Educational leadership & learning

Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category

Key Values

Below are the Values that define me as a person in my role as a headteacher:


I shared more about how these have been developed over time and with colleagues in our school at Pedagoo Hamphire 16. The presentation can be viewed at:

Pedagoo Hampshire 16




Finding the lessons

I spent an interesting and reflective half-morning ‘Finding the lessons’ with the Real David Cameron (@realdcameron) and Tim Brighouse in the company of our expert and experienced Senior Leader Clare Ross, thank to the generosity of Hays Education. Their aim was to share some thoughts, ask some questions and engage a room of school leaders in conversation and thinking about their leadership and it’s impact. This required some well needed slowing of pace and quality time for clarity of thinking.

Inside the head of a school leader…


The key ideas that Clare and I took from the session that are pertinent within our context were:

  • Progress, development focui, workload…have to be manageable and sustainable, otherwise they will not become embedded, effective or have long term sustained impact (this reminded me a little of a previous blog of mine: Succinct Understand Apply Embed wp_20161201_20_09_15_pro
  • The evaluation of all that we do should be on the impact it has on the learners (both the children and adults in our schools). The key question is “so what?” (the question I keep on a post-it on my computer screen)
  • The importance of adapting new ideas into current practice (assimilating) rather than adopting them wholescale with no cohesion between current practice and new ‘potential silver bullet’
  • How as leaders we should ask more questions than provide answers. We want our staff to continue to grow as empowered, independent thinking,  reflective professionals. For us at Cornerstone I think this is encapsulated in our definition of ‘Growing an Inspirational Learning Community’ilc
  • That as leaders we need to identify and analyse those actions that require low effort but result in high impact
  • Finally that we need to consider in the busyness of the role of senior leader, and indeed school staff generally, what are the key plates to keep spinning and which can be allowed to slow or dropped


Other points that David and Tim made that resonated were that genuine change can only come from within (whether personally or as an organisation). That as Leaders we create the climate within schools through every word, action and interaction.

That in the education system we are working in a period of constant change, with time often being taken up dealing with structural change. There has been a decentralisation of blame and an overemphasis on leadership.

“We’re caught in a trap…when you don’t believe a word I say…we can’t go on together with suspicious minds.”

Suspicious minds

What we really need in schools is energetic and enthusiastic staff, who are well supported and nurtured, and are passionate about and committed to learning and improvement.




Challenge accepted David and Tim!

Dare to be different

Inspire, Ignite, Imagine.

Will Ryan ( led an entertaining and enlightening session on creative teaching and learning and how leaders can inspire by daring being to be different.

“Failure is never so frightening as regret”

“Never doubt the capacity of a small group of people to change the world.”

Given a choice between changing and proving that the change is not necessary, most people get busy with the proof.

This needs a leader: someone to inspire.


Ofsted Inspector: why might “Different Dufus school” (Dr Seuss) be outstanding?

  • creativity and enthusiasm of teachers makes learning memorable and standards are high
  • balance of pedagogy: discovery and direct instruction
  • headteacher had a vision and was brave and allowed innovative practice and trusted teachers to give them freedom
  • generating new innovative ideas provides an interesting and inspiring curriculum
  • strong relationships so the pupils feel proud of their school and have a sense of belonging
  • positive attitude and expectations
  • Celebrates individuality
  • It stands out, it has something special

How does a leader walk?

  • determined and purposeful
  • with a wobble but never quite falling over
  • in circles
  • the extra mile for others
  • with a creative unique bounce in their step
  • forwards, not always quickly, but always forwards
  • being only you
  • at the front, at the middle, at the back (at different times)

The more they dare to be different the more moments of self-doubt a leader will have.

The 3 generational lesson: children can’t wait to tell their parents when they get home, as parents later in life they will recall the lesson with their own children.

  • Generating visual images
  • Generating language that brings the lesson to life

Think of the best thing that has happened in your classroom that week before you walk out at the end of the week. Record it in a lovely book, a diary of why I am a special teacher.

School leadership

Too many schools have been managed not led.

External frameworks have been forced upon schools. (Outside – in model).

Never set off on a journey without an idea of where you aim to be going.

Leaders need to take time to pause the clock and think.

Leaders cannot do it on their own: they need to deploy others.

Good leaders are almost always great simplifiers. Make every word count.

Constantly communicate what you believe. Inspiring people with your vision. (Invisible leadership).

Communicating the Dream: The Art of Invisible Leadership

Empathetic, Perceptive, Inclusive, Inspirational, Purposeful, Integrity, Forgiveness, Moral purpose.



Workload balance

To be clear from the outset, I don’t think as a school we have resolved all workload issues, or necessarily created original solutions, but I do think we have made progress at Cornerstone CE Primary in Hampshire.

