Can (free) schools avoid nonsense (part 3 – Leadership and management)

I’m reluctant to do a post about how to BE a good manager/leader. There are several reasons for this but the main two are:

  1. I have hated being a manager/leader every time I have tried it. (4 times)
  2. I haven’t seen or experienced enough good management. I could do a pretty comprehensive post on what not to do based on my experiences in teaching but I believe Oldandrew has already done so.

So this is about how to SHOW that leadership and management in a school are good without reams of paper or wasting everyone’s time.

In my experience Senior Leaders trying to show or prove they are doing a good job for the benefit of OFSTED, their performance management or, worst of all, their NPQH is a massive creator of nonsense.

People covering their own backs is another massive generator of nonsense. Upon the inadvertent discovery that everything was our fault (directed at us from above and below) myself and a colleague, as HOD and DHOD felt we had to generate reams of paper proving that all things good were down to us and all things negative were down to the failings of others. This was a colossal waste of time and effort on the part of everyone involved. In the end I decided to focus on the positive and tried to avoid the blame game. As it turned out the results were the best Maths results in the history of the school. Every OFSTED inspection I have been involved in has been preceded by a frenzy of back covering and back stabbing. There’s nothing more depressing than watching someone useless blaming others for their failures and getting away with it due to the naive staff they are blaming things on. Needless to say my back is now fully armored at all times these days…

Rarely a week goes by without some sort of form arriving to fill in about something or other. Normally it’s a list comprising a subset of some group or other that are underachieving. We all have to write why they are underachieving, what we have done about it and what we intend to do about it. Generally what is filled in bears no resemblance to reality and gets filed away as evidence that someone is doing their job properly. I often wonder if OFSTED ever look at this “evidence” that is so painstakingly collated. I often wonder what would happen to the results if people planned, marked, produced resources or developed schemes of work instead of filling in that nonsense.

What do OFSTED want to see in terms of Leadership and Management? In my experience they seem to want answers to the following:

  1. Do you know what is going on in the school with respect to results, teaching and learning, behavior etc?
  2. How do you know what is going on?
  3. Is there a strong ethos and a clear direction for the school?
  4. What do you do when a pupil is underperforming?
  5. What do you do when a member of staff is underperforming?
  6. Are there opportunities and an imperative for staff to improve?

How to do these things with a minimum of nonsense?

1- There will almost certainly be a senior leader in charge of most of these things. They should have a clear picture of the data and discuss anything they aren’t sure about or want explained with HODs and HOYs in line management meetings. If a school has good systems in place and good communication this is relatively straight forward in my opinion. There certainly shouldn’t be a constant stream of extra work for classroom teachers to facilitate this beyond the normal expectations of keeping records.

2- This is for the Senior Leader in charge of X to generate and should not create any extra work for classroom teachers. Results come from data, teaching and learning comes from observations and data and behavior comes from observations, SIMS data (or similar), exclusions data and referrals.

3- This comes from the policies and CPD program of the school and can be evidenced by pupil, staff and parent voice. I’d probably also do something to do with links with the local community as well. Performance management fits in here too with respect to the targets that are given. Observations, learning walks, book scrutinies etc should also show that policies are being followed.

4- There should be, as a matter of policy, a list of things that happen when a pupil is underperforming according to the data. The first of these should be asking the teacher whether they are in agreement that the child is under-performing. When I asked my department why certain pupils were underperforming the most common answer was “unrealistic targets due to inflated KS2 results”. Our baseline tests largely agreed with this.

5- Support and challenge are the key words here. How are underperforming teachers identified? How are they challenged? How are they supported? How does CPD and/or coaching fit in here? How does performance management fit in?

6- This should be part of performance management.

The onus of evidencing the quality of Leadership and Management should largely fall on the shoulders of leaders and managers. Far too often it seems to fall on teaching staff who ought to be doing far more productive things than providing evidence that someone else is doing their job.

Essentially if the results are good, the teaching is good and the behavior is good this one is easy. If a school rates leadership and management in line with everything else then evidencing the quality of leadership and management should be easy. When the leadership want to rate themselves higher than they should nonsense are generated.

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