Thursday, 27 December 2012

New Head, new skills?

So, the Head who so skillfully steered us out of Special Measures has found another job in pastures new - good for him!

This leaves us recruiting our 2nd Head in 18 months and I am wondering about the skill set needed for the new postholder. The IEB recruited the old one before I joined and clearly did an excellent job, now we are out of Special Measures I hope that we are able to give thought to how different the skills needed for a progression from Special Measures to Satisfactory are from those required to go from Satisfactory to Good and even Outstanding.

In my 'day job' of developing leaders, we differentiate between the skills needed for Transformation (which I would equate with getting a school out of Special Measures) and those for Continuous Improvement (which might more closely approximate the slow but steady slog of climbing the Ofsted ladder). All that stuff about situational leadership starts to play out for real when we have an opportunity to match our new recruit to the (slightly less urgent) needs of the situation and the (improving but not yet complete) maturity of the followers.

Let me suggest one big difference that I sense is appropriate - management (c.f. Leadership) ability. When a school is in Special Measures, the focus is almost exclusively on raising attainment and indeed IEBs are instructed that this is to be their primary focus. Quite rightly, some of the more mundane aspects of management are allowed to go by the wayside in the urge to get the education of the pupils back on track. However, things like Health & Safety, Policies & Procedures, SEN Provision (to name just three in which I am particularly interested) do need some detailed attention at some stage. One lesson that SM offers is which of these 'management' topics are really important and which ones can be left to dry out in the cold wind of school improvement - a lesson to be carefully learned.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Policies, policies, policies - and some that are not!

As part of our ongoing journey to convince our Ofsted Inspector that we are doing well enough to be released from Special Measures, we have been looking at every policy the school has/needs - after all, governance is about much more than 'simply' improving performance and anyway these Policies should be such as to aid, in some way, the performance of the school.

 First move - ask our LA for a comprehensive list of those policies that we are required to have. We got a useful, and somewhat daunting, list of 36 documents they think we must have.  Well, here's the DfE list - 23 items and by their own admission it might be out of date and only covers Statutory Policies and not any 'required' by statutory, or indeed any other, guidance.

Why does a Maintained School need:
  • a Pay Policy when our pay rates and terms & conditions of employment are determined nationally? 
  • an Admissions Policy when admissions are determined by the Local Authority? 
  • ...and a host of other bits of paper that could be generalised by the LA who control such maintained schools and are ultimately responsible for many aspects of their operation? 
It seems to me that hours must be wasted writing/re-writing/badging documents that could be handled much more efficiently by one person in the LA. Indeed, at one school where we found a serious lack of formally approved policies, we simply went through the model LA ones and put our school name in them. It took hours, achieved nothing other than satisfying some box-ticker from Ofsted that we did have policies in place. But we were 'legal'! Let's get on top of the bureaucratic burden - I know we need to ease it for teachers, and we need to ease it for governors too not least because we volunteer our limited time and I would rather spend it on topics over which we have some direct influence.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

OU courses for Governors

Well, as trailed a couple of months ago, I am back! I am now a member of an IEB for a failing primary school in Bradford. They are on the recovery path and I hope to be able to add something by way of my leadership and business expertise.

I was pleased to hear that Bradford is willing to use IEBs - it seems to me that when a school enters Special Measures there is a prima facie case for getting rid of the current Head and Governing Body, after all who else can be held to account for a failure of leadership and management? Not the pupils, that's for sure.

Anyway, as I was trailing through some stuff I found out that the Open University are offering a huge range of FREE courses in governance - check this link out . Gotta be worth a go!