The utopian ideal we keep striving for is to improve learning and outcomes for pupils whilst at the same time supporting staff to make their workload manageable, efficient and sustainable. Motivated, fresh staff with the energy levels to think and focus on the key element of their role (teaching and learning), are more effective, more fulfilled and have a better workload balance.

Part of our Governing Body Vision for the school is to “create a place where staff can thrive” and we as a school we aim to grow an “Inspirational Learning Community“. We define this as:

  • Together igniting a love of learning
  • Encouraging and empowering partnerships
  • Nurturing a Growth Mindset

Together as partners we can encourage each other to explore and learn new ways to manage our workload effectively and ignite the pupils learning.

We are a relatively new school (we opened September 2013, and currently have 133 YR-Y4 pupils) and therefore part of our challenge is to develop our planning, curriculum, marking, feedback and use of data in manageable ways within a new context. Not straightforward.


Planning and resourcing

  1. Planning is critical and underpins effective teaching. Planning has been a focus for CPD and professional discussions in staff meetings. The focus is on making sure planning is useful for the teacher to promote learning (not for other purposes)
  2. Planning a sequence of lessons is more important than writing individual lessons plans. We do not write individual lesson plans. For English and Maths we have devised a ‘Unit of Learning’ format which encapsulates elements of our Teaching for Learning policy. We have also devised simple medium term planning units for other subjects, with the expectation that there only needs to be a minimum of 4 lessons a half-term. Staff are free and trusted to adapt and use the planning as is most helpful for their teaching and for their particular class.
  3. Blocks of time to allow for proper collaborative planning which offers excellent opportunities for professional development. As a whole staff we have designed and then revisited our curriculum overviews. We have also discussed and adapted Assessment Journeys for all subjects to support staff planning. In their first year teachers are released for a half-day each half-term to work with our Curriculum Leader. We are also fortunate to have an English SLE on our staff team, who has been released for half days to work on planning with colleagues. We have also used many staff meetings to discuss and develop our understanding of planning effectively for English and Maths.
  4. Planning should start from the curriculum to be taught not the activities. We have spent time focusing on the key importance of clear Learning Aims, with linked Success Criteria in our planning and within each lesson. We have also developed ‘Learning Journey Prompts’ which are a series of questions that can be asked at the start, during and at the end of a sequence of learning, to support the pupils to think about and reflect on their learning rather than on what they are doing.
  5. Consider the use of externally produced and quality assured resources. Staff make good use of online platforms like Twinkl and Purple Mash. We could probably do more in this area to support staff, although there is a danger that if there are too many sources of support it can become overwhelming.



  1. The quality of feedback should not be confused with the quantity. As a staff we have developed a Feedback policy (we have no marking policy) which is only on one page of A4. It has a set of clear principles: that it should offer specific next steps, that time needs to be given for pupils to think and improve; and that teachers should use their professional judgement. It has a clear set of aims: to assist and activate learning and to raise learners’ attainment and standards. The actions that teachers undertake only cover half of the policy. The majority of the feedback is given during lesson time, (either verbally or with quick green and pink highlights) which is more effective for the pupils learning and they can act on feedback instantly. At the end of lessons staff and pupils assess against the Learning Aim and/or Success Criteria (again either with a quick coloured highlight or coloured dots).
  2. Marking practice that does not have the desired impact on pupil outcomes is a time wasting burden. We keep re-iterating as a staff team, and to parents and governors that any feedback in books is for pupils only. We will not write comments for anyone else.
  3. Meaningful, manageable and motivating. As explained above we believe our use of feedback is meaningful and manageable. Pupils are motivated as much by ‘Think Pinks’ which gives advice or identifies aspects to improve, as they are by ‘Great Greens’, which celebrates successes. Our continuing focus on nurturing a Growth Mindset, both with our pupils and ourselves, helps us recognise and be motivated by mistakes.


Data collection

  1. Only collect what is needed to support outcomes for learners…When used well, data can have a profound and positive impact. We have designed our own Assessment Journeys for reading, writing and maths (essentially these are fairly basic Excel spreadsheets). We assess against the objectives from the National Curriculum and nothing else. We have devised and revised our own criteria for inputting the numbers 1, 2 and 3. A 2 equates to meeting End of Year Expectations (ARE) and 3 is for those who have demonstrated learning at a deeper level. Although the numbers do automatically calculate an overall percentage for each child and each class, teachers are more focused on aspects of the curriculum which have not been sufficiently covered or where there are gaps for individuals or groups. This information is then used by teachers to inform future planning. This is the only data collection required for core subjects. This one document is then used by myself as headteacher to analyse standards, but it is based on teacher assessments of the pupils progress in their learning journey. Staff usually update these Assessment Journeys at the end of each 2 or 3 week Unit of Learning, whilst the pupil achievements are still fresh in their minds.
  2. We must insist on broader professional pedagogical conversations where data is a component part. There are a number of times each half-term when teachers choose to come to discuss a particular pupils work with me, to attempt to assess the extent to which the pupil is secure in their understanding and learning. These are never simple, but are useful and powerful conversations. Four times a year we have PAMs (Pupil Achievement Meetings) where we discuss the Assessment Journeys and the evidence base for some of the teacher’s judgements. These are professional discussions and not one way checks on numbers.
  3. Create an assessment and data collection calendar. The PAMS are identified on the termly staff development meeting timetable. The week in which they take place, we do not have any other meetings.

