Andy Hargreaves on why driving change ‘from the middle out’ beats top-down reforms and bottom-up initiatives
“I’m really looking forward to speaking at the SSAT conference,” says Professor Andy Hargreaves, Thomas More Brennan Chair at the Lynch School of Education, Boston College, USA. “I’ve always enjoyed addressing and working with outstanding leaders at this conference – it’s really one of the best conferences in leadership around the world. And it sounds like you’ve got some great speakers lined up this year. It should be a very inspiring event.”
This year’s theme of making the impossible possible, he notes, echoes a quote from the great sculptor Henry Moore: “the secret of life is to have a task, something you devote your entire life to, something you bring everything to… for the rest of your life. And the most important thing is: it must be something you cannot possibly do.” Andy Hargreaves comments: “it defines some of the strange things I get myself into as a leader from time to time!”
Dreams and visions – plus attention to detail
In education, as elsewhere in society, he believes this refers to the spectrum of “remarkable dreams, bold visions, extraordinary intuitive thinking – but also paying attention to the detail, and the painstaking work to make those visions and ideas come to life.
“The fact is, you cannot do all of this by yourself. You need a remarkable group of people in the middle of the organisation; a large critical mass of those close to the front line who can carry forward what you believe and everyone else believes in. For schools, this means leading through, with and by your teachers: in networks, in communities, both within and across chains of schools.”
The work he is engaged in at present is just that, in a global network he has founded called The Atlantic Rim Collaboratory. It is all about leading from the middle, but with ministers, deputy ministers and professional leaders from countries around the world, applying a common set of values to attract other countries in a global movement for educational change. This is involving broad visions of excellence, persistent attention to equity, all kinds of inclusion of all kinds of ability and identity, democracy and human rights.
“The research and practical leadership work I’m doing at the moment is what I’ll talk about at the conference – leading globally and locally from the middle. We can do it – with the system and with our schools.”
Find out more and participate in the SSAT National Conference 2016. SSAT member schools receive one complimentary place for both days of the conference.