Educational leadership & learning

I have just finished reading the brilliant John Tomsett’s “This much I know about Love over Fear…Creating a culture for truly Great Teaching.” As well as being an inspiring and thought provoking read, I am also feeling positive as some of John’s points resonate with the journey our school is on.

I am privileged and blessed to be working with an amazing, dedicated, positive staff, who are keen to learn and develop their practice for the benefit of the children and the school as a whole.

Our pupils are interested in learning, very keen to share their thoughts and feelings and are developing a Growth Mindset approach in many aspects of school life.

Our governors are passionate, highly supportive and highly challenging, and are very keen to find out more about education and our school in particular.

An important point about our context is that we only opened in September 2013 with 25 pupils in 2 classes on a temporary site. (We now have 103 pupils in 4 classes). However in September 2018 we will be moving to a brand new 3 form entry building and site and we are predicted to have 630 pupils by 2020. If ever a school had the opportunity to develop a positive learning centred culture which could grow over the years, it would be a school in our situation. I am absolutely sure that by nurturing an Exceptional Learning Community culture now, it can only provide strength and amazing opportunities for the future.

For us an ‘Exceptional Learning Community’ is one in which we all see ourselves as learners, that everyone has value to offer to others, that we all can develop a Growth Mindset approach and that everyone can continue to learn from each other. Showing round prospective candidates for future jobs this culture seems to tangible enough for visitors to recognise.

It has been a long hard autumn term and I was very pleased to receive a number of cards and comments during the last week, two of which I will quote here (both from staff).

  • “To Tim. Thanks for all that you do, for your kindness and for being a great leader.”
  • The other was a conversation with our new teacher. She thanked me for a positive and rewarding term and wanted to let me know how positive, well supported and fulfilled she felt. I replied that we have an excellent, positive and supportive team and therefore I wasn’t surprised. She responded however by saying that it was still down to me as a leader. That in another school with a different head but the same staff it could be very different and I should take my share of the credit.

As a headteacher you don’t often get, or expect to get such lovely and heartfelt compliments, and I have no problem with admitting I felt quite warm inside and a little choked up in both these occasions. However it does lead me to think that we are travelling on the right path as we grow and develop as a school, and makes me incredibly hopeful and excited about our future journey.

This brings me then to John’s book. It is brimming with wise advice and quote galore about the importance of showing respect, kindness and love towards those you work with. About nurturing a culture in which all are valued and empowered, and in which people genuinely love coming into work. Below are a few of my favourite quotes (and yes I struggled to limit the list to these)

  • “I have to create the conditions for students and staff to thrive; if I can do that, then we will all grow.”
  • “The fundamental purpose of school is learning, not teaching.” (Richard Dufour)
  • “Every teacher needs to improve, not because they are not good enough, but because they can get even better.” (Dylan Wiliam)
  • “The only way to develop truly great schools is through each one of us taking responsibility for improving the quality of our teaching…We need to foster a growth culture which is founded upon the belief that all of us can improve.”
  • “Our pursuit of excellence, with effective coaching and deliberate practice, could just make a transformative difference for our students.”
  • “You need to change your school structures until improving the quality of teaching is the explicit outcome of every initiative…make sure your leadership team is focused upon the core business of the school – improving teaching and learning.”
  • “Reculturing is the name of the game. Much change is structural and superficial. The change required is in the culture of what people value and how they work together to accomplish it.” (Michael Fullan)
  • “Until educators accept the fact that fear and quality work are incompatible, there can be no real improvements in the quality of the educational system.”
  • “The single factor common to successful change is that relationships improve. If relationships improve, schools get better.” (Micahel Fullan)
  • “Talent is not innate and it’s only dedicated, determined and disciplined practice that leads to great achievement.” (Joe Kirby)
  • “Ultimately there can be no point in CPD for teachers if it does not impact upon learning.”
  • “Each and every school should define what great teaching is in their context and target all of their CPD to this end. Sustained coaching, with a deep knowledge of the school context and students, can help if it is part of a long-term process of improvement.”
  • “The most important action schools can take to improve outcomes for students is supporting their teachers to be more effective, and the most reliable way to achieve this is to develop a professional culture where teachers are continually adapting and refining their skills and methods.”
  • “What we want for our students we should want for our teachers: learning, challenge, support and respect.” (Andy Hargreaves)
  • “If school leaders have one priority, it is to create in their schools the conditions for growth for their students and staff.”
  • “Improving teaching is about working deliberately at the margins of our practice.”
  • “Headteachers are the single most important defence against the general negativity towards state education. What we have to do is relentlessly exhibit behaviours which are supportive and creative, not penal and reductive
  • “Get the conditions for growth right so that everyone in the school community can thrive as they are inspired to work hard. I use the language of love over the language of fear.”
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