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”

 

Tuesday Period 5 – Accountability, Responsiblity or Pressure?

“Accountability”

1. the state of being accountable, liable, or answerable.

2. a policy of holding public officials or other employees accountable for their actions and results: a need for greater accountability in the school system.

Responsibility

1 .the state or fact of having a duty to deal with something or of having control over someone.

2 .the state or fact of being accountable or to blame for something.

3 .the opportunity or ability to act independently and make decisions without authorization.

 

I have been doing my round of department audits. These annual meetings are essentially a report from Heads of Department about what they have found in ‘checking’ on the work of their dept. An accountability measure, so it made me wonder again – just who are we teachers accountable to and responsible for? However after writing this I wasn’t so happy with the posting and was pleased when @Chemistrypoet tweeted me about responsibility and accountability and this made a bit more sense. Well you can see if it does so:

1. Pupils. First and most important I am responsible to my pupils. It’s why I took the job, I hoped to help them learn. I think about the class, the schemes of work, the way they learn, what might be interesting or exciting, difficult or straightforward. It’s these people I want to help succeed, to learn, to enjoy to be challenged and to grow. I worry about their exam results. There is some accountability too – depending on exactly what sort of pupils voice we use – smart ones methinks!

2. Parents. I am obviously accountable to parents. I send them reports, I talk to them at parents evening and expect their support if I need to call them over any ‘problems’. They occasionally remind me of my job – in the nicest way of course. There is a big responsibility here, whatever might be said we are in so many senses “in loco parentis”.

3. Myself. Maybe my conscience but accountability to my own aims and standards it sounds a bit grand, maybe pompous but it is true. I chose the job to spend my energy and effort and any talent I might have, delivering learning for pupils, trying to inspire, inspire in Chemistry but sometimes just inspire them to get stuck into life. I often ask myself if I am doing a good job and like most teachers wonder what I might do better. I prepare a lesson but then seem to dream endlessly about how I might improve it, and do much the same the next time I have to teach the lesson.

4. Colleagues. This is just staff in general. We talk about school, classes, pupils, education, Mr Gove, policy and yes about football or gossip. But my talking brings accountability. If I say I will do something in conversation about my classes or the school then I better do it, someone will for sure remind me. No escape (special phrase for Nottingham ppl). This also has its responsibilities because as I said after Friday period 1, much might rest with a class teacher, the world of learning is complex

5. My head of department. Even though I am an SLT member I still feel a loyalty to and expect scrutiny from, my head of department, I expect (and get) support too but I have no problem with my mark book being checked or asked where I am on a scheme of work, or being observed. In fact the conversations about my subject and our pupils is vital, enjoyable and even though occasionally we might disagree about a direction well hey that is the hod job. It’s often a fuel to the process of improving the work we all do. So this feels more like accountability.

6. My head of faculty. A bit like the above I expect to be answerable to my Head of Science. He is allowed to challenge me, and sometimes the boot is on the other foot as together we do a learning walk.

7. A head of year. Pastoral people are crucial people in a school and having been one I do expect tutors to be answerable for delivering the pastoral work, and helping create or maintain the ethos of the school. Let alone stuff like attendance, punctuality, discipline and uniform as well as mopping a good few tears. Whatever your job in school I bet you rely on good HoY, so we have responsibilities for communications with them and we have an accountability too.

8. Results. Exam results In fact not just examinations and assessment lots of other “results”. This includes ‘events’: the end result of planned concerts, sports games, outward bound. I feel responsible for doing my bit to help make the activity run smoothly and successfully and somewhat accountable for the result. Even for the unquantifiable such as morals, showing the pupils they matter, bringing hope. Oh have I lost track on accountability? – “actions and results”. However there is a great joy and reward here, it’s not all doom. Nothing better than seeing the Y7 pupil who dreamed about becoming a journalist given the envelope in mid August with those grades that got them off to Leeds University to start the next step of that journey……………. Really is nothing better

9. SLT. Well that’s me but I think most teachers understand SLT members can ask them questions, seek information about pupils, about work or maybe about things which go wrong or things which go very right. They expect me to take responsibility seriously and give support and challenge and sometimes just kindness. But for me, I do work closely with other SLT colleagues and frankly we are responsible or is it accountable for the decisions we make.

10. Head.  We all answer to the Headteacher. When the head asks us to jump, we just say, jump? Before or after all this teaching?

11. Governors. In many schools the governors are the employers so we expect to bump into them, to be answerable to them. We meet some at interview or informally and we know they are volunteers who help the running of the school, we might work with them in committee or maybe on exclusions, we understand the important role of governors and the systems they have to monitor and challenge, so yes we feel accountable to them.

12. The Press. I realised this was a bit odd but nevertheless the local press and media like to report what is happening in a school, they tell our stories both good and sometimes bad, they tell them straight and just occasionally exaggerate. They sometimes don’t seem to shout the story we tell them but there is an accountability of sorts to the media.

