leadership

Home/leadership

Accountability

2020-11-07T09:15:57+00:00November 7th, 2020|leadership|

The following is a summary of Chapter 4 of my new book, Intelligent Accountability. What stops us from taking the risk and trusting teachers is, in part, the very real fear that some will cut corners, take shortcuts and slack off. But it is also a product of the deficit model: misguided approaches to enforcing ‘best practice’ and the perceived need to hold teachers and schools to account for meeting key performance indicators. To mediate against these pressures, we put accountability systems in place. The point of accountability is to increase trust: the more information we have on what teachers are [...]

Trust

2020-11-03T13:45:38+00:00November 3rd, 2020|leadership|

The following is taken from chapter 3 of my new book, Intelligent Accountability. Confucius believed that three things were needed for a ruler to govern: weapons, food and trust. If a ruler is unable to hold on to all of these he should give up the weapons first, followed by the food. Trust, he thought, should be guarded to the last. This is true for everyone and every institution. It may be difficult to govern without a standing army to enforce your will or when people are hungry, but if there’s no trust, there’s no hope at all. In the context [...]

The surplus model of school improvement

2020-11-02T13:04:52+00:00November 2nd, 2020|leadership|

In chapter 2 of Intelligent Accountability I suggest that schools can operate either a surplus or deficit model of school improvement. Schools often seem to be run on a deficit model whereby any deficiencies or failings are attributed to a lack of understanding, information, effort or good will. The efforts of ‘experts’ (school leaders, inspectors, consultants, senior teachers, etc.) who understand what needs to be done are stymied by the actions (or inaction) of non-experts (classroom teachers) who do not. In a deficit model, failings are attributed to the inability of non-experts to understand or enact “realistic budgets, plans and targets”. [...]

Why we need to embrace ignorance and learn to love uncertainty

2020-11-01T15:13:43+00:00November 1st, 2020|leadership|

The opening chapter of my book Intelligent Accountability is an attempt to clear the way of objections and obstacles in order to create the conditions for teachers to thrive. As such, I argue that schools are incredibly complex institutions where it is impossible for school leaders to have certain knowledge of the best courses of action or the results of the decisions they make. This being the case, I suggest that the only reasonable alternative is to act with tentativity and humility. For all school leaders, one of the following option will be true: You believe you know everything you need [...]

Intelligent Accountability: An overview

2020-11-07T12:23:08+00:00October 24th, 2020|leadership|

My new book, Intelligent Accountability: Creating the conditions for teachers to thrive is out now. The argument I make is that while accountability is wholly necessary for teachers to thrive it is too often applied unintelligently and so backfires. I discuss a set of principles designed to get the best out of teachers, thereby getting the best from your students. And when I say ‘best’, I categorically do not mean piling stress onto teachers in the hope of gaming exam results. By creating the conditions for teachers to thrive, we are likely to get much more of what we want: better exam [...]

Five things new school leaders need to know

2020-06-22T10:30:18+01:00June 22nd, 2020|leadership|

1. The primary role of school leadership is to remove extraneous demands on teachers so that they can focus on planning and teaching the very best curriculum possible. If you're doing anything that interferes with this primary responsibility take a long, hard look at yourself. For clarity, this includes behaviour. While teachers have a responsibility to uphold the standards you've set and to hold students to account, behaviour is, primarily your responsibility. If you find yourself blaming teachers for poor student behaviour you are part of the problem. Of course, some teachers will need more support than others but your support [...]

Why interview feedback is a waste of time

2020-02-27T20:58:27+00:00February 27th, 2020|leadership|

A few years ago I wrote a series of posts on the subject of improving the interview process in schools: Part 1: A brief review of the evidence Part 2: Intuition vs. statistical prediction (in which I made suggestions for improving structured interviews) Part 3: The interview lesson I thought I'd said all I needed to say of the subject of school interviews. Then a few days ago I responded to a tweet about providing unsuccessful candidates with post-interview feedback suggesting it was a waste of time: Feedback on unsuccessful interviews is valueless. It’s all polite variants rationalising why your face [...]

Can observation pro formas be used well?

2020-02-09T18:37:56+00:00February 9th, 2020|leadership|

Should observers waltz into lessons armed with a clipboard full of hoops they hope to see teachers jump through? No, probably not. Some years ago I wrote about my preference for how lessons should be observed: The point of a lesson observation should not be to see whether a teacher is slavishly following a checklist, rather it should be to tease out how effectively they are teaching the students in front of them to master specific curriculum goals. Who cares if there’s ‘evidence of differentiation’ but the quality of students’ work is rubbish? Why would it matter if a ‘plenary takes place’ if students [...]

Does the new inspection framework trade off reliability against validity?

2020-01-15T13:52:40+00:00January 15th, 2020|leadership|

Yesterday I saw a thread on Twitter from headteacher Stuart Lock on the pros and cons of the new inspection framework: https://twitter.com/StuartLock/status/1216475275514523648?s=20 In it he discusses the idea that because the previous inspection framework relied heavily on schools'  results in national exams in making judgements it managed to be fairly reliable. That is to say, an inspection team inspecting two schools with similar results or that two different inspection teams inspecting the same school would arrive at a broadly similar judgement. In 2015 Ofsted conducted some research on the reliability of it's judgments (the report can be found here). Two independent [...]

What do Ofsted reports reveal about the way schools are being inspected under the new framework?

2020-01-14T19:20:13+00:00October 17th, 2019|leadership|

Ofsted's new inspection framework went live at the beginning of September and the first reports have now been published. Anecdotally, I've heard whispers from two different inspections about the sorts of questions that are being asked and the sorts of challenges being made, but it's interesting and, I hope, useful, to interrogate the published reports to get a sense of the common themes and patterns emerging from inspections. The following observations are gleaned from a sample of reports from 11 primary schools and 14 secondaries.* 14 of these reports were for 'good' schools whilst 11 were for schools that 'require improvement'. [...]

The school leadership bubble

2018-09-24T21:43:59+01:00September 24th, 2018|leadership|

Some years ago the English faculty I led was subject to a week-long leadership review. Knowing that every member of the department was to be observed and that we would be expected to showcase loads of 'student centred learning' I made sure everyone had planned plenty of group work and taken steps to minimise whole class instruction. At the end of the week the headteacher congratulated me on the quality of all of the lessons he'd seen and how student centred they had been. Despite this, I could see he looked a bit troubled and asked whether anything was wrong. He cleared [...]

Put down your crystal balls

2017-07-04T09:32:36+01:00July 3rd, 2017|assessment, leadership|

Many of the schools I visit and work with feel under enormous pressure to predict what their students are likely to achieve in their next set of GCSEs. In the past, this approach sort of made sense. Of course there was always a margin for error, but most experienced teachers just knew what a C grade looked like in their subject. Also, when at least half of students' results were based on 'banked' modular results, the pressure to predict became ever more enticing. Sadly, the certainties we may have relied on have gone. Not only have Ofqual have worked hard to [...]