China > curiosity, culture and challenge

China – a visit thanks to Access China UK and the Nottingham Confucius Institute and Nottingham City Council

An amazing experience, which would have been incredible and fantastic but was made even moreso or as we teacher’s say “EBI” ( even better if) for the fact I went with 9 great Nottingham City colleagues and we had a wonderful Chinese guide and interpreter,  all of whom added the value to make it totally amazing.

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Feifei our interpreter at the Ningbo library

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The Ningbo 10 (ignore the man on the right he wasn’t with us!)

 

 

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You cannot go up the Pearl of Shanghai and look over the biggest City in the world (population 24 million) and not think – this is where the future of the world will be centred and so we need a plan, not a Brexit neither an educational plan but a proper plan.

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China is a long way away – 5750 miles to be precise or exactly 24 hours from me leaving a hotel in Shanghai to arriving at my front door in Nottingham. But it’s also a long distance away culturally and we so enjoyed discovering just touching upon something of its culture.

It’s a country of the highest population 1.4 billion –roughly 24 times the population of the UK and yet the 4th biggest by area which means a lot and I mean a lot of tower block apartments offices and hotels. Shanghai is the biggest City in the world. (24.2 million). We travelled to Ningbo about 4 hours away, including crossing a bridge of 16km to Ningbo, a City the size of London. It’s busy on the roads but those on cycles, motorcycles or even walking seem to just move at random and hey the cars stop and we saw no accidents. Green spaces are precious.

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Red amber green >GO GO GO

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Bicycle check, mobile check, helmet -what? Few cares in the world, hoping everyone else will stop.

We enjoyed wonderful cuisine – not like westernised Chinese food. We ate like royalty with exquisite food brought out for us, vegetable dishes, meat, noodles, all kinds of tastes, flavours and textures but not too much rice, rice comes at the end and you are not really expected to eat it. Oh and we used chopsticks all the time. Meals were very sociable, no distractions and plenty of conversations, and no rush, no TV, little wifi. That’s less cultural and more….common sense.

 

 

We were very well looked after by our guides, interpreters and hosts, who took us to the most interesting of places from tourist spots, to restaurants and of course to ensuring we travelled to time. In China one is never late. They could not have been more helpful, supportive, informative and generous, as were the hotels we stayed in and all the colleagues we met. And there was a thing – I asked one teacher what she hoped for her pupils “to give them every opportunity to learn”. QED the commonality of the vocation.

The culture is well documented but we were shown honour, respect, admiration and treated with huge kindness and generosity by our hosts. I was delighted to be part of a team that did exactly the same for one another on the trip especially when ‘stuff’ happened and they looked out to encourage, share and support even though we hardly knew each other beforehand. Representing different sectors the conversations gave us all further insight and arguably the best of CPD (one early years, two Primary heads one Primary adviser, four middle leaders from Secondary, one partnership lead and me from the LA). Such enthusiasm to ensure “this works” for our children.

 

To be a tourist and see the bund and river at Shanghai as well as to go up to the 263m Pearl of Shanghai were something but also wandering the tourist shops and trying to bargain was fun. A privilege to visit the oldest library in China (Ningbo) founded in 1561 and be welcomed as honoured guests was special. More special for us educators as we value our school library or local library and we value lifelong learning. Nevertheless our visit enabled us to consider just how ignorant we were of Chinese history and culture and the potential in the Far East.

 

What did we miss ? – very little, we had tea, it tasted different but we were ‘tasting’ China. We did not have access to facebook, twitter or google and we had withdrawal but we chatted and we asked questions and discussed education and other matters and we enjoyed the company, well until we hit wifi in a hotel then we caught up on messages via a message/chat system called wechat. We missed traffic jams, we missed litter, we did actually miss a few hours of sleep somewhere along the way. You know something else? We didn’t miss pupils, even English pupils, at that even Nottingham City pupils because we stopped at a service station in this vast country and met 10 pupils from one of our local primary schools – having an incredible time – though perhaps a little tired ( much like us) they were full of the experience.

And so to education and some things I have learned and of course I may be wrong that the whole system looks like this but here are my ponderings :

• Families really value education. Politicians value education. Children value their education. Teachers are highly respected (highest in the world according to this survey). This is a deeply cultural matter and about ethos, respect for schools, for teachers and for learning. We met teachers (sure a small sample but the message overwhelms) full of enthusiasm and diligence, we saw little disruption, and amongst pupils a willingness to work hard and and try your best. There is the extreme high pressures involved in the Gaokao exam but setting that to one side the atmosphere in schools was overwhelmingly positive

Proper resource follows the commitment – beautiful buildings; pride in showing us round. I saw huge sportshall ( possibly 4 full size basketball courts and on the floor above about 30 ping pong tables ( I even played the Principal). Their lecture theatre seated 500. We did not hear any complaint about lack of funding – of course that may be for other reasons, However the conversations reflected on their pride in schools and I was glad to be with a group of Nottingham heads and teachers also proud of their schools. Pay not be better ( not sure really about buying power etc) but most of us would trade a bit for having a culture and pride and a community which hugely respect teachers given consideration and of course good behaviours. [Although my own view is that a vast majority of parents do respect us in the UK – just some politicians and the press don’t always and look where they sit in terms of trust and respect.]

 

• Teachers teach large groups of 40, and whilst they had nice staff areas to work in, with space to share and discuss, to plan they too felt pressures. It maybe around (only) 3 hours a day at the front but they have no technicians or TAs or other adults in classes. Oh and those evenings when pupils are back in school for several hours studying and doing homework, guess who supervises. Heads and teachers take pride in pupils and in their learning. We heard about two schools at the Bureau sharing speeches and we shared about our two, and common features – pride in the opportunities we offer, in the children’s achievements and the aims and ethos in every school and that included to help our children be global citizens. I asked how the head got his children to work hard – “I don’t have to do anything” he said. Just think what all that means for attendance, punctuality behaviour, background disruption, offering opportunities…..

 

• I loved the creativity I saw, in particular pride in traditions, but also in creating new traditions. IMG_2883We saw some amazing artwork, incredible calligraphy, beautiful ceramics, others saw sport and music to an amazing standard. We met artists in residence and I was invited to play a computer at a board game, a computer that literally picked up pieces in response to my move and you guessed it – the programme and the hardware created by ….a pupil from scratch.

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a CRT – a what?

 

I also had a discussion with a Chemistry teacher – he had created something but our interpreter didn’t know the words, we had a small hand held device that translated and he said it was a ‘CRT’ and I said ‘oh a Cathode Ray Tube’ and we whooped! I mentioned Thomson, electrons, Crookes and we needed no interpreter –  science can be such a powerful language in itself but check out these facilities:

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• Willingness to stay and learn and take every opportunity including boarding, yes boarding for the weekdays because half an hour journey home was “too far”. Long days without TV, without Facebook, without mobile devices and perhaps without immediate family because, they all believe in the benefits from social activity and learning. So we saw some pupils who did more hours of homework in a two days than some of our pupils would do in school in a day. Of course there are concerns about resilience and pressure too.

