Today I was very lucky to attend the By leaders for leaders conference at Regents Hall in London. The organic nature, honesty and selfless collaboration these days hold are really important for leaders in schools today as it is very easy to become isolated in your own role within your own context- and conferences like this are really aiming to support school to school collaboration and leadership support, and for this reason- I love attending them. Here is a summary of my takeaways from the day.
Will Smith- opening welcome
This event is like a catalyst, and be encouraged to dive deeper and engage in areas you find interesting.
We are in Beta podcast- interviewing inspirational leaders. Follow the podcast through Spotify/iTunes.
Matthew Syed- Mindset advantage: measure, reflect, improve
Rebel ideas- the power of diversity. We can draw a distinction between demographic diversity, differences in race, gender, age, social class etc in comparison with cognitive diversity and how we process/ deliver ideas and information. There is an overlap between these two areas- especially when building teams. We have to move away from diversity as a box ticking exercise- it can be so much more.
⁃ If your team is cognitively diverse the amount of creative/useful ideas could be vast
⁃ A cognitively diverse team is far more effective and creative
⁃ This is the key source of competitive advantage
⁃ Each person in your team uses a different model to generate their ideas
⁃ With problem solving activities, divergent, challenging views that are converging you get a much more deeper rooted solution
⁃ We are attracted to people who think like we do, we unconsciously gravitate towards people like ourselves. This can be the downfall of teams as if people think like you, they are more likely to agree with you and thus create fundamental flaws. If we employ a team like this it can lead to collective stupidity.
⁃ When we understand the power of cognitive diversity we can unleash divergent thinking and be able to think outside of the box and unleash different solutions
⁃ Running schools are complex, multifaceted institutions with many different and divergent ‘thinkers’- so we need to be able to tap into this which will build a collective responsibility and encourage collaboration.
⁃ Engineer cognitive diversity can lead to extraordinary collective intelligence that can do great things.
⁃ Experts that are individual but their ideas and individual talents add to the development of a school. Teams should be comprised of many different experts that is relevant to the problem. This takes imagination and creativity. This is a source of extraordinary innovation.
What could inform how we think as a leadership team? What voices are we not hearing from? How can their different information challenge us and inform how we change and be more effective? Find the voices that know things we don’t know!
As a leader know what your strengths and developments are and build a team that have different strengths and developments to really encourage cognitive diversity.
Cognitively diverse groups perform better when they are encouraged to be in a cognitively diverse culture/ environment.
Over my dead body: Practical aspirations- Brad Nash (Henley Bank High School- Dove Deeper Day)
The journey Brad spoke about is one that really resonates with me as I have joined a school where the foci for Henley Bank two years ago are very similar to my context now.
2017- P8 -0.87, 7 Head teachers in 5 years. Chaos and frustration and a reputation that is demising. Numbers dropping (53% below capacity)and financial strain. Other head teachers advocating not to come to the school. Students have a lack of aspiration and faith in their school.
First job- increase strident recruitment. How can we change the tide and making the change:
⁃ advocating the wonderful staff, fixing ones that are demoralised and broken
⁃ Strategy is the culture- high aspirations, treating people well and do things simply.
⁃ Drip feed the community every day about aspirations and success without fail.
⁃ Positive quotes on the door every morning for the staff and visitors.
⁃ First impressions count- wearing uniform with pride to send a strong message- uncompromising high expectations
⁃ Read a lot- guided reading and drop everything and read at the end of the day. To encourage improvements in reading ages and this will improve learning
⁃ Disruption free learning- students can learn, teachers can teach so all students can learn
⁃ Simplicity, time efficient, impactful- live marking in lessons only.
⁃ Virtual shop window- simple, clear and effective website. Head teachers letter every week. This enables the head to drip feed the success and aspirations of Staff and students to the parents. Great for well being
⁃ Postcards for parents- dramatic impact on the home school relationships for parents who have your back.
⁃ Colleges rather than houses- tokens. Given for above and beyond, stepping out comfort zone, embodying the ethos.
⁃ Primary school visits- SENCO, AHT and HT visits all primaries, and then invited to meet the head teacher event. The team standing united, clarity of the message, advocating the structure of the school. This also enables HT to show support of staff.
⁃ Fun Friday- director of fun, to keep well being high. Every Friday to develop student and staff wellbeing and aspirations.
⁃ University signpost- with miles to show destinations
⁃ Every day is an open day- visit us and see what the buzz is about. Challenge the parents to see what they need. Parents take themselves with a member of staff.
Outcome: progress 8 in +0.67 in 2019. This shows that improvements and sacrifices of staff have all been worth it. Feeder primaries have increased 5 times. Student recruitment has increased from 57 to 148.
Find out what is your WHY!
