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365 ways to improve your school – leadership (1-22)

header-banner-929ani-magillAni Magill, Headteacher at St John the Baptist School, Woking, has compiled almost 400 tips that could help you to improve your school. They are split into 5 groups: leadership; learning and teaching; achievement; behaviour; general.

Ani would like to remind you that you shouldn’t view the tips as a panacea for school improvement – they are simply ideas that have worked at St John the Baptist. Bearing this in mind, here are the first 22 tips on leadership…

1. The most important thing the leadership team do is to find, recruit, develop and retain great teachers. You can’t play like Barcelona if you’ve got players from Brentwood. All members of SLT must own this and be proactively involved.

2. Be highly visible around school throughout the day. Never sit in your office at break and lunch time, it is your job to support everyone.

3. Disagree behind closed doors but always present a united front publicly.

4. Don’t spend time doing things for Ofsted. Write one side of A4 under the four headings. Twenty reasons why we think we are outstanding/good/requires improvement/inadequate for achievement etc.

5. All SLT need to be outstanding teachers who always take at least one exam class and deliver on results… otherwise why should anyone listen to them?

6. Have someone on the leadership team responsible for pupil premium children. Distribute the children’s photos around the team so everyone knows who they are and can have positive conversations with them.

7. Write a differentiated handbook for middle leaders. Experienced HODs need the bare minimum – weaker or new HODs need to be told what to do every day, week, half term and so forth.

8. Don’t ever use the automatic timetable button – it’s a computer… a great timetable has a large human input.

9. Go through the 55 similar schools on the DfE performance website. You will be amazed at what some schools achieve with an intake the same as yours.

10. Get each person on the leadership team to individually write down what the school stands for, in other words its core purpose. You are likely to be shocked by how different the answers are! If you can’t agree as a group of leaders what will the staff think the school stands for?

11. Be bold! Is there an elephant in the room? Don’t ignore it, deal with it. Failing to deal with it sends out the message to all staff that it’s okay to be mediocre. Often the elephant is a member of the leadership team.

12. Tackle the problems, not the whole staff. Always praise in public, admonish in private.

13. Cherish the staff as they are your greatest resource. Avoid giving them any pieces of paper to fill in that don’t have an impact in the classroom. Review what you ask them to do each year.

14. Never allow your school to have a negative or defeatist ‘script’ – eg we can’t get good results because we are too near the airport/seaside/rural community/tower block/industrial estate.

15. “Communication is the response you get” – if the staff say morale is low or staff are tired then listen to them and act. Your job is to support staff, not wield power over them.

16. Plan the year carefully – make it flow, make it relevant and avoid pinch points for the staff – don’t just do it because you did it last year (e.g a seven week spring half-term one year may be only five weeks the next year).

17. The trick for good schools to become more successful is to stop doing good things to make time to do even better things. Each time you introduce something new, kick out something old to make the time for the new initiative. Remember, saying no is the hardest but often most impactful part of leadership.

18. Ask the staff what you can abandon. What does the school do that does not impact on the children? Do what’s right for the children, not what’s right for Ofsted. In my view too many schools have replaced the word children with the word Ofsted… “We are doing this for Ofsted.”

19. Does everyone on the leadership team know which teacher takes the key groups in years 7 to 10 and are they your best teachers? Too many schools concentrate on year 11 and late interventions.

20. Don’t stick to the rule book – if a member of staff wants to go to an event which has personal significance such as a wedding or graduation, let them go. If you do, and pay them, you’ll get paid back in triplicate. It’s called reciprocation!

21. Have compassionate toughness. Have the compassion to empathise with where staff are but the toughness to get them to where they need to be.

22. Have a guaranteed 24-hour turnaround period if staff request support. Ensure you close the loop within the 24 hours. If staff criticise the SLT it is usually for lack of support when they ask for it.


SSAT’s High Performance Leadership programme (in conjunction with NASA, HSBC and Phillips) launches on 17th October.

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365 Ways to Improve Your School

Ani Magill, Headteacher at St John the Baptist School, Woking, has compiled almost 400 tips that could help you to improve your school. They are split into 5 groups: leadership; learning and teaching; achievement; behaviour; general. Read the entire series below:

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