Hospitality and generosity – we took gifts with us for our school and Bureau colleagues and received many back but sometimes individual  pupils wanted to give us something they had done, some  clearly stayed up to make gifts for their visitors.

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MrMcNeill with a beautiful painting made especially for him

I was privileged to pass as one of my gifts the music of Sheku Kanneh Mason ( an ex pupil at my old school) who also kindly wrote me a personal message for the schools which I had translated – that went down really well. ( thank you Sheku). But oh, we had fun – trying out our mandarin, working out currency, bartering, wondering where we were heading when taken by taxi to a school, getting trapped in hotel door (me trying to metaphorically to “open doors”) – looking out for each other and smiling our way through.

 

 

 

• Education bureau officials welcomed our vision for future work with them, they are interested in what we are doing and especially how we measure impact. How we know our City wide plans and also our school plans are being effective, as well as our regulator (ofsted) view. They are keen to foster further links Ningbo > Nottingham and Nottingham > Ningbo. we have lots of ideas from championing exchanges and learning mandarin through to just a better basic understanding of China and our own Chinese community. To be honest they struggled to understand how our system works if it means a local area does not have any control of schools. Welcome to my world!

It is quite an amazement that across the world they are interesting in learning from us.

 

 

 

IMG_3356My colleagues are now busy working out how to manage exchanges, to plan visits with children and to welcome children here to Nottingham. We are looking at how we can work together across the distances and cultures but with an internet and with colleagues here and our own traditions – Nottingham has a University campus in Ningbo which we visited and so there is much to consider and challenge and much remains to be curious about. For me I am committing to try and open more doors with friends in Ningbo – and not these doors.

A slight rant over ‘Textbooks’ which I love*

“…a book that contains detailed information about a subject for people who are studying that subject”

1 I once wrote a Chemistry textbook – with two other great Chemistry teachers –

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Our Foundation level textbook

not examiners, not academics just plain Chemistry teachers. It was for the so-called less able or foundation GCSE pupils, labels I use but intensely dislike and I learned a lot win writing it and it was a fantastic challenge to help lots of pupils access our subject – especially those who find it hard – which is nearly everyone. It didn’t make us a fortune, schools bought lots of texts for the more able ( have a copy at home have a copy in school etc, but this was for the less able who were in small groups and often weren’t allowed to take a book home). Continue reading

Friday Period 6 – 10,000 hours or 25 Years -> Greatness?

25thannWe said farewells at the end of term just a few, six colleagues we waved goodbye to BUT we also celebrated three reaching a grand milestone – 25 years. Three highly respected colleagues who just completed 25 years at one school, ours, Trinity.

 

So 25 years ago what was happening – well lots: Labour hated its leader, one Neil Kinnock and the Tories were on a “back to basics” campaign with Mr Major. More important PC world opened its first shop and Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the world wide web. So schools themselves look very different today but in a way they don’t – we had great teachers then and we need them now and the tools of the trade might change but the craft and trade do not.

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Sir Tim Berners-Lee invented the WWW

When teachers join any school , experienced or not they are still new and these three join five other colleagues who have also completed their 25 years -thats 8 of us nearly 10% staff. It is a very special achievement and I’m delighted that our governors understand that and reward those colleagues for their commitment. It is not exactly equivalent to a testimonial for a loyal footballer but it is a recognition.

It did make me Unknownthink about Matthew Syed’s book ‘Bounce’ which has been all the  rage in schools, and incidentally well worth a read  – I actually met a headteacher who bought it for the whole of his Y11, then moaned that the girls performance improved but the boys didn’t and then apparently Ofsted had a go at one of their ‘gaps’ getting bigger. Thankfully whether true or anecdotal we are in new Ofsted framework. But back to Syed who seems to say put in 10,000 hours hard work and you get to be really good.  Some have pushed that idea for learners maybe coupled with a bit of growth mindset and Dweck. However it got me thinking about teachers – 25 years must be well over 10,000 hours, nearer 18,000  of teaching in same place and I think he is right these teachers have become experts, really good, both at teaching and at teaching in our school and in leading. People who stay a course like that make the school effective these are the characters in my school who have helped understand the ethos, mission and moral purpose and yet also help create the ethos and therefore also help to sustain the ethos. These are the people colleagues turn to when somebody comes as a new teacher ( well and also old teachers and even older headteachers) and when they wonder ” Is that what happens here? Do they really do that?” for better or worse the answer is known.  The colleagues around say yes that is what we do, it is delivered by an incredible level of consistency. They are without doubt respected by pupils, parents and colleagues. These are the colleagues who have  helped establish traditions, activities which over many years we have evolved and some we changed if they’ve not been effective, some we’ve dropped if they’ve been ineffective. We’ve redone ideas and modified them and we have a rich seam of curricular and  extra curricular whole school activities.  We like new and young teachers, don’t get me wrong, we like their passion, enthusiasm, ideas and approaches and we like to learn and try things out but we also have a bit of an instinct as to what works and what doesn’t. As a church school that includes our whole school events like Masses or liturgies but it includes sports days and swimming galas, music concerts etc it includes prize-giving and it includes a discussion such as ‘should  we run prizegiving this way or that way’. What do we stand for, and how do we live that out? Reliability, longevity, tradition, stability, consistency …outcomes – I think that’s what we get.

Our school has done well in outcomes and it is an outstanding school, it’s also very popular with parents and I could not help thinking the contribution of longstanding wisdom is pretty critical.  High turnover at the top of other organisations including the DfE is what we often see across educational landscapes maybe the lack of longevity brings a lack of stability and contributes to an occasional lack of depth or a frequent lack of understanding and frustrations, maybe even a lack of progress, the fact that the standards are not as high as they should be. My other favourite book Collin’s ‘Good to great’ would lead to a similar conclusion. In my early days (80’s) of teaching you wouldn’t expect any responsibility point or pay increases until a couple of years worth of Y11 exam results were under your belt – prove yourself at the sharp end.gd to g8

Fast turnover might make a business more efficient and it might make a company run better but whether it actually gives better outcomes I don’t know,  but one thing I do know is that these long lasting teachers  hold something very special in their hands because it’s from their hearts, possibly their souls. They have invested a huge amount of time and their life  in the school. It might be why our retainment remains pretty high? We always say to young teachers that rules for discipline are important and they must be applied consistently and clearly, when you’ve got people at school for such a long time, the consistency  is probably second to none. However it is also about accountability for me – whilst I’ve written elsewhere about accountability to governors, to the diocese, to OFSTED, to parents and pupils, there is a greater daily accountability which is to those respected colleagues. As well as being accountable to them for day to day decisions, we have to make the decisions together and these are the supportive conscientious peers, if they make a criticism it is a genuine criticism, it has to be heard because they have given so much of their time energy and yes their life to the work of the school. I just wonder if anybody out there really understands the huge effect of stability and longevity. Our leadership team has now completed 133 years at the school 77 of them in leadership.  I can’t help thinking if something of the success of the school is not down to the fact of the commitments and longevity of those people. I do hope it continues and I do hope stability that we enjoy is something that others can consider in their organisations. Oh and PS we bid farewell to an unsung hero in our office, a secretary retiring – after 27 years with us.

imageTwo years ago I came to teach a lower ability Y10 class, never taught any of them before and as I called the first register I had taught an older sibling or parent of 21 of the 26. When I set them their first homework everyone handed it in save one boy lets call him Ryan –

“Your homework wasn’t done Ryan” Ruan’s shoulders shrug.

