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.

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