13 The good old DfE. I do just about feel accountable to the DfE, Ofqual etc because they keep sending out stuff, papers, documents, information, statutes, reminders of laws and responsibilities. Policies and in the case of our BSF cancelled policies. So just maybe if I don’t take some notice here I’ll end up in trouble. I have just ploughed through the document ‘the equality act in school’ thank you DfE. My school is accountable on that policy – these documents come fairly often from you. Thanks! You make it quite clear we are accountable. [Actually Ofqual is a different matter, in essence whatever they send me I’ll try to follow but I will try and do the best to make it work for my pupils…watch for another post there.]

14. Ofsted. They seem to want to bring accountability to my teaching or perhaps more subtly the teaching and learning going on in my school.( OK so some other areas too). They may or may not appear often, they may give no notice. They may only watch 40 lessons in a visit and may not watch me BUT they dominate my landscape. I feel acutely accountable to them. I think my own little performance that day might send my school in a downwards spiral. I worry more about what they might see than the 800 odd lessons I teach each year. I also worry because others worry me and even Ofsted themselves seem to change their mind on the ‘best” way to teach. As a professional teacher, can I choose? Or must I fit the bill? Or is it Ok as long as my teaching delivers great results? PS what are great results at the moment? 5A*toC; progress 8; Pupil premium …..

[And there is an argument that spotting a failing school by Ofsted does mean something happens (discuss…oh you have!)]

15. My community. ( A parish, a geographical locality) I do teach in a church school so we are answerable to the community of the parish, the church, the diocese, but I think most schools have a vital part to play in their community. Yes they have a responsibility too. We are the community, we raise money for it, we volunteer in it and we look for jobs and maybe opportunities in it. So we are answerable to local people. In fact we are all aware if we do a good job in our school, and a good job in our community we all benefit. (for example it might be better to persuade pupils to be this side of the law rather than that side.)

Our pupils have just finished a week of work experience, thanks to our local community, we sense we are accountable to you. Just occasionally a member of the local community moans to me, about a bus incident, I feel accountable and I will make sure it is dealt with. Interesting when I have a problem with Amazon I might moan and email and phone but I doubt I’ll bump into someone accountable to complain to.

16. Job description. I have one, I try to fulfil it, it changes and I still try to fulfil it. I earn my pay on the back of fulfilling it. It’s not a check list, it describes the expectations of me and someone will do Performance Management to check up on my meeting those standards (Oh yes talking paper there are the teacher standards out there too). My guess is I am responsible to develop and maintain those standards – we always have done, do we need them written and ticked off?

17. Union Yes I do think I am accountable to my Union. I have occasionally asked for advice and help and received it gratefully, they have fought for some rights for me, and take their responsibility for me very seriously. I recognise that and I owe them some loyalty but in some way I am accountable to them for the hard won ‘rights’. And if not accountable certainly grateful.

18.Law. Statutes. Heck yes now and again in my work I am reminded of a legal duty a statutory task. I am answerable to the Law.

Perhaps people in other jobs are also this accountable and sense this much responsibility, perhaps some of you read this and say no you aren’t really accountable to all that, because accountability in a sense implies we must get stuff right and we don’t always and it means we might change.. for the better ( but who decides what is “better”?

Imagine I am asked to cover a lesson and just don’t turn up, or turn up and sit allowing a fight to happen and say I do this every week – tell me, does: a) nothing happen b) the pupils say something c) a parent calls d) a senior leader asks me to see them e) we feel bad f) the governors get a complaint g) at the ‘school show’ someone else says something h) the colleague teaching this class their next Lesson goes bonkers at me i) a head of year wants to know how we let this happen?

Most or all of the above?

I think most teachers do sense they are answerable to all of these groups at one time or another, we take our responsibilities pretty seriously. They sometimes call this accountability sometimes stress. Or have I muddled accountability with responsibility muddled with professionalism, or is it all a bit of a muddle?

Teachers should be accountable – we are. School should be accountable – we are.

So my questions – can you get some of these accountabilities off my back so I can get on with the job? Some of the way you make me answerable takes time we might be able to use more effectively. Preparing lessons, delivering great lessons, marking work, creating opportunities in and outside the classroom, helping those more vulnerable pupils, those in need ( temporary or permanent). Working with my colleagues to deliver even better lessons, looking after my colleagues….. I am happy to be accountable, I think I am.

Some questions to ponder

Q1 Do those supposed great models of Education (Finland or Singapore) have such accountability? Q2 Does the accountability work? Have our schools got better? Q3 Maybe schools are just complex for a simple accountability?

When I have some clearer answers I’ll pop up a blog on how I think we could be accountable, but meanwhile take a look at this blog by of Stephen Tierney.

And for those of us in a church school

Hebrews 4:13

Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.

Hebrews 13:17

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Romans 14:12

So then, each of us will give an account of ourselves to God.