“Why not?” said I, “should I ring your older sister?”

“No Sir please not Rebecca”

“Ok your older brother”

“No No. He’ll be very cross ”

“Ok I’ll call on your Mum on my way home. Ryan:”

“Sir ……can I give it you at break”

Gosh the job just got a little easier.


For those in a church school

2 Samuel 14:20 Your servant Joab did this to change the present situation. My lord has wisdom like that of an angel of God—he knows everything that happens in the land.”

Proverbs 4:6 Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you; love her, and she will watch over you.

2 Timothy 2:2 And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.


Some Questions

Q1 What is the right balance in schools of new ideas and older wisdom?

Q2  Is it possible to avoid complacency in the search for constancy?

Q3 What is your experience of the wisdom of elders?

Q4 A qestion raised after a twitter conversation with Jon Thompson @poachermullen  just how will the profession adapt as it ages and as teachers have to work longer? How do we ensure those wise experienced staff remain enthusiastic and able to do the job? How do we plan for that? Looking after each other? How? Secondments during the career? What do you think?

Why be a PGCE Student Teacher?

By Chris Hall @chrishall1204

 

contemplationWhy would you want to do a PGCE? It is often a question that gets put to me by many of my family and friends, as well as people I’ve just met, on an almost daily basis. Many people see the headlines in the newspapers and the media portrayal of the teaching career is one which may scare many potential student teachers out of teacher training. So why should people consider it?

Tutors and Mentors

Over the course of the PGCE you will assigned a university tutor who is responsible for the ‘university side’ of the course, such as delivering lectures, seminars and marking assignments. These wonderful individuals are experienced teachers in their own right and are there to support you over the year. The university tutors will also have the opportunity to come in and observe you at various points throughout the year and see the progress you have made since the previous observation.

During the time at school, a ‘mentor’ will be your point of contact at the school and will observe your lessons and from that, help you improve as a teacher. Approximately two thirds of your time spent on the PGCE course, will be within school and intertwined between these periods will be days spent at university which give you the opportunity to reflect upon your progress and practice as well as share ideas with your peers and experienced tutors. It’s safe to say the personal and professional skills you develop over the year is phenomenal!

Peers

imageAs touched upon earlier, other student teachers will play an important role in your year! The friendships and professional relationships you develop with each other is another exciting element to the course, and by supporting and helping each other, the time spent on the PGCE course will go by even faster, on a course in which the weeks already fly by! Another advantage of developing lasting friendships on the course is the sharing of good resources between each other. This will not only help build up a ‘bank of resources’ which you will find useful for your NQT year, but also help to reduce the time spent on creating resources, helping to create a better working-life balance.

The Children

The main reason why people decide to take on a career in teaching is to make a difference to the next and future generations and have the opportunity to share your passion for a subject which you love (and hopefully they students will love too!). It is safe to say that not one day of teacher training has been the same with each day offering a different combination of challenges and rewards. Some of the words students come out with are enough to make roll on the floor laughing out loud and the relationships you build with the students will ultimately determine how involved you get during your school placements.

Surviving

It feels a shame to have to mention ‘survival’ on a post which is littered with positive aspects about doing a PGCE but I feel it should be done, and may give some prospective teacher trainers a few tips!

  1. Leave work at work – try to get into a habit of leaving the majority of your work at school. As a PGCE student you will be on 60-70% of an NQT timetable. This will result in you having an hour or two a day at school as well as time after school in which you can mark, plan or maybe observe a few other teachers. Get a routine, a timetable if you will of work you need to do and make sure it is manageable!image
  2. Don’t try and re-create the world! As a PGCE you are bursting with ideas about how all your lessons are going to be revolutionary in the world of teaching, however, outstanding lessons take a long time to plan and resource and the fact of the matter is you will burn out rather quickly if you have other roles to do on top of that, so as I touched upon earlier, use your peers to come up with resources together, swap them, and make your life (and your friends) lives easier!

I am writing this blog for John after the last day of my PGCE course, and write it with both sadness and excitement! It has been an emotional, tiring and rewarding year in which I have come out the other end a better teacher and a much more resilient person!

So why do a PGCE course? Because there is no other job quite like teaching!

part 3 – from NQT to RQT

This is a bit new, even to me, the term RQT presumably a “Recently Qualified Teacher ( as opposed to retired, or rare, reformed, regular, revolutionary , and hopefully not yet a regretfully ..this could go on.

So with a full year (or maybe two) under the belt, what now?

1 Improve your teaching

You should be confident by now that you can sort out basic issues with learners. Like behaviour and background disruption. these are never going to go away but the mistakes of PGCE/training and even the odd error of judgment last year are put behind. By all means read, research, listen and then try new things but the basics of classroom craft should be learnt. Now ask yourself ” is there a better way to teach X or Y”. Relentlessly try to improve your teaching.

2 Improve the lot of learnerspareto_principle_improve

You have many resources, you might have a Y11 class following  their Y10 time with you and therefore new content but a majority will have been taught once. Get those reflective planners at the ready and where you put *** Must improve this if I ever do it again then…improve it. Oh you didn’t do that annotation, shame! Still revisit and re-edit and talk to experienced staff. You have tried one activity in the classroom to help learners on this unit/topic, so what else might work? Really work out what works in your classroom for different groups: SEND Gand T, PP, EAL after all you know the acronyms and know the children so sort out even better learning experiences for them. You are the true professional now…nearly.

Oh and another important matter, you have taught some of these youngsters before. You know their family a bit but you know them well, you know what they find hard or easy; a richer information than any data number – so really rock and roll in pushing their learning. It will not be easier, if anything it’s harder but it’s much much more effective teaching.

3 Keep even better records

Plan, annotate, add resourceIMG_2499s and spend a bit of time searching for new ones. Talk more with staff and pick their brains. think and plan ahead, ask around, join twitter or the TES forums and networks, get to a teachmeet. Hey throw that weight around and move from good to great!

 

 

4 Share

You felt like you were the end of the queue, and you were but you aint no more, so share your idesparkleras of what worked too. Do that in department meetings, tutor team meetings and mostly just in conversations in the staffroom. build some self confidence as a teacher professional in helping others. I had a great RQT colleague a few years ago and she showed me some new resources and ideas….yep teach the old dogs in school, new tricks.

