal time to shape the educational landscape and direction that provides the opportunity to influence a generation far broader reaching then our own temporary custody within individual schools.

The two most significant challenges we face are those provided by the uncertainties of school funding and the need to ensure a deep-rooted focus on recruitment and retention. The question remains what can we do to address these areas that has an impact in all our schools and will we be in a stronger position standing individually or through working in collaboration?

Recruitment and retention – the quality of education is defined not by the amount of time in the classroom or the size of the class but most importantly by the quality of instruction. The defining factor remains the quality of learning, teaching and leadership to ensure progress and that every child makes the most of their potential. Through working together we have the opportunity to develop strategies for professional learning from the “cradle to grave” and ensure that our schools actively track, engage and provide opportunities for talent management and succession planning at all levels.

Financial uncertainty – the one thing that is clear is that there will be continued change and uncertainty within educational finances. We will face these in isolation with potentially catastrophic effects in that some schools may cease to exist or we have the opportunity to ask ourselves what we can do differently or more effectively by working together. This may include contracts, services, capital development, income generation and staffing.

Underlying this is a commitment to looking to embed and develop the school-led system so that there is a strength of voice when we stand together. Currently there is a risk that we are susceptible to political winds of change and we need to overcome this through helping shape our own destiny. We are challenged to establish a way of working in “accountable collaboration” underpinned by peer review, joint curriculum development and defining a shared strategy, vision and direction.
It is here that we have to take a leap of faith, to have the strength and moral conviction to find a path through the challenges that lie ahead. We simply owe it to ourselves, our students and the school communities we serve to find new ways of working together with creativity, commitment and a shared vision and direction. I am sure that if we invest the time and energy to get this right working in a multi-academy trust can achieve this vision and direction.

So it is time to face the challenges and uncertainties head on and discover new ways to solve these challenges standing stronger and better together. Are you ready for the journey?

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Fed as a leader…

Leadership Concept

Some thoughts and notes from the recent conference on leadership in Birmingham. A few questions to consider.

  • What feeds, develops and challenges you as a leader?
  • How are you committed to continuing to grow and learn?
  • What will you to have a relentless focus on simplicity and improvement?

We can’t have a diet of junk food and need to be broad and balanced in what we eat and drink. Perhaps we need the same exercise and commitment in our leadership development. So thanks to those that shared in the journey and I hope we can all find a meaningful way to share the experience when we return to the pace of life in school.

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Do you want to be a mechanic or a surgeon?

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Like many of those preparing for the dawn of a new term I am eagerly anticipating getting back into the routine of school life. As part of this most schools kick off the school year with some pre-season training (or an INSET day or two!). My youngest daughter was easily convinced for a while that this in fact was an INSECT day where teachers would be set free to explore the world around them…

So what could be happening during this time? I hope most schools worth their salt do a few key things…

  1. Celebrate the successes of the summer – personally (weddings, engagements) and professionally (results and triumphs)
  2. Take time to welcome new staff and welcome back the trusty team
  3. Invest in developing one another by learning in some way actively

If none of this happens at your school and you are sitting around listening to presentations ask “how could this be better use of our time?” and suggest some solutions.

I do think the routines of life are useful for us all on a very basic level and this is definitely the case in our family life. We love time together but equally benefit from the contrast and rhythm of school – in essence I look forward to going back and secretly I think my children do too…

As part of our learning as a staff I want to prompt some reflection on learning and how we can understand what is going on at a deeper level.

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Would we send our car to a mechanic who knew nothing about how engines work or we be happy to be operated on by a brain surgeon who hadn’t been to medical school?

I am fairly confident, that on different levels, the answer to these questions would be a resounding no.

So why should be any different for anyone working in education to know nothing about how the brain works and functions?

“How brains are built”

“Optimising the Performance of the Human Mind”

“Opera Singer sings during Brain Surgery”

“The learning brain”

“How playing an instrument benefits the brain”

“The human brain”

So maybe this year we should use this time to “set people free to explore the world around them” just like my daughter once thought! Welcome back and have a great year ahead…