Thursday, 29 January 2009

Holding your Head to account

As the current round of HT performance management is over (or should be!), I have been pondering on the criteria for giving HT's a pay rise. The guidance is quite clear that such a rise is dependant on HT having delivered 'sustained high quality of performance' (often quoted as Sustained Outstanding Performance SOP, so that's the phrase I shall use), yet I hear of many HTs around the country being given automatic pay rises by their governors without having delivered SOP.

For me, sustained outstanding performance goes beyond both business as usual and PM - I expect them to deliver more than was asked and can be expected over the whole year. Having moved away from the automatic progression that has plagued the public sector for so long, we now need to recognise that increases in remuneration are properly awarded for delivering more than the day job and for developing one's capability more than might be expected each year. The pay rise will then be a recognition of this contribution and development rather than just occupying a post and delivering the minimum required.

Any governor who agrees to a rise in circumstances other than where SOP has been delivered is corrupting the system and weakening the position of those of us who operate within the guidelines that took so long and so much effort to thrash out at national level. Had they wished for a automatic rise, or one linked purely to PM then STPD/RIG could have said so - they chose a more difficult hurdle so what good do so many govs think they are doing by reducing the height of the hurdle? Would they let pupils get an A* for just delivering the basics?

How do your PM governors deal with this - are the submissive or are they holding your HT to account as rigorously as the HT should be holding their pupils to account?

Wednesday, 28 January 2009

The Lamb Enquiry

I consider myself to be better informed than many governors and yet the Lamb Enquiry (principally into SEN and parental confidence?) seems to have slipped past my mind without leaving a mark.

It seems to me that this is an important piece of work - parents of children with SEN tend to be more concerned about and interested in their child's provision and progress and it is critically important they they can have confidence not only in what is happening now but also what plans exist for the future.

Most recently his brief has been extended by Ed Balls to include

an investigation to tackle poor information to parents of children with special educational needs, the failure of some Local Authorities to comply with their SEN duties and lack of transparency in the SEN system".

I know that this is a system/process that exercises the minds of many parents, not least because of potential confliocts of interest where the LA is the assessor, funder and deliverer.

I will be following his progress rather more carefully than so far...

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Holocaust Memorial Day

Thanks to Chris Edwards for reminding me...

Today is Holocaust Memorial Day...

A day when we remember where racism, intolerance and a lack of respect and understanding leads and the need for us all to be constantly vigilant. We must continue to build respect, tolerance and understanding and to celebrate difference. We must help our young people learn from the past and that we can stand up to hatred and create a safer, better future for us all.

Why not visit the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust website and light a candle to support those who are standing up to hatred across the world. The website is at

Sunday, 25 January 2009

Standards for School Leadership

As both a school governor and someone who has a professional practice leading and helping others become better leaders, on Friday I went along to one of the consultation events in respect of the new Standards for School Leadership. I was both thrilled and disappointed and found the event, and the statements made by some participants, interesting on several accounts:

  1. Only about 20 people turned up, of whom most were either academics or held roles 'administering' schools (LEA staff); only 3 were practising Heads. What might this say about the standards - that they are of so little interest/relevance to practising Heads that they decided that they could find better things to do with their precious time? That actually being in school leading is a more useful activity that considering the leadership navel? Disappointing yet not really surprising...
  2. There were 2 governors there (well, 2 who declared themselves) and we were both almost incensed that the word "governor" only appeared once in the document and even then not in the 'intended audiences' part. What the **** is governance about of not helping shape the ethos, values, vision etc of the school - leadership in other words. This is, IMHO, a serious shortfall that risks further weakening the role of governors in the eyes of HTs and other 'education professionals'. BTW, how disappointing to hear one of the Heads say "governance has not changed since Victorian times" and the other that leadership and vision was not the role of the governors!
  3. There seemed to be a lot of linguistic confusion about Leaders, Leadership and the difference between Leading and Managing. Yes, effective leaders need to be able to manage and, yes, they can distinguish the management of the now/status quo from the challenge of leading people into the future. This distinction between 'doing the best we can with what we have and where we are' is distinctly different from 'figuring out where we need to be and helping everyone get there' - good leaders do both, bad 'people in leadership positions' miss the second.
  4. With the pace and scope of change in the education sector these days, the need for devolved/distributed leadership seems clear to me. It is not just the job of the Head, the cleaners, the dinner ladies, the office staff, TA and Teachers all have a role in leading the pupils, the community and each other. It is a fact that everyone is a role model (good on bad) to someone and surely we want all of our people to model the appropriate values, beliefs and behaviours for our school? What a shame then that many (even perhaps most) of the participants exuded a top-down hierarchical model of leadership in which only individuals with designated leadership roles have to lead - and from one person that did not even include those with TLR! Pupils are moving into a world where they will need to be self-motivated and self-led, they need to see this mindset in action throughout their school life.
  5. "Will these stardards be included in Regulations?" came up several times. AAAAArrrrrggghhhhh! The vast majority of the non-educational world manages to run effectively (OK, a moot point for banks!!) without Regulations saying that 'this is how you need to behave when doing your job and evaluating how well others do their jobs', so what is it about the education mindset that needs to be forced to do things rather than just do them because they are good practice. We had a brief and interesting discussion about how regulation might force compliance whereas recognising the real value of the standards woudl encourage committment. Performance Management in Schools is currently on this journey; business has been actively managing the performance of staff for a very long time yet it takes regulation and national 'guidance' to implement it for Teachers. 'My' schools know the value and are having little or no trouble voluntarily implementing it for all staff. Of course if PM is implemented on a 'I have to do this to you...' basis can we expect anything other than grudging compliance? The same goes for these leadership standards.
  6. As for the content of the standards, I was rather impressed. A good broad approach to identifying leader behaviours that can be applied appropriately (we spoke of depth and breadth) throughout a school. The concept of five strands of leading (Strategy, People, T&L, Organisation and Community) is an interesting and potentially useful chunking enabling different parts of the standards to be distributed to different individuals who have specific accountability for that part of leading leadership in the school.