5 Volunteer

You might have a label RQT but most pupils think you are a wise, experienced and knowledgeable member of staff. SO get stuck into some new things this year, take on a bit of responsibility that you are genuinely interested in. it could be extra curricular, sport drama music. It could be within the dept, there is plenty to do: use of data, work with EAL or SEND pupils. help with the planning of a new GCSE or a new  A Level. It might be within the pastoral work? are their seeds of your first promotion in getting to know much more about…..x, then get on with it.

6 Stimulation

The last two years had pressure now it’s you as an autonomous teacher ploughing ahead in the fields to plant in the minds of enthusiasm sat before you. What challenges do you need for yourself? Which classes have had a bit of a raw deal from you? tackle them. Check out the teacher standards, identify your weakest three areas and sort them.

7 TransparencyimageAll of us feel there were things we just about got away with, what were yours and what do you need to do about them? Did you not prepare for a parents evening but fortunately they were mainly pleasant. Did you let a pupil off but they didn’t bring any extra issues? Did the head ask for something and you forgot but heck so did she? What things must you do better?

8 Challengechallenge

Teachers can be professionally socialised by their schools. You have probably been in the same school for a this year and NQT year. There were things surprised you – the Y7 data collection came very early, you wondered why but obviously kept your mouth shut last year. Maybe you jot down a few questions like this to help improve the school. Share with an experienced colleague or even the SLT link you know best. Dont be afraid for a asking a sensible challenging question. there may be a good sensible answer but you might just have asked a really good one.

8 Keep talking

talk-clipart-RTAk5EqTLThe PGCE or training courses (remember them) have structures to support and help and encourage you. So too, NQT year BUT now you have made it to RQT and they all disappear. No more meetings about you it all becomes informal ( save number 9 below). So please keep talking to those you have found helpful or found as critical friends.

 

 

9 Performance Management

You now come under the appraisal umbrella. Chat to others about how it works, read the school documents. Do not see it as a threat, just find out what others do, prepare for you first meeting with an appraiser, who will hopefully know you well. Maybe look at what I said in 6 above and ask for some extra training in an area, or try and spend a lesson observing someone to fit the direction of travel you have set. Oh you haven’t set a direction? Shame cos in the rough and tumble of teaching if you don’t choose, the winds will blow you around.
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7YBA Teacher in Nottingham (Set 7YBA Tn)

I wrote this post because it seems to be getting more and more difficult to get teachers and School Leaders and other staff who work in schools. It is difficult especially in City areas and in Coastal ones. So I had a think aboutRobin-Hood-Statue what there is to like about a career working in Education in Nottingham:

 

 

You can also check out this website which has some brilliant links and advertises posts in local schools. If you still need persuading please check this video with local secondary and Primary teachers AND Nottingham University Vice Chancellor Professor Sir David Greenaway.

 

1.It’s a great City There are good shopping facilities – including a John Lewis , House of Fraser and a huge number of independent shops in two large City Centre areas, the Victoria Centre and the Broadmarsh centre. People travel for miles to visit the shopping centres.

Victoria Centre shopping

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Newstead Abbey

 

 

 

 

 

There are great sporting links, two football teams with history, Nottingham Forest and Notts County but also the Panthers Ice Hockey team and the International Cricket ground at Trent bridge. Not to mention Holme Pierrepont the home of many watersports. There are Cultural and Arts Centres, two theatres, the Nottingham Contemporary arts centre. Like most Cities we have many historical links, not least with the oldest public house, underground caves, even a mansion we call Nottingham Castle, Byron’s home at Newstead Abbey etc. The City centre is a thriving place but we have places to escape to such as Clumber Park and Sherwood Forest and you might even see batman at Wollaton Hall, or at the least hit a festival there. I wont mention the clubs and bars though! If you can get out further afield we are on the edge of the Derbyshire Dales and  National Park as well as Chatsworth house to the West or by going South into North Leicestershire countryside. There are many villages and market towns around the County and it’s not far to the likes of Lincoln and York.

Mind we do know how to party, come along to Goose Fair in October and try it out – should be there next year, its been here for over 600, can’t see it stopping yet
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2. Transport and housing. Nottingham is in a great spot in the UK being so central. Easy to get to the main M1 ( 3 major routs out of the City) or to the A1. The train station has recently had a massive upgrade and trains to London take about 1hr 45 minutes. The bus system locally is very good and we have a very efficient tram system too. East Midlands Airport is about 30 minutes drive away. Oh and a canal and a big river with cruise boats and rowing clubs. Housing is also available and reasonably priced because of the large student population.

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Trent Bridge

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Tram in Market Square




 

 

 

3 We are actually very good at Education. Most young people know about the high reputation, in fact the world class reputation of the two Universities at Nottingham and Nottingham Trent. These organisations also host Education Departments and the National College for Teaching and Learning is based on the Jubilee Campus. So this is where many prospective teachers start their careers as PGCE Students but remember this also gives great opportunities to ongoing CPD for teachers and other Career opportunities. There are also significant teaching school and teaching school alliances.( Like the LEAD Urban alliance and Transform). They are fairly new but they are all working on programmes to attract young people to work in schools and then support them whatever stage of career, from NQT, RQT, Middle Leaders, SLE’s etc You might benefit from a programme but in due course be contributing to the programmes. Then there are large FE Colleges, with more opportunities to move career into working with the post school sector. Check out NCN, and Castle College.

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4. Schools Despite what you might think, or read or have heard, Nottingham schools are pretty good, some are outstanding, some are good and others are getting to good. Check their web sites and if you are thinking of a job here then go and visit.The staff are very committed to improving the lives of local children and working in a City or Urban environment isn’t without its challenges and rewards. There are 16 different types of Secondary schools mostly academies, some sponsored some are MATs. There are 6 special schools and these have a considerable reputation for their work for SEND children. There are 7 Independent schools some are small and the two main City schools are the boys and girls high schools (although the boys goes mixed this September). there are about 80 Primary schools. Within each of those schools is a massive amount of wisdom and experience. In my school for example the leadership team have worked at the school over 120 years between them and longer if we add in time spent in City schools. Nearly all the City secondaries and many of the primaries are in very new buildings as they were part of the labour governments BSF programme (Building schools for the future). the City Council has always had a big commitment to Education and whilst not really controlling academies, they have a target to have every child in a good or outstanding school. they also work hard with the local business community to ensure jobs and apprenticeships and a clear progression route after school.

5. Progression. Hey we do this well, for teachers and for pupils. We have a very low NEET ( not in Education Employment or Training) figures in the UK. So something is working well, and there is commitment to helping young people follow their dreams into jobs, apprenticeships, or further their education. We laso have a lot of clver and successful initiatives to help widen participation locally from Nottingham University and NTU which involves our pupils but also families. We also see the journey being made by many professionals in our schools, so we might have someone volunteer for a project as an older pupils who goes off to University and then returns and does some teaching assistant work, and eventually get a formal training as a TA or maybe as a teacher. Once bitten by the “working in Nottingham City schools” bug it can be hard to escape.

