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365 ways to improve your school – leadership (46-68)

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 46-68…

46. Never communicate in anger – stay calm and don’t panic – every problem has a solution. If you are really angry with a member of staff or a child, go home and sleep on it – the situation always looks different the next day.

47. Laugh a lot – no-one likes a miserable leader! Look after yourself because leaders set the emotional climate. Are you a radiator or a drain? A radiator exudes positivity whilst the drain saps energy and sees problems all around.

48. Locate the decision making at the most appropriate point. Who is in the best place to make a decision? In one school we supported the deputy head decided which exam syllabus each department followed.

49. Don’t appoint if you know it’s wrong. There is always a solution eventually! Be really flexible on contracts – let staff pick up their children and miss last lesson or let them go to four days a week if necessary.

50. Ensure at least one person on the leadership team knows the name of every child in the school (I think all the deputies should).

51. If you have a great NQT, write to their parents at the end of the year to tell them how proud they should be.

52. Treasure your heads of maths and English! You could argue that they are the two most important members of staff. If you can’t appoint you may need to think about assistant heads and add something whole-school to the role.

53. Is there a plan for every teacher to ensure they continue to improve each year regardless of how long they’ve been teaching? There should be.

54. Use the SLT meetings for each of the team to say what they’ve done that week to earn their money/improve the quality of what the children receive.

55. Get feedback from the staff. Ask them to say three things the SLT do well and three ways the SLT could improve or give the team some advice.

56. Only shut your door when you really have to. Be accessible and have your office in a busy area. Don’t hide away as it makes everyone feel you don’t support them.

57. If ever you are unsure about what to do over an issue ask yourself “What’s in the best interest of the children?” You’ll soon find the answer.

58. What is your staff handbook like? If it’s huge, bin it. No-one will read it! Keep it as short as possible and use it to convey key messages. An NQT isn’t going to spend hours remembering which door to go out of in the case of a fire alarm but they do want to know who will help them when they need it and what a good lesson looks like.

59. Have as few meetings as possible – every meeting means time not spent with students or teachers not preparing lessons. What is the minimum number of meetings you can get away with while still ensuring sufficient high quality support and development? If a meeting isn’t needed, cancel it!

60. Make expectations clear – there are no excuses for low levels of progress, low attainment etc. Ensure that all the SLT believe the children can achieve and so are not giving out any negative messages. If the leadership team doesn’t believe the children can achieve, the school has no chance.

61. Don’t expect staff to come to evening events and then teach well the next day. Have as few compulsory things as possible – if any at all!

62. Ensure everyone on the SLT really understands the data/RAISEonline etc. If someone doesn’t, the message to staff is that it isn’t important.

63. Explain what you believe in to everyone and do it often in simple language – what is your school’s mantra? “The children come first” etc.

64. Be punctual to meetings. If you are late, it suggests that it isn’t important to you.

65. Be good role models and dress very smartly – suits only.

66. Ignore fads! Don’t jump on bandwagons – learn to say no more often. Schools in difficulty engage in a lot of initiatives that are not followed through and have little impact. Avoid gratuitous INSET like “get that bloke in to talk about co-operative learning”.

67. Build a school app; don’t waste time and money on lots of paper. Do everything electronically.

68. In the best schools the in-school variation is very small. What’s the difference between your best and worst department? Do they know? What are you doing about it? If you are ignoring it, you shouldn’t take your salary. You are paid to ensure the children get a good deal in all lessons, not just five GCSEs.


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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