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Leadership, Thursday Thunks

Where Will All the Leaders Come From? #ThursdayThunk

If you think we’ve got a leadership recruitment problem now; you ain’t seen anything yet.  There’s a tsunami of job vacancies coming over the next five years and a dearth of high quality applicants.  We’re coming to this issue too late and in a piecemeal way.

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

Photo Credit: Gian Luigi Perrella via Flickr cc

What’s the minimum time it takes to grow a school leader?  Does it vary from primary to secondary to special school or is it about the same.  What do you need to bring to the table to be an effective leader in terms of skills, knowledge and experiences?

A mad dash to London on Tuesday afternoon, following two meetings and four admission appeal hearings in the morning, and an equally hasty retreat back North on Wednesday morning, in time to deliver training to Directors on the new primary school assessments followed by the full Board Meeting, allowed me to sandwich in a meeting over dinner.  Chatham House rules apply so please keep this post between the two of us.

The latest Academies Financial Handbook emphasises “that all trusts must have a senior executive leader who should also be appointed as accounting officer, and that these roles must not rotate”.  The creation of more CEOs, to lead multi academy trusts, is a bit of a double edged sword.  Putting aside many current head teachers don’t want to be line managed; appointing CEOs will increase the number of head teacher vacancies.  The hope has to be that we can lighten a head teacher’s load, act as a mentor and coach and form a cross schools leadership team that makes headship more attractive.

We need more leaders; should we accelerate teachers through to senior leadership or look to recruit from outside the profession.  Nine years after walking into the class room I walked in to an office with “Deputy Headteacher” on the door.  Had I enough experience to be a senior leader in an 11-18 school of over a thousand students; how much is it reasonable to learn on the job and how much do you need at the starting gate?  Cards on the table I like my senior leaders to have class room experience.  Our business is teaching, assessment and learning.  Making wise decisions as a headteacher needs you to be rooted in our core daily activity.

Does every school need a headteacher could a future model look like: CEO leading a number of executive headteachers, with substantive deputies in each school, and headteachers in a more mixed economy?  It’s already happening in a number of schools but seems to be in response to a crisis rather than a deliberate strategy.  What would encourage you into headship?

Part of the problem we face is that we are collectively pants at developing leaders.  There’s some great work going on in leadership development but these bright spots are too few and far between.  Your development as a school leader is far too much down to chance and the luck of the draw.  A long term, systematic development programme needs to sit alongside a fundamental culture shift; leading to more people wanting to become senior leaders and headteachers.  We may yet avoid the looming crisis.

#ThursdayThunk is based on something I’ve been thinking about, discussing, working on or has been topical that week.  The thunk is designed to be bite sized and will deliberately be kept short.  It will take one small issue or an aspect of something much bigger.  The intention is for it to be read in two/three minutes as you’re busy running around at the end of the week or relaxing on your day off.



6 thoughts on “Where Will All the Leaders Come From? #ThursdayThunk

  1. I completely agree and would like to suggest a specific aspect that seems to be a Cinderella subject. In the current climate, financial leadership is an essential skill and one I fear aspiring headteachers don’t get enough training and experience in before being put in charge of a multi million pound budget.

    With all the uncertainty over the National Funding Formula and the cost pressures schools are having to absorb, it’s a key area for leadership development. If you don’t manage your resources well, it’s going to be difficult to secure improvement and stay afloat. Many current leaders won’t have been responsible for budgets the last time schools were facing potential cuts.

    I’ve blogged about financial leadership here: https://schoolfinancialsuccess.com/prioritising-strategic-school-financial-leadership/

    Posted by Julie Cordiner | July 14, 2016, 8:01 am
  2. My feeling is that schools, perhaps particularly in the north (and other outlying areas), are missing opportunities for leadership development and succession planning from the outset. Big trusts like Harris and others in the south have large scale development programmes and from the earliest NQT days young teachers are aware of the pathway ahead of them, should they chose to go for it. The Outwood group offer similar provision in the central northern belt, but there’s not so much in the north west and north east regions when you move out from the cities. The potential to connect and collaborate on trust-wide projects as well as smaller scale own-school responsibilities offers challenge and broader experiences that many teachers in outlying areas, where the teaching population is slower moving, and geographically disparate, cannot access. Bigger Teaching School Alliances can maybe provide more here, but it needs long term vision and planning, underpinned by faith in others in the future to do a better job than you can do presently. Some schools offer next to no leadership training, don’t put people into National College leadership training cohorts, don’t support Masters programmes…This leaves some teachers with the feeling that there value is as classroom fodder and nothing more. Leaders are brought in from other areas and the classroom workforce stagnates. This provision of open access leadership development is a function I’d like to see developed by the College of Teaching, along with a mentoring and career guidance role to assist those who don’t get the local support that some colleagues in other regions benefit from.

    Posted by misslisa67 | July 14, 2016, 7:27 pm
  3. “We need more leaders; should we accelerate teachers through to senior leadership or look to recruit from outside the profession?”

    Like you, Stephen, I think the strongest school leaders have a background in teaching. I think the Middle Leader/Senior Leader/Headteacher (with the possibility of second headship, perhaps Executive Headship after that for those who are suited to it) provides a sensible structure and strong career path. But we do need more research into what is putting potential Senior Leaders and Heads off taking that step, and act on the research evidence to ensure that senior leadership and headship are seen as appealing future goals. I loved being a Head – definitely the most enjoyable and rewarding job I had.

    It took me 20 years to progress from newly qualified teacher to Head, and I fully appreciate that now it may be more likely to take 10-15 years. I think that’s fine – we are now for more aware of the value of training for aspiring and new Middle Leaders, Senior Leaders and Heads, so emerging leaders at all levels are better prepared (though I take your point about the patchiness of this). And I do think what makes you an effective ML could make you an effective SL and Head in due course. The nature of leadership doesn’t dramatically change, I would say – only the scale/scope.

    Thanks for the post. This is something I’m really interested in!

    Posted by jillberry102 | July 15, 2016, 7:27 pm
    • You’re welcome Jill. Thanks for leaving the comment

      Posted by LeadingLearner | July 15, 2016, 11:22 pm
    • I agree, but across the pond, my observation about admin. is that they are either Mr. Doolittle, or Ms. Robot with no true teaching skills or understanding of children and teachers. They are only climbers of the ladder, for higher salary and power. Some years the schools I was in would have run better with no admin. They got in the way of real teaching and learning. It was PATHETIC !

      Posted by maria | July 15, 2016, 11:46 pm

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