6 Other services There are other agencies linked to schools of course and in Nottingham they work closely together, again teachers can move their careers into these other areas. this includes social services, children’s’ services, the local NHS. Also Nottingham Futures ( careers service)  and their initiatives such as  Aspire. Then there are organisations which pop up in any City to help with Outdoor Education, to help with Music and Sport as well as Duke of Edinburgh, Youth Parliament and so on. So our children get lots and lots of opportunities. There are also many community links, these can work very well in City areas but be less obvious than in rural ones. Local Churches and mosques and other religious groups support education. The voluntary sector is huge and not only do they support schools they also offer opportunities for our young people to serve in their work helping in everything from foodbanks, to the homeless.

7. Great Pupils and great teachers and support staff. Almost all schools say they have great pupils and the City has many many. Of course in a City area there can be issues of bad behaviour and low aspiration and that makes the job a challenge but it is often a minority and therefore the majority can be encouraged, can be motivated and can be taught successfully and will get qualifications. in fact just the sort of result you hope for as you contemplate a career in education. But these pupils need you, they need keen enthusiastic teachers. In fact you will also be working with some great teachers, school leaders and educationalists. There are many many fantastic support staff too, who are also committed to the local community and the City. All those in senior positions are passionate about schools and young people – come and join us and commit yourself to working with us, we’ll support you and you won’t regret it,

brian_clough_statue_forest_by_mlt1-d2z4l9n

Even ol “big head” would love to see you working in Nottingham

Famous Locals:

  • Robin Hood – entrepeneur, thief, potential film star
  • William Booth – founder of the Salvation Army
  • Jesse Boot – founder of the Pharmaceutical Co Boots;
  • Brian Clough – football manager;
  • Sir Peter Mansfield – Nobel Prizewinner and inventor of the MRI Scanner
  • Jane Torvill and Christopher Dean – Ice dancers – oh yes we have a great ice rink!
  • Sir Frank Bowden – Raleigh bicycles
  • John Player – cigarettes
  • D H Lawrence – literature
  • Lord Byron –  literature
  • Alan Sillitoe – novelist
  • Sir Paul Smith – fashion
  • Dr Stewart Adams – discoverer and inventor of Ibuprofen ( Brufen, Nurofen)
  • Frederick Gibson Garton WHO? – inventor of Brown Sauce HP
  • Edgar Hooley WHO – inventor of tarmac
  • John Peake Knight WHO? – inventor of the traffic light ( gas powered!)
  • Harold Larwood – bodyline test series 1932 -33
  • Thomas Hawksley – civil engineer famed for ensuring safe water supplies in the 19th C
  • Albert Ball – First World War pilot and winner of VIctoria Cross
  • Stella Rimmington first female head of MI5
  • Samuel Fox – Quaker abolitionist and founder of Nottingham Building Society
  • Doug Scott – mountaineer
  • Ken Clark; Ed Balls; Geoff Hoon – recent political figures
  • Oh and Harold Shipman!
  • COULD it be you on here?

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday Period 2 – A Conference? Really? What use is that?

imageSo, what is so good about conferences. When you have a stack of work to do and a family and heck there is all that stuff on work life balance, why oh why attend a conference in London Thought I might try to justify this to myself as I return home from ASCL 2015 or #ascl2015 as we tweeters say!

1) Networking – well with so many people this felt fairly tricky. However by nature you meet people, at meal times, over coffee and in sessions. I like to somehow benchmark my own thinking on topics. So as an example when I was at a session on Ofsted, did I know:

  • “most” of what we were hearing?
  • do I understand and comprehend it any better?
  • what does it mean to me and my school or staff or pupils?
  • am I clearer what we have to do next?

That is less easy when the sessions come thick and fast. So in the informal conversations with the colleagues i just looked out; are their worries mine, are my concerns and therefore my energies pointing the right way?

2) Inspiration. I do love conferences when a speaker you havent heard about shows up and blows you away. The session by Dr Vicky Phillips was like this. Forget about taking notes, forget about nuance and what it might mean for the work we do, just be reminded exactly why you came into the job. BE inspired again to go back and make a difference to children’s lives.  This session did that for me. Then there was the inner chimp. I’ve come across this at a bit of a distance but the talk from Professor Steve Peters was just so uplifting, funny, clever, and made the points so well. This made me want to consider what that all might mean for my school and me and children and so on but it also cheered my spirit. It reminded me what great people there are out there – and if I am honest, it’s probably another book to buy an not read through a lack of you know what.

3) Focus. As a relatively new head but quite a long-in-the-tooth school leader I still struggle to ensure that someone has the big vision, when you are busy with the needs of children, teachers, support staff, and…… ( I really don’t want to make a list starting with Ofsted, Governors because it reminds me of all the responsibilities) So having read the ASCL documents on their ideas which I tend to read over on a Friday evening with a nodding head ( Oh OK yes and a glass of wine). So to hear two ASCL people bring the whole thing to life and begin to capture their vision and therefore hone my own gave me a focus. staring at the slogan “Trust to transform”. It also helped me reflect a little and therefore adjust my own thinking and vision. Actually I think I could have called those sessions ” more inspiration but with a massive dose of common sense”

image4) Confirmation. This may not be the right word but the session by Sir Michael Barber was good-humoured, and insightful and gave hints of life in the midst of government. It is so refreshing when you learn something knew – Well I never knew that about Anthony Blunt! But it was also clever it showed ASCL how it might actually help government and how leaders might influence very positively. It showed their ideas in the blueprint are doable, in fact he said Congratulations to ASCL ( his words n ot mine) on the work they were doing. But there were nuances which also rang true for example his points about “getting routines right” in government apply to us in schools. Much of our work day-to-day isn’t clever or smart it is routine, it is a system working. Schools are complex organisations and so routines we have such as those concerning communications need to be dependable, reliable and proven to work and not changed every five minutes. You can find a copy of “Leading the Way:Blueprint for a Self-Improving System” here.