Rosenshine’s Principles- Tom Sherrington
Evidence informed wisdom? Teachers have to make calls and judgements all the time about many different things. So how do we get a large amount of research into the hands of a busy teacher? Rosenshine is a small, practical document that applies directly to classroom practice. This is based on observational studies of teachers with great and poor outcomes, studies of cognitive science and the impact of those, and specific strategies to apply. Rosenshine notes that all 3 strands actually compliment each other to support great classroom practice. It’s intuitive and sensible.
The 4 strands is easier to communicate and work with. Research influences our habits- and Rosenshine advocates good habits and enables you to reflect on how well you perform these habits. Rosenshine is built on a model about thinking about learning such as education and training, experience, personal confidence, relationships, self awareness, values, mindsets, personal goals, beliefs about learning and the theory of action.
The impact of cognitive science and development of the long term memory is key to impactful learning. Teachers who understand the reason why it is ok not to cut the corners will have better outcomes with their learners as they are developing the schema of each individual.
Sequencing concepts– understanding how and why things are taught in the way they are. But do staff know this? Do students? Clear focus needs to be on the language that is being used, what is the prior knowledge or foundations in which you are building new knowledge, modelling ideas and giving concrete (practical) experiences but also explaining the relevance of what is being taught to them through clear scaffolding and differentiation.
Questioning– checking the message has been received.
Using a bank of questioning techniques that can be used throughout the learning to check understanding- simple switches for have you understood to what have you understood.
Reviewing material- enabling students to test themselves, check their own learning and develop their own methods of retrieval practice. You need to involve everyone, making checking easy and accurate and outlining the learning that need to happen. This can really develop student confidence. Another option is telling the story- giving key words. Teaching students that some questions are hard and they have a strategy to them- this is done through effective modelling. Skills and drills approach- breaking things down and enabling students to practice, but the key is making all students participate with a level of repetition to enable confidence.
Learning should be built around success through achievable steps and ambitious goals.
Rosenshine’s principles are not a checklist! There is no rule that says this- if you understand learning you will naturally do this not in an enforced way and create that culture where Rosenshine is the law. It’s about how you use it, how well you do them, how intensively you do them, how well you adapt and adjust according to student responses and how well you blend instruction with the principles.
Diving Deeper- 13th November 7:45-12 Rosenshine’s principles in action (Forest of Dean)
Lindsay Caldwell- Leading Curriculum Change
(Dive Deeper Day Cherwell School)
2014 curriculum changes happened. The delivery of WHAT they were teaching wasn’t clear enough. Even though something seems like it is a good idea- but if it’s not working, why are we doing it?
Ideas like this are dispiriting for students, teachers and leaders- and it’s important that our curriculum does not become like this!
We need to consider what is the most important thing in our school? And how are we going to do this? This then creates the guiding principles for change:
⁃ what is going to make the most difference to the students?
⁃ What is going to make things better for the teachers in the classroom?
English case study:
Starting point- Inconsistently effective
⁃ teaching has not been especially research informed
⁃ Associations with personal expression and creativity
⁃ Dedicated faculty
Changes: much more evidence informed, creativity rooted in knowledge, results improved and students learned and developed new skills, priorities knowledge and assessing this (what are the best bits and why are we teaching this?), the sequencing of knowledge and the etymology of curriculum- where does it fit? Is it coherent in building knowledge, standardised assessments (summative and formative)- making sure students and staff know what they are being assessed on and when they will be assessed.
Staff can write down the knowledge and see how it all fits together especially to the wider knowledge. This is about developing a secure knowledge of the subject. So what can we do with subject leaders?
⁃ Recognise the variation and have conversations with faculty leader
⁃ Clear training on the framework: showing the key ideas, properties and structure of the curriculum planning. This is a tool and repeatedly referred back to and sticking to them is important. The language is tentative. This enables rationale and vision for the curriculum.
⁃ 3 meetings a year with HT, SL, SLT link and governor. This enables the people to think about the curriculum and one is dedicated to KS3. Talking about difficult areas of the curriculum- why is it there? What does it connect to? Why I’m that way?
⁃ Road map- this sets out the journey for the subject leader, which allows you to differentiate for each faulty that can lead through each department. This is also supported by a checking document
Christine Counsel- the dignity of the thing (blog)
Leadership and Vision- Will Smith
The most important thing is to look after yourself, build in time to think, reflect and talk to others. Develop the mindsets but in a way that will be effective for you and not in isolation- connect and develop.
Leadership is everything and the person who figures out how to harness the collective genius of their organisation is going to blow the competition away… but actually not in isolation, we need to find a way to bring the teams together and through this it’s not a competition but an advantage.
What we do, how we do it… but what influences you? Stepping back and accepting it’s not about us- it’s about the people around us and how we work within our values, our intent, our drivers and the people within our team. We have to see what we do through our own values and use this as a personal driver to lead change.
Difference in understanding view points and personal values are important drivers for what we do. Great strategic leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt to offer a solution everyone can understand… this is reducing complexity, and increasing clarity to build success. (Colin Powell)
Ask the middle leaders with what the issues are with your school- they will know and be able to pin point it. This will highlight what needs to be challenged.
