Re-reading some leadership texts in preparing for my role next term.
One of the texts that most resonates with me is Hargreaves’ Sustainable Leadership. I have also re-read Dweck’s Mindset and whilst I appreciate the principles driving this text, find the style rather repetitive.
It was refreshing to re-engage with Hargreaves’ text – it has some straightforward principles; ones that I have seen being overlooked in a number of schools. However, the most inspirational head I worked for brought about growth and development in just this manner, though this was some time before Hargreaves’ articulation of these principles.
Having seen schools where a fractured approach to development comes from a lack of vision, I want to be able to ensure that the following aspects are at the heart of my new role:
Depth – it matters. It absolutely has to. Mathematics teaching that misses out elements as students could achieve enough on the GCSE mark scheme without them? No. Depth matters. Building a curriculum based upon morality and a rich experience rather than examination defined outcomes? Yes.
Endurance – it lasts. Decision making that looks to future provision, avoiding jumping from fad to fad and snap decision making need to be avoided. Major curriculum decisions need to be considered carefully and in depth so the school can avoid lurching from one initiative to another.
Breadth– it spreads. I look forward to the opportunity to be able to really develop distributed leadership in my new school. It is really achievable and I have been delighted to enable it in some areas of my current work. I look forward to being able to say to all staff that sharing and trust is genuine and will not be undermined.
Justice – it does not harm. School competition has been central in the world of academies, free schools and free market education. Education is not a free market. It is a national resource that needs co-operation and collaboration. It will take decades for our school systems try to recover. I plan for our local network of schools to take less.
Resourcefulness – it renews and does not deplete. I was lucky, starting as a teacher with full control over my own subject curriculum, assessment regime and structure. I have travelled through my senior management years trying to ensure that other teachers had that same level of professional independence, whilst we all felt worn down by the constraints of national curriculum demands, performance table measures and senior colleagues who thought data provided answers rather than promoting more valuable questions. Teaching can be exhausting. It us not for senior managers to make it even more so.
Diversity – it avoids standardisation. “Let’s all be consistent ” has been the refrain that I have heard from all levels of the profession. It is diversity that is the lifeblood of society and so I will strive to ensure that the rich experiences provided for students are of high quality and complement each other in high expectations, whilst at the same time never, never, falling prey to the easy response of the uninspired, grey, uniform ranks of frightened school leaders.
Conservation – it builds on the past. I have often started new academic years with an assembly on the three hundred year history of my current school, talking about the experiences of students of the past and how the school has developed. Students are joining a community that has a history and a story to tell and that story should not be lost in the “here and now.” I have seen school leaders who have believed that the school will start from year zero from their appointment. This is an arrogance which is often followed by the quick fixes of a leader who fails to grasp sustainability.
I hope that I am able to keep the integrity that is so important for school leaders. It is integrity that has been under pressure for many and I want to ensure that I remain amongst those that hold on to principles.
David Hargreaves’ book is Sustainable Leadership.