5) Political. Any conference with three political party leaders in Education speaking just prior to a General Election must be political. we heard from Hunt for Labour, Laws for Liberal Democrats and Morgan for Conservatives ( Morgan of course being SoS for Education). I missed one but I am not sure I missed much. They tell their audiences stuff which felt to me in my cynical way electioneering so my parody ” we love teachers, we love schools we love heads and we appreciate what you do” I think every politician I have hard at such a conference says ‘we have the best generation of……’ Proof of pudding and all that though – are they listening to us? Nicky Morgan made an important point at the start of her speech along the lines that everyone you meet has a view about education ( probably because they have been through it or are in it) and no two people seem to agree. WHilst that is true I still think some of the people in the room today know a great deal about Education rather than because I once went to school I am an expert” we all have lots of views on lots of matters – try a google search for Clarkson! It did cross my mind there was a lot of very expensive people in the room and most are highly professional and deserve ( collectively if not individually) to be heard, listened to carefully and consulted. It would be naive to think those of us who work day by day year by year with children do not want the very best for them. I will judge this after the election, when we will see if the concerns expressed over these few days on serious matters like school budgets are answered in the black and white and not the vagaries of politicspeak ” there is no silver bullet etc”

6) Practicality. I guess we school leaders are practical people so a round of sessions on performance management, Ofsted, the new A Level and many others hands over sound advice and ideas. Once agin they allow a leader to think where they stand in the discussions and maybe adjust priorities or resources. I have thought a few times that a revolutionary reaction to many of the policy changes isnt helpful, in fact even my favoured evolutionary change may not be right ( albeit better or less worse than revolutionary). However a conference gives chance to have a think again.

7) The crowd and me. Well there were a lot of people in most of the meetings 800 -1200, they applauded stuff I applauded and when they laughed or muttered so did I. I have to think if that means I followed the crowd but I suppose It offers reassurance in the complex world I often feel I inhabit. I went with a colleague this year and this allowed lots of conversation about our school, and I really enjoyed that opportunity. Some supportive conversations, some challenging ones, much agreement with direction, some definite confirmation and some ‘Oh hang on’ moments. Also the definite start of a plan for this, a shelve the ideas on that. A chance to visit the exhibition together and pick up information on relevent topics and aspects of school improvement or on stuff you just hadn’t thought of in the daily hurly burly.

I don’t think organisers can plan to promise to deliver any of these outcomes and the infamous feedback sheets or these days feedback on the app probably don’t cover some matters here. So this school leader just says thank you for all that organising, inspiring, confirming, challenging and supporting – kind of glad you are there, no actually I’m very glad and gladerrer I was able to join you.

imageQuestions

Q1 What did you gain most from this conference if you were there?

Q2 Why do you go to such Conferences?

Q3 What is the best bit of going to conferences?

You can read the speeches and catch up on presentations here.

Going up and down - with various stops on the way!

Goig up, going down with various stops in between! Hmmmm

Nice hotel but soent a lot of time waiting for or in, one of these 🙂

YBA Governor Guest post by @5N_Afzal

I have always had an interest in education, working, in the past, as a primary school teacher and a university lecturer. I stopped working when I became a mother. When my youngest was old enough not to need me constantly, I decided to go back to part time work and started working as an adult literacy tutor.  Unfortunately, due to budget cuts, the class was cancelled. At around the same time there was a vacancy for a parent governor at my daughter’s school. I decided to stand for the post. Having been a governor for over six years now, this post gives me chance to reflect on “YBA Governor”.

What is involved in becoming a governor?

Governors are the largest volunteer force in the country. So, if you are thinking of becoming a governor, you’ll be in good company, but will need to know what’s involved.

Governance is not something which can be accomplished easily over a few evenings in the year. It may be a voluntary post but it does demand time and hard work. Governance needs people who are passionate about education and about giving the young in our schools the best possible chance in life. Yes, there are two or three meetings per term but a great deal of preparation needs to be done before you can attend the meeting. There will be papers to read and digest and monitoring visits to be carried out. As a governor you should also make an effort to attend school functions so that students, parents and staff get to know the person under the governor hat. Juggling hats is another thing you need to learn how to do. If you are a parent of a child at the school or are a staff member then you need to learn when to wear which hat! You will be expected to attend induction training upon joining and then other courses as and when needed. These will help you understand you statutory duties and how to perform them. The one thing which we must remember is that governance is not something to be treated as a badge of honour! You have to work hard at it and be totally committed to the role.

What do people get out of the role?

Despite of all of the above, people do become governors, with many of us serving more than one school and many stay on for more than one term. So, there must be a reason (or several!) why people give up their time to join governing bodies.

Becoming a governor is one way of establishing/maintaining links with the education sector. Do remember, however, that you do not need to be an educator in order to be an effective governor. As a governor you would be serving a community. It could be your local community which is served by your school or it could be the community of an area which is not your place of work or residence. You would also be serving the school community, the students, parents and staff of the school. As a governor you bring a fresh perspective to the table.  Schools can, sometimes, become set in their ways. Governors come from different backgrounds and bring different skill sets. These can be beneficial in helping the school look at new ideas. Sometimes in order to “think outside the box” to solve a problem it may help that you yourself live “outside the box”. Part of the job is to monitor the performance of the school and ensure that the students are being afforded the best opportunities to realise their potential. Governors can use their day job skills to make sure the school is performing well. They can provide an objective and unbiased viewpoint. A governor’s role is to help set the vision and the strategic direction of the school. This means that you allow the Headteacher and the school’s senior leadership team to concentrate on the day to day running, the operational side of things. Both bodies, working together, can then help make the school into the type the school the students and staff deserve and parents desire. Like in other sectors, good governance will lead to good strategic decision making which will result in good overall performance. Lastly, becoming a governor is a very good way of gaining new skills. You will learn how to read and analyse data, how up set up long term goals, how to interview and appoint to senior positions including that of the head, how to appraise staff and how to conduct meetings and lead a team and get the best out of each member of the team. The skills you bring from your day job will be very useful in the boardroom and similarly you will find that the skills you develop by becoming a member of a board will be useful to you outside the boardroom.

So, although becoming a governor is a huge time commitment and requires dedication, it is a very worthwhile thing to do. The question, for me, isn’t why be a governor. The question is why not be a governor!

 

Naureen Khalid

Governor at a secondary convertor academy

11 YBA Head Guest post by @jillberry102

Head2In the early years of my teaching career, I couldn’t really see the appeal of headship (or, in fact, senior leadership) at all. I was aware of the pressure, the responsibility, the stress – dare I say, the unpopularity? The heads I knew (and I worked for 10 heads over a period of 20 years in five different schools) usually didn’t teach. They seemed to have relatively little contact with the students which, to me, was the joy of teaching – though it was often, of course, the root cause of the challenges too. These heads were, in the main, relatively remote figures (one was nicknamed ‘the hologram head’ by the pupils). I remember watching the head and senior team dancing at a school Christmas party in my first school, and consciously thinking, “I’ll never be a head. I really can’t dance like that.”

In retrospect, in the arrogance of youth I think I was over-critical (teachers tend to be – have you noticed?) and lacking in real understanding and empathy. Over the years, as I moved to be second in department, Head of Department and then Head of Sixth Form, I worked more closely with the heads and senior teams and developed my awareness and appreciation of their role and how different individuals fulfilled it. I learnt from some good examples and, arguably, I learnt even more from negative examples. And over the years I honed my vision of the kind of head I would be, were I to get that far.