I was generally encouraged, whilst being slightly disappointed at some of the attitudes and beliefs that manifested themselves. Take a look at the documents yourself and PLEASE make the time to comment - after all Governance is leadership.

Trusting your Head

I read in other forums about the hassle (to be polite) that some governors have with their HTs either passively or actively witholding information that governors need, or believe that they need, to effectively exercise their role.

Yes, there will always be bad or ill-informed apples, so what a pleasure I have to work with 2 Principals at the other end of that spectrum. Both recognise that governors have a valuable role and contribution and that whilst, on occasions, their 'demands' may be challenging and their opinions 'interesting' they all have ther right thing at the centre of their beliefs - that we must do the best we can for and by our pupils.

The mechanisms through which we hold schools to account are many, yet we need to be careful to avoid tying up our schools with a plethora of rules, regulations and paperwork designed to catch the very few bad apples - Haringey probably shows that even these cannot be guaranteed to work.

It does of course raise the issue of how governors can go about satisfying themselves that all is well as described. Yes, we need to work on the basis of 'trust everyone untilt they are shown to be untrustworthy', yet that leaves us with the dilemma of how to find out the truth before our school goes into Special Measures. Any ideas?

Monday, 19 January 2009


Isn't it great to have something to celebrate (apart from, at my age, being awake in the morning that is!)?

Two key members of staff with whom I am involved at 'my' two schools have just got unqualified passes on their NPQH. This is far from a straightforward journey and involves significant committment by anyone signing up for the qualification - which, just in case you did not know, all newly appointed headteachers appointed after April MUST have.

So my heartiest congratulations go to Michelle Wilman and Jane Reed.

Wednesday, 14 January 2009

On becoming a new chair...

Well, I have been CofG for about 5 weeks now, during which time we have, inter alia, appointed a new Principal (congratulations Michelle), heard about how we might or might not get a rebuild as part of the advancement of the BSF spend and heard not enough about the strategy for refreshing inclusive education in Leeds.

I am remonded of the advice generally given to new CEOs to spend their first 100 days 'just listening' and that is mostly what I am doing - going round talking with all sorts of people who might give an insight into the good and bad of the school (not much of the latter has shown up so far - thankfully), where we can offer best in class services to others and where we need to do better.

We have gone 2.5 years without good old Ofsted visiting us so I guess they are at least approaching the horizon. Not that that should be of any concern; in the old days when we got 6 weeks' notice staff would get stressed for 6 weeks running round getting lesson plans up to date, filling in student reports and doing all sorts of stuff that (surely) they should have been doing anyway. If nothing else the curent regime reduces the duration of the stress and implicitly 'requires' staff to do the right thing all the time and not just for the weeks before Ms Gilbert's little helpers arrive. What I would however like to see is more proactive support/advice from the Inspectors - waalking in, spending two days to decide that you are only satisfactory (or worse) and then ****ing off is just not good enough these days.

Anyway, back to this question of the future of inclusive education in Leeds - LILS as it has been known. All has been quiet for a few months now and when there is an information vacuum people tend to start filling it with their own beliefes, often wrong, about what's going on, why 'they' are not communicating with us and how badly affected we are going to be. My short term agenda is to get the information flowing again - my professional practice is in the arena of change leadership and management and I just know that communications is critical to successful implementation. Even when there is nothing to say, it is important to say that there is nothing to say, otherwise the rumour mill starts working as above...
The most destabilising time during any period of change is not knowoing what is going to happen - even bad news gives the participant something to work with whereas no news leaves a void. So let's make those difficult decisions and get on with implementing. All that planning achieves is a plan (which, by the way, is always wrong), only action achieves any change.