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365 ways to improve your school – leadership (23-45)

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 her leadership tips 23-45…

23. Visit other schools every year – not the big “I am” schools who like to blow their own trumpet but schools in similar circumstances that are outstanding. However, please remember not all ideas travel well; customise them for your context.

24. Find a way to fund the staff Christmas party. It’s the least we can do after the hundreds of hours of overtime staff do – it will also ensure more people attend and it’s good for team spirit. Personally invite each cleaner – don’t presume they find out by osmosis!

25. Thank people every day – not the blanket email but seek out individuals who have gone the extra mile for the students or for fellow staff. A hand-written note is most appreciated.

26. For new staff make sure one of the SLT sees them at the end of every day to ensure they are okay. Observe them teaching very early on to see what support they need.

27. Identify everyone’s birthday – send them a card or give them a gift. Find something to celebrate at every briefing.

28. Buy the ‘peripheral’ policies on the internet or pinch them off another school’s website. Don’t waste precious time labouring over documents that are only there to cover your back. (Epsom and Ewell High School is great for policies).

29. Never say “I”, always “we”, and don’t say “my school”, it’s “our school”.

30. Beware of email and blanket communication in the electronic age. Ensure all possible groups are set up so staff can email (for example) year 7 tutors with ease.

31. Get the governors to write to staff that have done something good or gone the extra mile or got great results, then post the letters home so they arrive on the first day of the holidays.

32. Ensure that the SLT speak to everyone on the staff every week – devise a system so that no-one is left out. (A great headteacher knows the names of the cleaners’ children). Are you sure someone has thanked the part-time lab technician recently?

33. Never put off the difficult conversation but plan it carefully using the seven steps.

34. Can you guarantee that every child in the school feels owned by a named individual who knows them and their family circumstances and believes in them?

35. Be careful with email, it’s for a quick communication not for consultation – people still want face-to-face.

36. Embrace technology, don’t fight it. Actively seek feedback eg set up a forum for parents to rate the school etc.

37. Consider having a slot for two hours every Wednesday that includes everything from parents’ evenings, CPD, meetings etc and staff know there will be no other calls on their time.

38. Don’t cancel meetings with people you line manage – it shows lack of respect and it gives the impression that you don’t think it’s important to meet them. Have a regular slot and make it a priority.

39. Make your development plan come alive. Find an innovative way to make a big display of it in the
staff room so everyone knows what the priorities are. This year we used the Tesco steering wheel.

40. Treat everyone who works at the school with the same dignity and respect and, as a leader, ensure you hide it if you don’t like someone.

41. Have Standard Operation Procedures that are really slick. Is everything really simple? Eg IT works, staff have keys, and the reports are easy.

42. Never ever say “in my last school” or repeatedly use the name of another school you want to be better than.

43. Never allow parents to abuse staff. Have a procedure regarding what staff should say and do if it happens and train staff in it. It is incredibly stressful for a young member of staff if parents shout at them. Make sure you know the rules. Heads run schools, not parents, so don’t allow any “my child doesn’t do after school detention” nonsense. A really good way round a parent who refuses to let a child stay is to offer to take them home yourself… when you leave work at 7pm. It’s surprising how they are suddenly able to get home alone.

44. Don’t use jargon and avoid overuse of acronyms! Keep language very simple. Why do schools over-complicate everything?

45. Write a planning cycle for the year on one page so everyone knows when the Governors’ meetings are taking place, budget written, when to advertise for jobs etc.


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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