Sunday, 16 July 2017

On stickability and completing a year as a Senior Leader

This year has been my first as a member of a Senior Leadership Team. I don’t blog much anymore but I’ve managed to signpost it with blogs at the start, in the middle, and now this one at the end.

I’m proud to say the year is ending with a move to a new school as Assistant Headteacher. But it hasn’t all been success and there’s a deep sense of sadness that I’m leaving my school with the oxymoronic Ofsted judgement of a ‘Good’ Sixth Form and ‘Inadequate’ overall.

Looking at my blog written in February there’s a heart-wrenching naivety in the line I wrote in regards to the English Faculty specifically: “For the first time, I feel we’ve entered a point in our development where we can now secure and anchor the changes we’ve put in place.” Special Measures triggers wholesales change in a way you can’t imagine until you’re deep inside it.

However, this isn’t going to be a blog about The Framework and the mismatch between an Inspectorate and a body that supports school improvement. This term I met Justine Greening MP who did at least seem to ‘get’ that our current punitive system must change if we are going to finally warms up those cold spots.

This blog is not about that as I won’t let it be the defining memory of either this year or my time at my school. My school deserves better than that and I deserve better than that. No, this is a blog about stickability.

When I became a teacher there wasn’t a backup plan for me. I’ve never wanted to do something else ‘when I’m older’ and to be honest my only thought when I hear teachers say they would like to do something else is: ‘Do it now. Life is too short!’

I went into the job full force and there still seems something wholly right to me about being in a school and devoting a big fat chunk of my life to learning. Side note: I have never been scared of the word ‘vocation’.

It’s only now I realise how powerfully this relates to being a Senior Leader. If you intend to be in this profession until you retire then you do things differently. Workload truly matters as it’s the only way you create sustainable practices that let people have long, happy and healthy careers in education.

Similarly, if you genuinely believe that teachers get better with experience - alongside continual reflection on improving their practice – then, again, you do things differently. You’re wary of rapid promotion and value the point of view of more experienced colleagues even when they’re different from yours. You recognise you are still learning. You value career progression and opportunities for colleagues at all stages of their career.

If you recognise we are all playing the long game then you believe that - even with a sense of urgency - real change happens over time and in a way that shifts whole school culture. This means you do things differently. You don’t idolise schools that have quick turn arounds but instead seek out schools and school leaders that have sustained outstanding student outcomes for many years. You realise that if it seems too good to be true then it probably is.

Excellent school leadership isn’t pizzazz, it’s hard graft. It’s not about soundbites and plaudits, celebrating your own arrogance or putting others down. It is about communities, working tirelessly to put young people first, and compassion for all. It’s not big words. It’s having one too many coffees, laughing at yourself, and finding spiders in your office. And I love it.

I know one day I’ll return to my current school and I find reassurance that many of the same faces will still be there. Come what may as the Ofsted winds blow there’s commitment and loyalty in our staff body and a gritty determination to serve and learn and improve. Even if they don’t use the word, our teachers know that it is our stickability that our communities and our profession deserve.