Reading time: 2 minutes. Relevant opportunity: SSAT Leadership Legacy Project (register your interest now)
Emily Keen, English teacher responsible for KS3 English and whole-school literacy, Richard Challoner School writes
The fact that it is easy to get caught up in the relentless, everyday tasks of teaching certainly hasn’t changed over the nine months I’ve been on the SSAT Leadership Legacy Project. I still frequently feel as though I haven’t stopped to breathe all day, or have only nipped out of my classroom to go to the loo or find a new board pen. In the middle of all this, it has been invaluable to be given the time to take a step back and reflect. The Leadership Legacy Programme promised opportunities to observe, think about and begin to learn the skills needed for effective school leadership; it has been brilliant to do all of those things over the last two terms.
One of my highlights from the launch event last May was Baroness Sue Campbell’s challenge to us to know what our non-negotiables are. She encouraged us to reflect on our beliefs about what education should be, and to hold on to them throughout all our different roles and responsibilities. For me, this idea has continued to be at the heart of the programme.
We have continued to hear from many different people who are school leaders in a wide range of contexts. I found this one of the most inspirational parts of the National Conference in Manchester at the end of November. Through listening to speakers such as Dame Alison Peacock of the Chartered College, Katrina Morley from Tees Valley Education Trust and Helena Marsh from Linton Village College, and evaluating their non-negotiables and the journeys they have been on, I have continued to evaluate my own beliefs about teaching and educational leadership.
The programme has turned out to be a much more personal experience than I thought it would be. There have been many opportunities and resources offered, and I have mostly been able to select those that interested me. At the core of each activity has been a prompting to evaluate yourself as a teacher and as a leader. This is an invaluable approach towards developing leaders, because it stays well away from a ‘one size fits all’ approach, or from dictating the kind of person you should be and the kind of values you should have, and encourages you to think deeply about context. I have learned that it is important to consider the context of who you naturally are: your personality, experience, strengths, weaknesses and non-negotiables, alongside the context of the school you are in: the pupils, their backgrounds, the current situation, pressures and resources you have, especially the staff.
I have learned that it is important to consider the context of your personality, experience, strengths, weaknesses and non-negotiables, alongside the context of the school you are in
A particular highlight of the programme was going into Ricards Lodge High School for a day and shadowing a member of senior leadership there. They kindly put on a full itinerary for me, including assembly; a walk around the school with a focus on leadership decisions and responsibilities, not just frontline teaching and learning; and meetings with a wide range of school leaders. I was really struck, especially during the walk around the school, by the need to be flexible and creative in leadership, and how essential it is to know your staff, their strengths and their struggles. Good leaders don’t continue to do the same things because that’s how they’ve always been done. They will look at the outcomes they want to achieve, look at the resources they have, and then work out how to make things happen, encouraging staff where they have ambitions and ideas of their own, and supporting where they perhaps lack confidence or experience.
We are often at risk as teachers of being driven by the tangible, data-based improvement we are expected to demonstrate. If I’m honest, I think I would struggle to demonstrate the impact the programme has had on my teaching and my school in terms of improved grades or specific classroom strategies. However, in terms of how reflective I am as a professional, how I view my relationships with colleagues and how I approach my future career, I think the experience has been enriching and beneficial.
This opportunity is open to qualified teachers at SSAT secondary member schools in their first four years of teaching. The initiative is a benefit of membership so there are no costs involved. The initiative started in May 2017 and our first cohort of Leadership Fellows will complete the project in the summer term of 2018. Find out more information.
If you have any queries about the project, or would like to express an interest in the next cohort please contact your relationship manager. The nomination process for 2018/19 will be open in the Autumn term.
Read more on the SSAT blog: A unique investment in potential school leaders