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A unique investment in potential school leaders

One of the first participants in the groundbreaking SSAT Leadership Legacy Project explains what is involved, and how much it means to her. Emily Keen, who is responsible for KS3 English and whole school literacy at Richard Challoner School writes.

It’s easy to focus on the negatives in teaching at the moment, but despite the challenges, I am encouraged that many teachers are determined to take their profession seriously.

I love that, despite often being devalued and under pressure, teachers still want to keep up to date with research and use it to refine their skills; to stretch themselves to become better practitioners; to evaluate what makes excellent teaching within their context. The SSAT Leadership Legacy Project certainly promotes and enables all these things.

I have the privilege of working in a school that encourages staff to take ownership of their CPD. This is reflected in the structure and content of staff mentoring, observations and whole staff Inset across the year, but also in individual opportunities. My headteacher suggested I apply for the Leadership Legacy Project and I was struck by what a unique scheme it is: a year-long programme, full of opportunities to observe, reflect on and learn the skills needed for effective school leadership. The way the programme invests in us as potential future school leaders is a great opportunity, and a privilege.

So far, the programme has involved attending the launch event, where we heard from speakers such as Baroness Sue Campbell and Dr William Rankin, Apple’s former director of learning; a session on how to use and interpret data with SSAT’s Colin Logan; the Educational Outcomes Awards Evening at Holland Park School; and an evening at the John Madejski Academy in Reading with Steve Baker, one of the leadership experts involved in the project, starting to discuss our planned Think Pieces.

The programme has already helped my thinking to develop. In particular, I have been struck by:

  • The need for leaders to be authentic – to know what they believe in and stick to it. Baroness Sue Campbell challenged us to know what our non-negotiables are. Vision may change depending on role and context, but core values should remain the same. This has prompted me, with the help of more experienced teachers and school leaders, to start trying to define my own non-negotiable beliefs about education.
  • How much we can learn from other fields of research, such as biology, psychology and business. I particularly enjoyed Dr Rankin’s exploration, taken from molecular biologist John Medina, of how brains thrive on eco-systems and meaningful problems: the more we shrink down information, the more we increase disengagement. As part of my Think Piece, I am looking forward to exploring how this principle might be applied to curriculum design.
  • How important effective leadership actually is. Classroom teachers can do their very best as frontline educators, but they are always influenced, and often restricted, by the system they are in. Effective leadership should free up teachers to do excellent teaching, not burden them with distractions, and effective school systems should be about what’s beneficial in the classroom, not what’s easiest for leaders or computers.

The Leadership Legacy Project is a wonderful initiative, and I’m excited and grateful for the opportunity it will give me over the next 10 months to develop the skills and values I take into my current classroom practice and any other roles I go on to do.

Effective school systems should be about what’s beneficial in the classroom, not what’s easiest for leaders or computers 

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