5 essentials for savvy school leaders

Innovate My School

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What does the modern school leader need to ensure best practice for staff and pupils? We asked five pre-eminent experts - here’s what they recommend:

1. Paul McGuire - Get blogging

The leadership tool that I consider most important is Edublogs (www.edublogs.org), though I very much recommend any tool that allows you to send out messages to your staff and parents. I used Edublogs Pro because it allowed me to access their amazing help desk and a few additional features that made blogging a little easier.

I ran two blogs - one for parents that came out one a week and one for staff that I put out each day before school started. Each blog was invaluable to me as a school leader, and each performed distinctly different tasks.

The school or parent blog took the place of the standard newsletter. It came out on Sunday nights and it was filled with great information on what was coming up in the week ahead. The best thing about it was the teacher section. Most staff members sent me a short piece - eventually with photos - specifically designed to keep their parents informed. This was very rich. It kept me and the parents up to speed on what was going on in their classrooms.

The staff blog was my way to communicate daily with staff. I tried really hard not to bombard people with emails all day long about school business. I saved it for one message in the blog every morning. This was the one daily go-to communication for staff. This blog also helped me to focus on what the key messages were for the upcoming day.

2. Niomi Clyde Roberts - Perceiving yourself as others do

Carrying out the 360 diagnostic evaluation (www.bestpracticenet.co.uk/360-diagnostic) gives you a strong idea of your strengths and weaknesses, but also allows you to see whether other colleagues see you in the same light. Remember, it is good to be challenged, so when a diagnostic feedback key area comes back and you’ve scored below where you would place yourself, question why and use this critique to grow.

The specific areas this diagnostic tool looks into are:

One benefit of this tool is that it highlights many different leadership areas that you need to be fluent in. I personally would add an ‘emotional intelligence’ section, below communication, as I think some leaders have strong communication skills but aren’t as fluent in using empathy and understanding difficulties in an individual’s life.

I carried out this diagnostic test whilst completing my NPQML, and I was pleased with my feedback as it matched my scores. I do think it’s an eye-opener for leaders in large organisations, and I do think it should be a test taken by middle leaders, senior leaders, heads and executives. It’s particularly good for opening up points for discussion if there are any disagreements.

The only time this tool doesn’t work is when people are dishonest, or are too anxious to put down their ‘true’ opinions (often due to status). When this happens, it shows that hierarchy is perhaps holding people in their positions and not integrity, hard work and at times, effectiveness. One to keep an eye out for.

3. Bukky Yusuf - Keep it real

The tool that I think that school leaders should use is Google Keep (www.google.com/keep).

I was introduced to this gem at The Festival of Education in June 2017 by James Kieft. The beauty of this tool is that I can use it to dictate reminders, notes or agenda items, which I can then immediately email out as text.

Since this tool is created by Google, it synchronises across all my devices. Google Keep also allows you to attach website links, photos and hand drawn images / notes, which you can then categorise into different 'labels'. This makes it easier to search for any 'keeps' at a later date.

Below is an image of Google Keeps on my mobile.

4. Charlotte James - #WellbeingPledge

If you work work work, early in the morning until late at night, who takes care of you? Who or what fulfills your wellbeing needs? If you are run down, not on top of your game and not happy with life, how does that affect students?

With this important issue in mind, the leadership team here at Aureus School decided to take action. At the beginning of the year, we asked every member of staff to complete a #WellbeingPledge that would be displayed in the wellbeing room for staff to look at each time they go to make a cup of tea. This allows everyone to pledge to themselves something that will either contribute to making their wellbeing better, make them happier, or keep themselves well. Wellbeing means something different to everyone, and everyone's needs are unique, so the pledge can be about anything as long as it enables that teacher the time to be kind to themself in some way.

There is purposefully no template, which allows staff to create and present their pledge in any way they wish. The only guidance is:

  • At the top of the page the heading needs to be “#WellbeingPledge”.
  • The pledge must have your name on it to review.
  • Tell your colleagues that it is going to be displayed.
  • Write what the pledge is.
  • On the back of the paper, write a few bullet points of how you will achieve your wellbeing pledge.

The most important thing is to diarise times in the year for staff to go back and review their pledge, or maybe change it if they wish to. I challenge you to get your staff to make a #WellbeingPledge, because they’re worth it!

5. Jill Berry - The ideal reading list

Those who lead in schools – at all levels – recognise, I am sure, that they continue to learn throughout their careers. One of the fascinating and challenging things about leadership is that we have never ‘cracked it’, and the best leaders, in my experience, are committed to being even better leaders. So where do we look for stimulating debates about leadership which can encourage us to reflect and to continue to develop our leadership skills?

Using Twitter and reading and writing blogs are excellent ways in which we can carve out thinking time, develop networks and learn from others – at the same time contributing to their learning. Many of those who tweet and blog about education also write more fully about leadership in their own books, and I have selected a number of relatively recent publications which I would say are well worth reading, whether you are a middle leader, senior leader, head, executive principal – or just preparing to embrace future leadership opportunities.

I highly recommend the following:

Happy reading! I’m confident you won’t regret investing the time in it.

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