What is the thing that truly makes a difference in a school? The thing that ultimately impacts on the life chances of all the children that pass through your door. What is the magic ingredient?
The answer is simple…Teachers…good teachers. If the teaching is right then the other stuff follows. Sounds really simple doesn’t it. Well that’s because in theory it is. The reality is slightly more challenging.
Truth is we need to invest in our teachers. Great teachers make the difference. We need our teachers to be reflective practitioners, we need to create in our schools communities of learners open to exploring and developing their practice.
If we can’t admit when something isn’t working then we can’t possibly get it right. Performance Management has been in my opinion one of the most mis-used devices in schools. It has essentially been used as a stick to beat people with. It should be something that helps, supports, encourages and rewards staff. It has more often than not been the tool to knock and threaten staff. Creating a climate where staff can develop their practice and sometimes get it wrong is the best way to getting it right.
SLT’s need to create the systems that allow their teachers to be great. Our most important question in all that we do is “So what?” If it’s not making a difference then why the hell are we doing it. Focusing on the stuff that directly impacts on learning and getting rid of the other stuff is an important first step.
I have written before on the concept of Servant Leadership
The main problem with all this is that to get great teachers costs time and money. Investment is the key word. Valuing the professional development of staff as an investment both in them but also as an investment in our school made me place a higher priority on it when in came to budget meetings. Regardless of the financial challenges we face we still need to invest. If we want to look at effective models in other countries one of the big common factors is the time staff are given to develop their practice. If the DfE truly want to make a difference maybe that is something they should look at.
The other thing we need to be aware of is that sometimes life gets in the way. We can’t all be great all the time. Whether we like it or not it is just a job. OK it’s the most important job in the world IMO but it is just a job. There are points and times when you are not “ON IT.” As a head being aware and putting the right support (Support is another dirty word in schools as it has been regularly used as a word in the first step towards a capability) at those times can equally pay dividends. For that to happen there has to be trust. Blogged about that too.
In my school we’ve made a commitment to strive for #everydayexcellence. We are not bothered by the term Outstanding we just try to be the best we can everyday. That to me is more than enough.
I will continue to invest in my staff even if that means that if we do it right they go onto be great elsewhere. That is good leadership.