Pre mortem- we need to see the bigger picture. Understanding what and why we do the things we do at every level. If we can do this successfully all our leaders will be able to drive the successes and vision. Clarity in each persons role as a integral part (especially SLT). Staff need to be open to improvement and where possible we need to develop creative excitement by being open to cognitive diversity and allowing others to contribute ideas. We need to consider the technical competency of our staff- teachers, middle leaders, SLT, HT and CEO. Are too many senior leaders limited in their technical competency in the areas they are leading- developing the expertise in the areas you are leading needs to happen- this is crucial rather than just being an inspirational leader.
As a leader we need to be able to follow through- words are meaningless without intent and follow through. We need to identify and undertake the actions needed to make it happen. The greatest leaders do not let up or let go. Minimise your focus and work hard at them.
A local perspective- Jeremy Turner
Organic growth creates a momentum and with good coaching, an effective structure and organic, substantial growth- so much can be achieved. The sense of collaboration really enables a collaborative cluster- these links can be strong and foster effective school to school support.
Termly leadership development meetings of ideas that are discussed on a national level being implemented in a local context.
Monday 4th November- conference
Dive deeper day for middle leaders- Wednesday 4th December
Linda Emmett- Joy and Ofsted (All saints catholic school)
Can you spot the diamond in the rough? The children that are desperate to learn, parents that want a positive change and governance that wanted the leadership to be effective.
Can you take a school from broken to brilliant? How do you do this? How can we unite a whole community drive the vision of excellence that is what the children deserve?
Ethical leadership has been the catalyst for driving change and empowering others to enable the change to happen:
⁃ Focus on what’s best for the pupils
⁃ Focus on life chances
⁃ Honesty and engaging everyone in the school journey whilst maintaining an open dialogue
⁃ Encourage staff to be open and honest
⁃ Being willing to open the can of worms to enable rapid improvement
Inspiration- rewriting the vision inclusive of every stakeholder in the school (staff, parents, students) and what success will look like. This meant having difficult conversations, investing in high quality training for staff, ambition institute for leaders. The school empower staff at all levels and unleash their brilliance to drive the improvement at all levels, this increases the capacity in the school but also probing and upskilling everyone to be experts in their field.
SLT are in service for staff, SLT expectations, praise for staff and pupils, celebrating relentlessly, showing staff they are valued… these are ways to really galvanise your staff and unite them. Use staff voice and feedback to improve everything and don’t be afraid to reach out for help.
How will you and your leadership be visible, present and support staff even when difficult conversations are needed for the benefit of the students? @lindaemmett4
Diver Deeper day available.
Lessons learned from the summer and what to do now- Joe Ambrose school improvement leader Greenshaw learning trust
Some of the mistakes that school leaders make are:
⁃ Look at current performance rather than past performance, look at what is happening now by gathering as much information as possible about teachers and pupils.
⁃ Current performance tells us more than future predictions, don’t collect data based on teacher performance rather gather data on current pupil performance
⁃ Pick your best players in the most important places, putting experienced and knowledgable teachers with the correct classes to make the biggest impact.
⁃ Deploy your resources including time where they will have the most impact, and we need to make sure that everything year 11 do are not wasting time and is adding value to them. Ask yourself if every part of the pupils day is adding value? If not change it. Making every moment count.
⁃ Play full games- pre season. Proper mock sessions as an opportunity for deliberate practice and being able to experience this 2/3 times a year.
Dean Bellman- The adventure is within, positive mental health
Positive mental health is one end of a continuum and it’s about embracing and developing. Negative mental health was one of the largest causes of staff absence over that last few years. The vast resources of negative mental health is increase in diagnosis and treatment. In order to mitigate this we need to build positive mental health and engage with the greatest adventure in your own mind and take control of this. I order to do this we need to choose one thing and focus on doing that well- this will be our constant, this never varies. So when we choose this as our focal point- we must commit to it.
Positive psychology is a new branch of science and it’s all about taking responsibility and taking control. Having time to listen people, smiling and just keeping going. Buying in to cognitive diversity and developing the team around you so collaboration is successful!
Exposing people to positive psychology will enable them to grow and develop in intrinsic confidence. Positive psychology focuses on positive outliers that plots above the trend line and studies have looked at their characteristics and insights to move the trend line upwards. Success is a combination of the skills, techniques and mindset and developing this in students and teams do staff help. We need to train the brain to see the positive outcome before it happens and preempt the possible pitfalls and how to deal with them in a positive way. This can help build performance but also prevent some of the negative mental health that happens in our sector.
⁃ Dealing with challenge or adversity in the actual moment (not applicable to permanent or pervasive scenarios): recover back to logical thinking using breathing control (4 box breaths), reframe thinking to move forward positively (looking at the same situation from different angles), choosing a positive response and act on it (doesn’t need to solve- just positive action), create a positive memory lens through literal recall of the event (you create the story)- which enables you to face challenge and set back and link it to positive action and post traumatic growth.