As a deputy head I was fortunate in the two heads I worked with, from whom I learnt a good deal. It was when I was a deputy that I realised I really did want to be a head myself one day. I recognised that when the head was out of school and I was ‘it’, increasingly I enjoyed the challenge and the opportunities that gave me. The experience of being a deputy also helped me to decide what type of school I would like to lead. After five years as a deputy I moved to lead such a school, and over my ten years there I have to say I had a ball.

Yes, it is challenging, the responsibilities are considerable, and you have difficult days and demanding situations to try to find a way through. You are a public figure and if you get it wrong (and, inevitably, there will be times when you will) it will be obvious and you will attract criticism – sometimes unfair criticism which you have to be able to cope with. You have to develop your resilience, keep your integrity intact and remember what your core values are, even when (especially when) they may be sorely tested. You will work harder than you have ever done, and you can never complain about that – who would sympathise? You have to be aware that the job is potentially overwhelming and all-consuming and you have to protect yourself (and your family, friends, and your life beyond headship – you really do need one) from that. For me, ten years as a head felt like enough, much as I had enjoyed it. I paced myself throughout the ten years and was ready, at the end of that time, for a different challenge and a different balance in my life. I have no regrets about making that decision, and know that my life is richer for all headship taught me.

It was definitely the best job I did over a 30 year career, and I recommend it to anyone who has the temperament and the drive to do it. The skills will develop (you “build the bridge as you walk on it”, as Robert Quinn says) – you can prepare in a number of ways, practically and psychologically, but ultimately you learn the job by doing the job. And you never stop learning – you have never, in my experience ‘cracked it’. This is part of its appeal.

I do think it’s important that heads (and senior leaders too) consciously try to be positive role models to teachers who are at an earlier stage of their career if they are to encourage and inspire future generations of school leaders. We need to be mindful of how others see us, and if we never smile, seem constantly stressed, unapproachable and remote, we risk giving the impression that headship only has a downside. I wouldn’t want to mislead anyone into thinking the role is easy, but I have to say I found great joy in it, and considerable satisfaction when you DID resolve an issue and move forward. As head you have the capacity to make a difference on a scale unlike anything you’ve ever known before. You have the opportunity to improve teaching and learning, to protect the well-being of the staff (teaching and support) and to lift others. You can support parents and make a positive difference to some of their lives, too.

You won’t win them all, and you have to accept that. It isn’t a popularity contest and, although you need a degree of strength and self-confidence, you have to be able to leave your ego aside and recognise it is about the school and all in it (past, present and future) and not about you. Towards the end of your time, in particular, you have to think about the legacy you are leaving and what you can do to ensure the school continues to grow in strength and success after you have moved on. We are all, in fact, caretakers of the vision for a finite period and there should be a degree of humility that comes with that. We should do all in our power to try to leave the school a better place than we found it, and that involves supporting, encouraging and inspiring leaders of the future.

That’s a privilege.

head1Jill Berry

Former head

Here are some additional posts to add to this one on why be a head

  1. The Head’s briefcase.

December 2014

 

10 YBA Senior Leader

I need some sort of confessional here, not because I work in an RC school but because there will be colleagues who can tell the reader I might aspire to many of these aspects, but have failed to achieve them, and I will have let down colleagues, pupils and parents at times. However my posts were designed as an antidote to the secret teacher moans (often justified) about the job of a teacher. I am sure there are a lot more criticisms of SLT including me but here goes:

We need you, schools need you, children need you, parents need you. image10Succession planning is important and it might be you!

You might see members of SLT and think you can do the job better, then you should consider heading there; you might see members and think you can’t do the job but talk with them, learn it will make a difference to you. There are though, a few things to consider about what you might not be doing in the role, for example you might not be doing so much teaching, you might be doing tasks which are not really your favourite but significant in the life of a school, they need doing and most need doing well. Anyway here goes:

 

A new role, and title: you get more money, maybe status and pretty certainly an office, maybe even your own secretary or a PA (though we don’t in my school). You get a new title, but watch out you still earn your stripes by the job you do, the respect you earn, the aimageuthority others give to you. A badge with a title or an office sign are not matters you can refer a child or parent or colleague to. Almost certainly the day you haveimage to say “do you know who I am?” you’ll know it’s not working the way you are doing the SLT bit. BUT  there is a clue in the title “team” make sure you work with and seek support and challenge and plenty of good jokes from the team. I’ve been so fortunate to work with great SLT colleagues and can honestly say without them I’d have given up.

 

Day 639They say you must have a vision or at least be very clear on ethos, on short-term and long-term goals and articulate that ethos. In the 1980’s when I started, a teacher with vision would probably be put away but now we all need a vision. Have a moral compass, a vision, knowledge of “this is the way we do it” here. Then decisions, little and big must try to support that, we all make mistakes upholding it but if you say you won’t tolerate X and Y, then don’t, you don’t help teachers. If you say extra curricular is vital, put resources behind it. Then articulate your vision, the school’s vision and Heads vision, do it for parents meetings for pupils in assembly, on corridors, in classrooms.

Little things can make a big difference. You have some power over minor things which can make a difference: your staff not being exploited by a particularly awkward parent or pupil. You can say “I’ll deal with them”. Staff might be spending ages due to outdated tech, can you find a budget? They might need to rush home in a free – let them. I think its right you uphold the principle of the default position but you know staff who are busting everything, look after them, and as for the others who seem to take advantage – have a conversation at the very least. You move from middle into senior leadership, from possibly criticising SLT to being one of them. From moaning about decisions to actually making and defending and explaining those decisions. Oh and sometimes you might actually disagree with an SLT team decision but collective responsibility means you will do your bit to deliver.

Stay focused on the core job: teaching, learning and behaviour ( including child protection). The day you have spent hours sorting out the litter or the vitamin C content of the puddings in the canteen or signing documents, feels like the day you are losing the plot. You are a key operational person and all these little things do matter but you can’t do everything, you can delegate. SLT have to learn to treat pupils as pupils and treat teachers as teachers, I have often slipped up here, I hope that’s inevitable but I always try to learn to do this better. There are also personal stresses, work with the rest of the team to help you learn to manage workload too.

gd to g8Appointing staff. In the Jim Collins book ‘From Good to Great’ there are two significant early chapters. One is called getting the right people on the bus. This is your role with other SLT and the Head and middle leaders, to market the school, recruit, train and retain staff. But the other chapter is “Getting the wrong people off the bus” this is much more difficult in schools and a reminder that getting the right people on is critical. Inevitably there will be staff, teaching and non teaching who are not doing the job as you wish. It’s a sensitive but important task to tackle, it’s not the extreme of capability or sacking it’s also about the way SLT point out and offer help with weaknesses. Your staff bill will be the most expensive of budget at 75 to 80% so this is critical in your role. You will have to support and you will have to challenge and you will have to learn when to do which, especially with the pressures of workload. We probably all recall going in on a Monday feeling a bit under the weather thinking it was manageable as we had a free after lunch, get in and see your name on cover- agh. SLT need to try to look out for people, as our job is to get the best out of colleagues today and for the next n years. You have to monitor, but do it nicely, staff and pupils will understand its your job but it need not to be like Ofsted. So many SLT moan about Ofsted “marching in” then…….well they march in. Don’t, if you can manage it. Develop your terms, evolve sensible system.

Keeping up to date. SLT need to stay knowledgeable about developments in schools, in Education – teaching , learning, behaviour, child protection, assessment progression, changes for children coming in (ie in primary) and for those moving on ( FE, HE, apprenticeships, employment). Now here is a trick knowing what is going on but picking what makes a difference, what is legal or statutory and what can and should be ignored. You might (like me) often feel overwhelmed with the pace of change. BUT this is but nothing compared to the teacher n the classroom. Your job is to try to protect and help them. Never forget the days of full timetables, marking and mocks and reports and prep. Before you ask for another piece of paper another task, ask if it is necessary and if so why. Make sure when others ask you if we can get the staff to……that you challenge…is it really necessary? It’s your job to try to protect from demands. Early on in my career a parent got hold of my home phone number and called me one evening, nothing major just a “chat” I felt a bit uncomfortable, mentioned to the deputy, he rang the parent said his call was quite out-of-order. I got an apologetic letter but as important I knew this deputy was wise and on my side. Where you have to embrace change, do it with enthusiasm, work out what are the disadvantages (often all too easy) and the advantages – trial the ideas with trusted colleagues and then with those who might oppose, chat one to one with them – then present.

SLT the problem solver. Have High expectations of teachers and pupils get to know teachers well encourage teachers hear them out, help them out. And hey the same with pupils. There are great things you can do. encourage those good ideas, resource them, release those people and see their ideas blossom though watch they make a difference and don’t impact workload, including your workload. Often schools breed people with great ideas……for someone else. FullSizeRenderThere is a challenge to maintain focus and effort on student learning. Make sure it’s not too interrupted with trips, visits or assemblies. Part of your job is to encourage stuff, stuff like trips and visits and speakers and the sort of stuff which goes down well with pupils and teachers. EXCEPT it also impacts on work. those four year 10 missing an English lesson mean someone else has extra to do. Work out how to balance and explain decisions and create a fair and effective system if possible

Be a role model. Staff and students and parents will look up to you, That’s great but you need to fulfil the role. Watch the football, go to the play, help the PTA. Little things show your true colours, so make sure the little things are set right. untitledand if you are fed up by all means share that with SLT but probably not with those at that sharp end. Never ever forget the real job happens in your classrooms by dedicated staff working their socks off. They don’t really want to know about your boring meeting with the LA. They need people of honesty integrity

communicateCommunication – probably couldn’t write a post about SLT without saying communication is vital. Many a time I have decided an action which seems obvious and yet in forgetting to communicate that effectively I get a load of complaints-sorry forgot to add it to the calendar, check that bit of sims was set up properly, overlooked that event. Hold your hands up and say you went wrong but if there is one rule of SLT it is communication, communication, communication.

Discipline – do your bit, do more than your bit, maintain high behaviour standards, think well ahead on exclusions, what will you be saying to a) the child b) the parent/carer/supporter and c) colleagues. Different audience different responses but get the right outcomes for all. Manage an orderly place.

Inspire, maybe be a maverick, whatever you do, inspire them to do better (pupils, teachers, SLT, even the head) inspire with stories carefully articulated, and presented.

Protect the vulnerable – a teacher or a pupil, maybe a parent. Chat with others understand the person at the centre. They may have been let down, your job is to rescue for the best. as the saying goes ‘some people lead complicated lives be kind’. This is not a ” at any costs ” matter , its more about seeing a way through a crisis. Sometimes others might never get to know there was a crisis, they might even be highly critical of you but you know, deep down it was right. I recall a very difficult situation with a very ill teacher who a) didn’t want anyone to know and b) wanted to teach classes to the end. We changed the timetable around and some staff were very fed up, we couldn’t say why, so just put up with the moans, eventually it became obvious, sadly. Sometimes we need to develop a thicker skin but in the end they will probably understand (actually a few won’t!)

imageMentoring, coaching and training. Believe it or not you are wise, well at least knowledgeable and so people turn to you. You cannot micromanage but you can help. Know your school inside out – pair up the right people, staff and pupils, staff and staff; Support staff also. This leads back to the d word delegate.

IMG_1891Thank you – say it and do it, give appreciation, look our for the child who turned out for the practice but didn’t get the role. The quiet teacher who never moans, does the job sensibly, who you really appreciate -tell them. Th governor who is always there at a do, thank them look out for them value their opinions. Compliment, show gratitude and put money where you can. Don’t praise the PE dept for all that work then refuse them a trampoline. Recognise – believe me a word from SLT, a card, a note can make a difference, you wanted power that’s’ where it is. Pupils who help show someone around for you, write home, pass over a book token, make a quiet fuss.

Whatever you say or do, always try to be ambitious and aspirational. I recall going to a LA meeting over employment. I saw our Head ask a local employer if he would take some pupils for work exp. ” Have you met any of our pupils?” The head asked. “They are great, well-behaved, well-mannered, 100% reliable, diligent etc” I asked in the pub later, had he someone in mind? No he said but if we tell employers and then we tell year 10 we can make it happen….the rest is history.

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Reflections

You will get to work closely with a Head. I think you learn most in the role from working with a good headteacher you learn from what they do well and what they inevitably do wrong. It’s an important partnership however you look at it. Listen to everyone, pupils (school council, on the corridor, after the play, during a cover, parents ….teachers). Act on the things you hear pass on the good news, think carefully about the bad, talk over with others, then decide the actions. If they are important decisions and discussions give them enough time. Influence is probably a key element of leadership so establish ways to influence, to manage and to lead, and try to evolve systems and policies to benefit the school. BUT not bound up in an office. You will have to try and do both, the paperwork and the peoplework, guess which takes priority? You can’t? then forget SLT. Listen and reflect, you know those things we ask staff and pupils to do.

Relationships – you knew that would appear it does. One recent tweet I saw said “Congratulations on getting a deputy job, just remember its 75% about relationships and the other 25% well…..that’s about relationships” Quality contact and interactions. perhaps the most critical are those with other SLT, make sure they are embedded in humour, in generosity and appreciation – the job can be tough but it doesnt have to be tough 100% of the time, ensure creativity and teamwork support those meetings.IMG_1698

Adapt– you will have to do jobs you don’t like, speak to colleagues about stuff you would rather forget. Maybe teach one lesson a week of X, when your subject is Y. You might need to adapt and learn – hey that’s what good teachers always do.

 

There are some great rewards being a member of SLT, there are frustrations too. In much the same way as my other blogposts such as being a teacher or head of year, and I come back to them first point, your school might need you; and a school definitely will do…..and the next step…………..aha
The old NCSL videos are available on youtube and are very good.

There are lots of sites and blogs on leadership if you recommend any I’ll happily add them here.

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“Where there is no vision, the people perish”