As I stated at the beginning of this blog, I do not think we have resolved all workload issues at Cornerstone, but the positive steps we have taken we have done so as a whole staff team together. This has supported the growth of our ‘Inspirational Learning Community’ and keeps us focusing on improving pupil learning and outcomes whilst making workload more manageable, efficient and sustainable as we move forward.








Management of Safeguarding

In our recent Full Governing Body meeting, the governors discussed the second section of the new version of “Keeping Children Safe in Education” which details their responsibilities re. The Management of Safeguarding.

During our most recent Ofsted (May 2015) the Inspector noted that “the school has robust and effective systems to ensure pupils are kept safe.” However we all know this is a crucial part of our role, and our governors are effective at challenging the practice and policies of the school, in a drive to keep improving our Safeguarding procedures.

As part of this we have designed a document which gives an overview of the responsibilities laid out in The Management of Safeguarding. It highlights actions and questions for the governors to undertake / ask during meetings and during visits to our school. Our aim is to have even greater robust conversations, and thorough evidence of the great work of our governors working in partnership with us for the benefit of the children.

It is attached below as a Word document. Please feel free to amend, use, ignore as you wish. If you have any suggestions for improvements, or other similar documentation we would be grateful to see a copy.



I have kindly been invited by Martyn Reah (@MartynReah) to speak at the #PedagooHampshire16 on Saturday 17 September at Eggars School in Alton. The focus for the day in on the #teacher5aday and staff wellbeing.

In this session I will be sharing how as a new and growing school we have tried to find our collective WHY, for doing what we do and our motivation for coming in every day.

  • I share and discuss my principles as HT
  • The whole school community have been involved in debating and choosing our school Values
  • Staff have collectively created the Teaching for Learning policy, including the principles and aims
  • As part of this policy they have also selected 7 Learning Values we will try to encourage our pupils to develop before they leave us in Year 6
  • The staff and pupils have also collectively defined ourselves as an ‘Inspirational Learning Community’

We know we haven’t got everything right. We know there is plenty more to do. But we hope that with a focus on: Values, vision, ethos and wellbeing we will be able to confidently enjoy the coming terms and years of our shared journey.

The presentation that I am going to use to keep myself on subject is attached below if you would care to read it:

Developing shared Values & Purpose

For information about this wonderful day, including details on other presenters, please click on the following link:




Leadership Key Priorities

As the headteacher of a new and small school, days and weeks can fly by feeling very full and busy. However on reflection they are not always filled with a controlled focus on the key priorities. These other tasks are usually important and valuable, but they can distract my attention from the key strategic priorities which should be the centre of my focus and impact.

To try and force myself to say no more often and to make wiser in the moment decisions about how I use my time strategically, I have compiled a Top Ten Key Priority list, which I will display in my office this half-term. It is not earth shattering, or amazingly perceptive, but will it give me clearer focus? Will it make a difference?

I have split the list into two priority groups: 6 that are most crucial and 4 that are just crucial.

  1. DSL (CPLO): Safeguarding has to be the top priority at all times. Any issues automatically take precedence over any other tasks
  2. Strategic Development: planning, reviewing, refining, constantly looking a few steps forward
  3. Self-evaluation: evaluating the ongoing impact of actions and whole school provision
  4. Teaching & Learning: ensuring consistently high standards, a coaching and learning culture
  5. Data and progress: measuring and analysing, focusing on pupil outcomes
  6. Health & Safety: ensuring processes, systems and the full site are safe and people’s wellbeing is supported

7.  Curriculum & Assessment: what is being taught, how and how we are assessing learning effectively

8.Monitoring: lessons, pupils work, learning environments, planning, pupils’ views, staff’s views…

9. Behaviour: appropriate behaviour from pupils and adults that align with our Values and policies

10. CPD: investing in staff, to enable them to continue to grow as motivated and empowered professionals

So this half-term, anything outside of this list will be left until time is available. We’ll see how it goes…

Tag Cloud

%d bloggers like this: