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Issue 47 January/February 2011




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Success takes all sorts The need to move forward, to develop and grow, is a core human drive. For some, the movement is slow and limited by expectations; for others, it is rapid and hyperbolic. Most school heads started as teachers, and they are the ones who didn’t see a limit to their potential (page 24). School leaders are people too (believe it or not). Their aims for their schools – to constantly improve the potential and achievement of their pupils – mirror their ambitions for their own careers. I don’t believe this is just the case for the best school leaders. I believe it is true for every school leader in the country. No head wants to rest on his or her laurels, no matter how successful. In practical terms, we can only be sure of progression by measuring where we are now. The self-evaluation form did this for us in a rather cumbersome way. Now that particular document has been scrapped, however, there is a strong argument for continuing with the concept (page 40). In terms of resources for improvement, there are many avenues. Sometimes, to move things forward in a dramatic way, there has to be new thinking – this was the case for Islington Council, which relies on a private-sector company, Cambridge Education, to support its schools’ improvement (page 28). At other times the resources can be less all-encompassing and more personal, such as the National Leaders of Education scheme – the growing band of professionals who share their knowledge and expertise with other school leaders (page 32). The greater the desire to achieve, the higher the achievement is likely to be. There has to be enough pain to make failure

impossible to consider – and the Government has been very effective at providing that pain through Ofsted and through league tables (pages 8-9). But, more importantly, there has to be enough pleasure attached to the success. That is why it is so important for Government to publicly recognise the role school leaders play in our country. The Teaching Awards (page 20) are just one example of how this can be done successfully. But these incentives and disincentives are external. They miss the fact that success can be the happiness of your children, the way they work together and believe in themselves. Success can be a high set of exam results, or it can be the knowledge that your pupils have gone on to lead well-adjusted lives. One of the biggest problems in improving schools today is a lack of clarity about what you are trying to improve. With externally imposed and utilitarian notions of what it is to be a good school, there will always be a need to focus on multiple goals. The best school leaders have a set of goals that are focused on what is best for the pupils in their care. Those goals will inevitably include the expectations of Government, but they will encompass so much more.

‘Every school leader in the country wants to improve the potential and achievement of their pupils. No head wants to rest on his or her laurels’

redactive publishing limited EDITORIAL & ASSOCIATION ENQUIRIES NAHT, 1 Heath Square, Boltro Road, Haywards Heath, West Sussex RH16 1BL Tel: 01444 472 472 Editor: Robert Sanders Editorial board: Russell Hobby, Chris Howard, Mike Welsh, Chris Harrison and Robert Sanders Leadership Focus is published by Redactive Publishing Limited on behalf of the NAHT

17 Britton Street, London EC1M 5TP Tel: 020 7880 6200 Email:

EDITORIAL TEAM Managing editor: Steve Smethurst Assistant editors: Rebecca Grant and Sarah Campbell News and features reporter: Hollie Ewers Designer: Adrian Taylor Senior picture editor: Claire Echavarry Deputy production manager: Kieran Tobin Cover image: Francesco Bongiorni Printed by: Wyndeham Heron

ADVERTISING ENQUIRIES Advertisement sales: James Francis Sales director: Jason Grant

Member of the Audit Bureau of Circulation: 27,577 (July 2009-June 2010)

ISSN: 1472–6181 © Copyright 2011 NAHT All rights reserved; no part of this publication may be copied or reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopy, recording or otherwise without the prior written permission of the publishers. While every care has been taken in the compilation of this publication, neither the publisher nor the NAHT can accept responsibility for any inaccuracies or changes since compilation, or for consequential loss arising from such changes or inaccuracies, or for any other loss, direct or consequential, arising in connection with information in this publication. Acceptance of advertisements does not imply recommendation by the publishers. The views herein are not necessarily those of the publisher, the editor or the NAHT.


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Recruiting head teachers is getting harder. Buy why? Are deputies put off by seeing all the paperwork their bosses have to do, or are governors being overly cautious about the sort of person they take on? BY CARLY CHYNOWETH



6 NEWS FOCUS 6 CONCERNS OVER WHITE PAPER The Government’s policy document has received a cautious welcome, but accountability demands must be balanced against freedom to deliver education, says the NAHT.

8 UNITED ON ASSESSMENT REFORM Three unions have put their weight behind a call for the abolition of Sats, in an attempt to influence the Bew Review.

8 PUPIL PREMIUM ‘ALMOST DERISORY’ £430 per underprivileged pupil may not be enough to make any difference to levels of deprivation, and yet schools will be expected to show how they are using the money.

9 OFSTED’S ROLE UNDER SCRUTINY In the light of the publication of the inspectorate’s annual report, has Ofsted become too big for its own good? 4

9 BEST OF THE BLOGS “As we settle down to the White Paper we need to watch the space where improved grammar and spelling, a baccalaureate approach and performance tables collide. Is the nation ready for it?” asks Arthur De Caux.

10 UK SLIPS DOWN WORLD RANKINGS The results of the latest round of Programme for International Student Assessment tests show UK standards in reading, maths and science in decline.

10 EDUCATION SHOW 2011 Find out about the latest resources, keep up with policy developments and network with peers at this year’s show at the NEC in Birmingham.

12 PHOTO COMPETITION WINNERS See the pictures that caught the judges’ eye in the latest competition, run by the NAHT and the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres.


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Rebecca Grant examines the 10-year-old partnership between Islington Council and a private support-services provider.

32 SEND FOR REINFORCEMENTS The number of National Leaders of Education is set to double by 2014. Sarah Campbell looks into the work they do.

36 SITES FOR SORE EYES What do you do if a parent sets up a Facebook page calling for your dismissal? Mark Jansen investigates.


40 A SUDDEN LOSS OF FORM The SEF might have had its day, but self-evaluation itself is as important as ever, says Ian Rowe.

44 FIVE TIPS ON SAVING MONEY Graham Cooper offers some ways to make your technology work harder for you – and save you some pennies.


15 RUSSELL HOBBY’S COLUMN Children are less likely to thrive in a dysfunctional family – and the same goes for a dysfunctional education system. Schools need to be free to aim high and set their own boundaries without the constant fear of admonishment.

16 TEN THINGS WE’VE LEARNED Twitter and Facebook erode concentration in the classroom, fountain pens are obsolete, and A-level students can go on to study maple syrup at university.

18 HEADS UP Three school leaders take the magazine’s big question challenge by telling us about their favourite biscuits, guilty secrets and the biggest challenge of all… their best joke.

20 BEHIND THE HEADLINES: TEACHING AWARDS Hollie Ewers speaks to the winners of the Teaching Awards 2010 to find out what practical advice and wisdom they can pass on to their school leader colleagues.


46 WHAT’S NEW All the latest books and educational resources.

49 RANTLINE What’s driving you mad? Is it league tables, over-work, FMSiS or all the aggravation caused by the snow and ice? Find out here...


50 AND FINALLY: SUSAN YOUNG Schools are like real life, just that bit more surprising, says our columnist Susan Young as she recalls a highly enjoyable prize-giving evening with a difference.


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Michael Gove: ‘For too long teachers have been hamstrung by bureaucracy’

White Paper raises ‘freedom’ worries The Government must refrain from telling teachers how to teach, says the NAHT The Government’s White Paper on schools has received a cautious welcome from the NAHT, although it is still concerned about the balance between accountability and freedom. The forthcoming curriculum review, in particular, must be handled carefully to avoid imposing specific methods of teaching. NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby said: “It is right for the country to set out its expectations of what should be taught but wrong to say how it should be done.” Education Secretary Michael Gove said the White Paper addresses the fact that for many years teachers have been ‘hamstrung by bureaucracy’. “The coalition Government plans to recruit more people into teaching, train our existing teachers better and free them from bureaucracy and Whitehall control,” he said. Kathy James, the Association’s Director of Policy and Campaigns, said the wish to give teachers more freedom was commendable, “but we don’t want freedoms with conditions attached. If it’s the case that schools are free to deliver an appropriate education and the outcomes of that


will be checked, that’s fine. But saying to heads: ‘You will deliver by this method’ takes away the freedom.” The omission of a bigger mention of support staff in the White Paper also reveals a lack of understanding of how modern school communities operate. “Schools have moved towards a much more collegiate approach. We applaud the notion expressed in the White Paper’s title, The Importance of Teaching,” said Kathy, “but we mustn’t ignore the rest of the school staff. Schools work efficiently and effectively when all the staff are pulling together.” The White Paper sets out five main policy points: powers for teachers to improve discipline; a vision for a transformed school curriculum; the reform of school performance tables; a pupil premium for the most deprived children; and plans to develop a fairer and more transparent funding system. Members should keep an eye on developments in the coming months, said Kathy, and make their views known by responding to consultations. Several reviews are due to take place this year, including on the curriculum, on testing and assessment (the Bew Review) and on funding distribution. Keep up to date at: welcome/resources/key-topics

The primary school league tables for 2010 were published amid controversy, as results highlighted that nearly 1,000 primary schools in England that carried out Sats did not meet new minimum standards. Schools are now expected to have at least 60 per cent of their pupils achieving Level 4 in both maths and English – up from 55 per cent last year. Schools underperforming could face intervention, possible closure, take-over or conversion into an academy. NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby said the system of league tables painted a hugely misleading picture and did not provide good quality information for parents on their child’s learning or the quality of local schools.

A SOUND CONSTITUTION The groundwork for a new NAHT constitution was laid when members voted on a new set of rules at a Special General Meeting in London in December. This is the product of almost two years of work to create a modern document that reflects current laws and conditions. After the meeting, NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby said: “It was particularly important to meet concerns around the role of life members, who are an indispensable and much valued part of our association. I think we achieved that balance today.” More details about the constitution will be available soon.

THANKS FOR 25 YEARS OF SERVICE Camden’s longest-serving head teacher was honoured at a ceremony in November. Isobel Gaffney (left), 55, has been head of the Rosary School in Camden, South London – which has been judged outstanding by Ofsted in its past two inspections – for 25 years. She was the youngest head teacher in London when she was appointed in 1985. Pupils held a special assembly for Isobel at school. Later, staff, governors, past teachers and friends attended a mass led by Bishop John Arnold of the Diocese of Westminster. “It was so beautifully done,” Isobel told LF. “It’s been a pleasure working here – it’s such a lovely school.” She has no immediate plans to retire. “I could have taken early retirement, but I really enjoy my job,” she said.


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United on KS2 tests The NAHT has teamed up with other associations to present a united front on the campaign against KS2 testing The UK’s three major teaching unions have united to deliver a powerful call for the abolition of Sats. In a joint document, Common Ground on Assessment and Accountability in Primary Schools, the NAHT, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the National Union of Teachers (NUT) have demanded an end to the confused testing and accountability system in England. The unions hope that the document, with the weight of most of the teaching profession behind it, will influence the outcome of the Government’s review of KS2 testing, led by Lord Bew. Mary Bousted, General Secretary of the ATL, said: “The onus is now on the Government to invent tests that overcome the known problems with Sats and can be valuable, accept that Sats need to be scrapped, or admit that ideology is more important than what’s best for children’s education.”

Christine Blower, General Secretary of the NUT, added: “We need to see the end of the demoralising and unnecessary scourge of league tables.” The NAHT’s General Secretary Russell Hobby also reiterated the Association’s view that teacher assessment provides parents with a more accurate judgment of pupils’ progress than Sats.

Reform drive: update Assessment reform campaigners from the NAHT went before the Bew Review to give the Association’s view on the future of testing at KS2 in December. Amanda Hulme, chair of the assessment reform campaign and head teacher at Claypool Primary School in Bolton, said: “The review group was very open, asked lots of questions and was very interested in what we said.” Lord Bew has called for evidence from individuals too and NAHT members are urged to make their opinions known via the Department for Education’s website (link below). Lord Bew is due to publish his final report in June. Bew Review:

‘The onus is now on the Government to invent tests that overcome the known problems with Sats, or accept that Sats need to be scrapped’

HEADS AWAIT CLARITY ON PUPIL PREMIUM The Government’s plan to give schools in England £430 per deprived pupil they take next year ‘borders on derisory’, according to NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby. Head teachers are still waiting to find out how the pupil premium will fit with the Dedicated Schools Grant. “Until we see figures in school budgets we won’t quite know how it’s going to play out,” said Kathy James, the NAHT’s Director of Policy and Campaigns. Further uncertainty remains over how the Government will measure the premium’s effectiveness. Kathy said: “Heads will have to demonstrate how the money has helped relieve deprivation. But we’re not sure what measures will be used to show that deprivation has been addressed.” The premium could help schools in affluent areas with a high number of pupils receiving free school meals, which are unlikely to have had much deprivation funding in the past because their Local Authorities will not have received it. But even for schools in deprived areas, £430 per pupil is not a lot unless multiplied many times. And as Kathy says: “If that’s the case, it generally means you’ve already got deprivation funding.” It is also unclear whether the premium would be instead of or on top of that existing funding.

The conference so good it’s running twice


leading your school through a period of austerity; and keeping pupils engaged so they gain the most from their education. Confirmed speakers include ‘communications champion’ Jean Gross; the ‘UK’s leading trainer in modern learning methods’ Alistair Smith (Reading); and ‘Europe’s leading online-learning expert’ Professor Stephen Heppell (Leeds). Schools Minister Nick Gibb (pictured) is also invited to attend as a keynote speaker.

Delegates will be able to choose to attend three workshops from an extensive list, including: managing budgets; workforce and staff wellbeing; safeguarding; cyberbullying; attendance and behaviour; external peer-topeer moderation of assessment; and PSHE. For further details of the conference and to book your place visit or see Professional Development magazine (enclosed with this issue of LF)


One of the highlights of the NAHT calendar this year will be the twin-centre Education Conference, subtitled ‘Futureproofing learning’. For the first time, this practical and instructive event will take place twice – at Wokefield Park, Reading, on 4 March and then at the Marriott Hotel in Leeds on 25 March. The conferences will be relevant to all school leaders as they look at how government policy manifests itself on the front line; the challenges of


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It’s hard to criticise choice. It sounds good. And opposing choice in public services makes you sound like an old school statist, says Russell Hobby. Yet choice in education is problematic. The argument in favour of choice is that it is a more subtle and direct form of accountability. The most obvious argument against is that not everyone can exercise choice to the same degree, a bit like being limited in house choice if you can’t afford an expensive one.

Shifting goalposts: changes to the Ofsted framework may have an impact on results


Inspection regime ‘needs to change’ category because of that change in the framework.” She also expressed concern about a lack of appropriate experience among some inspectors. The NAHT would like to see a complete overhaul of the inspection system. Lesley said: “Many of the witnesses who gave evidence about Ofsted to the Education Select Committee, including the NAHT, are saying the same thing: that Ofsted is not working very well, that it’s become too big, that its remit has become unclear and that it is using providers that it doesn’t have sufficient control over.” The Bew Review of assessment is an ideal opportunity for an overhaul, she added. “It goes hand-in-hand with a review of accountability systems, of which inspection is a key one,” she said. NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby said: “Even in challenging circumstances, great leadership and teaching are transforming lives. But judgments about the quality of teaching and learning are too often based on snapshot impressions of excerpts of lessons and by inspectors unfamiliar with the sector they are inspecting. This has to change.” blogs/arthur-de-caux

HIDDEN MESSAGES “Unruly pupils ‘hidden’ from Ofsted inspectors” claimed the headline in the Guardian. Steve Smethurst wondered a few things as he read the article. One was related to Tom Trust, a witness to the mass hidings. He is a ‘former elected member of the General Teaching Council for England’. Why was he saying all this now? Didn’t Mr Trust feel like making this kind of comment when he was at the GTCE?


Ofsted’s Annual Report shows that most schools are well led and are great places to be for children and teachers, according to the NAHT. However, the Association has concerns about the current inspection framework. Of the schools inspected by Ofsted in 2009-10, 56 per cent were judged to provide a good or outstanding education, and more than three-quarters have sustained their performance or improved since their previous inspection. But the report concluded that satisfactory schools were making slow progress: less than one-third of those monitored have made good progress since their previous inspection. Changes to the way inspections are done – to a greater focus on risk assessment – may account for the perceived static or declining performance of some schools, said Lesley Gannon, Head of Campaigns at the NAHT. “It’s difficult to compare year on year because the goalposts have moved. It means that schools that may have been doing better than in their previous inspection are staying at the same grade or being put in a lower

And so Mr Gove has produced his White Paper to join the list of Green Papers, Bills, Acts, Statutory Instruments, Circulars, Initiatives, Jolly Wheezes and Cunning Plans since the mid-1980s when Secretaries of State started taking an interest in schools, says Arthur De Caux. As we settle down to the White Paper we need to watch the space where improved grammar and spelling, exams, a baccalaureate approach, performance tables and a house point system collide – because if the examinations are to be made harder, it is inevitable that pupils will do less well. Is the nation ready for it?

RESULTS ANALYSIS Much has been written about the UK’s disappointing set of results in the latest Programme for International Student Assessment tests, which assess 15-year-olds around the world in reading, maths and science (see News, page 10). But, says Warwick Mansell, why are domestic GSCE and KS2 results rising when PISA results are falling? warwick-mansells-blog


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UK’s academic performance slips The PISA results suggest the UK Government is not investing in education in an effective way The UK has continued to slide down the rankings of the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA), which rates the performance of 15-year-olds in reading, science and maths in 65 countries. England came 25th for reading, 27th for maths and 16th for science in the latest rankings, compared with 7th, 8th and 4th respectively in 2000, when 32 countries participated. Wales is now 38th for reading, 40th for maths and 30th for science; and Northern Ireland is 19th for reading, 31st for maths and 20th for science. Education Secretary Michael Gove said the study, produced by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), underlined the need to reform the school system. A briefing note from the report suggested that the UK may be investing its education funds wrongly:

‘It can be no surprise that we are stationary when our resources are dedicated to the latest targets at the expense of building the capacity to be great’ “Only seven OECD countries spend more per student than the UK. Other successful PISA countries invest the money where the challenges are greatest rather than making the resources that schools get a function of the wealth of schools’ local communities.” NAHT General Secretary Russell Hobby said: “It can be no surprise that we are stationary when our energy and resources are dedicated to the latest targets at the expense of building the capacity required to be truly great.” The rankings and the accompanying report also highlight inequalities between rich and poor, and girls and boys, said Lesley Gannon, Head of Campaigns at the NAHT. However, the Government should avoid piling the responsibility for social inequality

solely on schools, she added. “While we live in a society that still has great contrasts in socioeconomic background and life chances from birth, schools can only play one part in changing that.” The PISA figures come as GCSE results continue to get better, commented NAHT blogger Warwick Mansell. “The PISA scores lend further support to the hypothesis that, while England’s education system has become very accomplished at targeting pupils’ performance at particular indicators of success – domestic test and exam measures – if you change the test, or the measure, the picture can change dramatically, even to the extent that ‘progress’ evaporates,” he wrote.

DON’T MISS THE 2011 EDUCATION SHOW AT THE NEC IN BIRMINGHAM The UK’s largest showcase of educational resources, best-practice methods and free training takes place 17-19 March at the NEC in Birmingham. The Education Show 2011 is free to attend and regularly attracts more than 12,000 educators who wish to discover the latest targeted resources and keep abreast of the latest policy initiatives. School leaders are encouraged to make their first port of call the BESA Information Point on stand H50, where staff will help you to plan your visit. You can also pick up a copy of the BESA book, which lists 300-plus BESA members. Collaboration is a watch-word in education at the moment and the BESA-sponsored Leadership Lounge enables school leaders to network with peers. Visitors will also have the opportunity to win up to £2,500 of resources for their schools. In addition, BESA is sponsoring the Group Travel Subsidy. Groups of 10 or more visitors can receive up to £150 towards coach hire – see the ‘visit’ section of Nasen, the UK’s leading organisation embracing all special and additional educational needs, is hosting the SEN information point on stand SN69. In light of the Government’s recent SEN Green Paper, school leaders can find out about changing policy, along with ways to meet the needs of all learners. Continuing professional development is also an integral part of the show, with more than 80 practitioner-led seminars. In times of tightening budgets, these seminars represent the ideal opportunity


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to enrich teaching methodology in a cost-effective way. The 2011 event also sees the introduction of free, accredited CPD seminars in a programme that brings together leading educationalists. Policy associations and agencies will also be present at the show to answer questions on current education initiatives. NAHT at the Education Show The NAHT’s stand at the show is the ideal opportunity for members to meet staff from Haywards Heath or to talk to a Regional Officer. Plus, if you introduce a non-member colleague and they join at the Education Show, you will receive a thank-you gift. Head for stand L22. To find out more and plan your visit, go to and enter priority code epr2 when registering


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Primary winner, off-site by Megan Greenough, 11, Ysgol Esgob Morgan

Secondary winner, off-site by Liam Vincent, 16, Highworth Warneford School


Primary runner-up, off-site by Kyle McNamee, 4, Kintore Way Children’s Centre

Primary winner, school-based by Georgina Turpin, 7, Newport Infants

Primary runner-up, school-based by Alexander Clarke, 11, Kells and Connor Primary

Good clean fun Celebrating outdoor learning, the NAHT and the AHOEC present the winners of their photography competition 2010



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Secondary runner-up, off-site by Liam Vincent, 16, Highworth Warneford School

Special school winner, off-site by Mark Chard, 14, The Ashley School


Special school winner, school-based by Tom Sargrove, 14, The Abbey School

Special school runner-up, school-based by Peter, 11, St Mark’s Primary

Special school runner-up, off-site by Lucy Badham, 15, The Abbey School


oining forces once again to promote learning outside the classroom, the NAHT and the Association of Heads of Outdoor Education Centres (AHOEC) have given youngsters a chance to win all-weather camera equipment in a photo competition.

This year’s sponsor and one of the judges of the competition was Michael Ward-Hendry. He told LF: “The winning students demonstrated the highest levels of enthusiasm, creative ability and belief in their own potential. Add to that a genuine willingness to develop hands-on knowledge of digital photography and it becomes a truly rewarding experience.”

AHOEC outdoor education adviser Bob Burson agreed and said: “This is a wonderful opportunity for young people to celebrate their work. It has been fabulous to see such high quality photographs again this year.” The AHOEC is affiliated to the NAHT and the competition was sponsored by Ward-Hendry Photography


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Let’s play happy families Dysfunction doesn’t work for parents, why would it work for schools?


am sure that many of you will be familiar with the research from Todd Risley and Betty Hart, captured in the book Meaningful Differences in the Everyday Experience of Young American Children. It builds on many other strands of research, and simple common sense. In the study, the authors painstakingly measure the exposure of young children to language. They demonstrate that children in more deprived families are not only exposed to fewer words but that the nature of these words differs too. They are more about instruction and admonishment than encouragement. Neuroscience chips in to reinforce the point, as it suggests that connections in the brain do not grow in conditions of stress and fear – we learn when we are confident and optimistic.


Lessons to be learned So, is the English education system, at a national level, in danger of becoming a dysfunctional family, limiting learning and growth through a preoccupation with instruction and criticism? If you set any particular measure as a target, it is likely that measure will increase. But changes to the measure may not say a great deal about the underlying reality - the map is not the territory. Nor does it say anything about sacrifices made to things that are not measured in order to reach the targets. The divergence over the past few years between English exam results and the PISA international statements (see News, page 10) may be one example of this. The lesson is that if you manage a system through top-down targets and crude measures you can get surface improvements without lasting, meaningful change. It is also the case that the PISA comparisons show that England has an almost uniquely punitive approach to managing schools. High performance is not necessarily associated with Sats, competition and league tables and there are many other countries that manage quite well without them. The Government has put a lot of stress on international comparisons so let us hope that it is not selective in its use of evidence. Of course, to return to our original analogy, we also know that strong families are not lax, indulgent or permissive. While they put emphasis on trust, respect and growth, they also set boundaries and have high expectations. Schools should be held accountable and we should aim high. In fact,

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though it is difficult to say this as a union, if a school is unable to demonstrate good progress for its students, after a sustained period of support and challenge, then we should think about different approaches to the leadership of that school. You can add up any number of ways that statement differs from our current system, though. The point is not to measure performance, but to improve it. In a system of our size, improvement is driven through the energy, ingenuity and passion of professionals on the front line. Ofsted’s evaluation of London Challenge makes this very point. It succeeded because it won hearts and minds and connected schools to each other. It is not just bureaucracy that holds us back and drags us down but the system of performance measurement itself; a system which has begun to overshadow the very efforts it seeks to track. It will require leadership, courage and imagination to make the shift. As much as poverty or low aspirations, government itself has now become a barrier to success in England. This is not a naive request for it to ‘back off ’ and leave us alone. That is not going to happen, nor should it, but a more sophisticated and nuanced approach to accountability, focused on the difference schools make to a wide range of things that matter, would be a starting point to unleash the talent within our schools. Information that parents genuinely crave (‘Will my child be happy and successful at this school?’), rather than empty statistics aimed at fuelling media prurience, would also help. It is the NAHT’s priority to achieve this. We are attempting it through dialogue at the moment, but we won’t back away from our goal.

We know that strong families are not lax, indulgent or permissive. They put the emphasis on trust, respect and growth. They also set boundaries

Russell Hobby is NAHT General Secretary

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THINGS WE’VE LEARNED Since our last issue, we’ve found out that Twitter erodes concentration, fountain pens are obsolete, and A level students can study maple syrup at university Gay pride is being restored A North London secondary school has started teaching students about well-known gay historical figures in an attempt to eradicate homophobic bullying. Pupils at Stoke Newington School have been learning about authors Oscar Wilde and James Baldwin and the artist Andy Warhol, following concerns about pupils using ‘gay’ as a derogatory term.

‘Facebook ate my homework’ Poor grades, a dip in the quality of homework and the use of ‘text-speak’ in essays are a result of social networking sites, according to a study of 500 teachers. The survey, carried out by school trips provider JCA, found that a quarter of the teachers questioned concluded that the children with the poorest grades were those who spent most time on social networking sites such as Facebook, MySpace and Twitter. Half of the teachers polled believed a fixation with the sites affected concentration in class.


Exams are a blot on the educational landscape The head teacher of a Cheshire grammar school has written to parents to announce a change in school policy. The school has always insisted on the use of fountain pens, but changes in marking techniques mean that black ballpoint pens must become the norm. He said: “This decision goes against all my educational principles. Pupils who find handwriting difficult will find it more difficult with ballpoints and the final product is inferior. But the examination boards now insist on ‘black biro’ and many exam scripts are scanned into computers. Ballpoint pen can be recognised more easily due to the lack of smudges.”

Santa found his way home Primary school children in Devon set up their own space mission by sending a potato dressed as Santa into the stratosphere in a shuttle attached to a helium weather balloon. Spudnik2 (Spudnik1 didn’t make it) was attached to a camera, which took pictures of the curve of the Earth. The shuttle was launched from the village car park and rose 17 miles before the balloon burst and a parachute floated it back to the ground. It landed 140 miles away – in a Christmas tree plantation.


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A little shop of horrors will improve literacy Writer Nick Hornby has opened a ‘Ministry of Stories’ in Hoxton, East London, which he hopes will inspire children in creative writing and literacy. Funded by the Arts Council, the volunteer-run store is based on a project in San Francisco. The shop front sells monsterrelated products – from ‘fang floss’ to ‘human snot’ – to entice youngsters in, while at the back is the Ministry of Stories, a space where young writers can create imaginative tales.

Animal antics make sense of human emotions Research by the free reading scheme Booktime has revealed that animals are the favourite reading topic for children. More than half of the children surveyed agreed that they enjoyed reading books about animals and 49 per cent of their parents, who were also questioned, said it was their favourite subject when they were growing up. The Gruffalo was voted the most popular book for 2010, with The Very Hungry Caterpillar and Peppa Pig joint second. The research also revealed that 92 per cent of the 1,500 parents surveyed felt that reading books with animals as the main characters helped children to make sense of human feelings, experiences and relationships.


There’s no fire without smoke Women in a long-term health study who smoked a pack a day or more during pregnancy had a 30 per cent increased chance of having children who would grow up to be arrested as adults, according to researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health. The team analysed criminal and health records of 3,766 Americans aged between 33 and 40 whose mothers enrolled in a long-term health study from 1959 to 1966 that tracked pregnancy and birth conditions. Even when mental illness, poverty and other such factors were considered, the link still held.

History: it’s just not what it used to be ‘Trendy teaching’ is undermining British history lessons, according to academics from the Better History Group. The group, which was formed in 2007 to advise the Conservative Party on the history curriculum, wrote a letter to Education Secretary Michael Gove following the release of the Government’s White Paper to express their concern at the way history has been ‘steadily downgraded’ and allowed to decline.

Undergraduates can study ‘real things’ From zombie studies to a course called ‘Feel the Force: how to train in the Jedi way’, there appears to be a higher education course on just about anything. Even Durham University offers a unit in ‘Harry Potter and the Age of Illusion’, in which students can study ‘Gryffindor and Slytherin: prejudice and intolerance in the classroom’. Other unconventional courses include the University of Glasgow’s doctoral studentship on the ‘History of lace knitting in Shetland’, but our favourite remains the honours seminar on ‘Maple syrup: the real thing’ at Alfred University in New York.

Degree drive at top unis is fully comprehensive Students from comprehensive schools are likely to achieve higher-class degrees than pupils with similar A-level and GCSE grades who attend independent or grammar schools. This is the result of a five-year study by the National Federation for Educational Research, which tracked 8,000 A-level students. Comprehensive school pupils also performed better than their non-state school counterparts in degrees from the most academically selective universities and across all degree classes awarded to graduates in 2009.


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COLM DAVIS Principal, Tor Bank School (Special), Belfast

WHAT TYPE OF PERSON ARE YOU? In five words: Soft, happy, genuine, friendly, determined. Most prized possession? My signed 1970s Leeds United shirt. Favourite biscuit? Twix – nice and chewy. Unmissable TV? Spooks. I’m fascinated how real some of these plots seem… or am I just gullible? Top film? The Thin Red Line. Favourite song? Creep by Radiohead. Best book? Mr Nice by Howard Marks. I love autobiographies. Who would play you in the film of your life? Johnny Depp. Guilty secret? Breaking a neighbour’s window playing football when I was 13 and blaming it on someone else. It was the third time I’d broken a window playing footy in two months.


UP Three school leaders take up the Leadership Focus challenge to describe their leadership style and then tell us a joke

If you would like to take the LF questionnaire, email us at


COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING SENTENCES I went into teaching, because my football aspirations ended with serious knee injuries at an early age. In truth, I loved fighting for the underdog and loved the idea of helping pupils with special educational needs. Teaching would give me an opportunity to rs make a difference in their lives. After 30 years my enthusiasm has yet to wane. My own schooling was negative, unfortunately. I lived in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubled 1970s. I went to a local no-frills secondary school – known locally as the ‘finishing school for the IRA’. However, my footballing and my determination to succeed got me through this nightmare scenario – as well as some good teachers. My most embarrassing moment as a teacher was falling over as I ran to break up a fight during playground duty when I was a Year One teacher. At least the kids enjoyed it. My leadership style is friendly, collaborative, communicative, collegial, relaxed but determined. I enjoy the challenge of motivating others, working on their positive strengths and using these strengths effectively. I’ve never had to discipline a staff member yet – so I must be doing something right. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s not to take things too personally. Over-sensitivity can lead to a high degree of paranoia, stress, panic and poor decision-making. If I were the PM, I’d stop the Barnett block grant being given to Northern Ireland until all parties at the Assembly dropped their personal, narrow, revisionist, political crusades. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but I love a wee drink in the wee hours of the morning and once had my name taken when trying to escape out the back window of the pub at 4am. Tell us your best joke Mick opens Paddy’s fridge and says: “Why do you always keep an empty milk bottle in here, Paddy?” Mick replies: “In case someone wants a black coffee, you thick so-and-so.”


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Head of school, Moor Moorside Community Primary Schoo School, Newcastle upon Tyne

Head teacher, Meadfurlong School, Milton Keynes

WHAT TYPE OF PERSON ARE YOU? In five words: Tenacious, dedicated, passionate, consistent, fair. Most prized possession? Can I cheat and say my home and everything in it? Favourite biscuit? Oat biscuits. Unmissable TV? We don’t watch much TV, but at the moment it has to be Merlin. Top film? Barefoot in the Park, a Neil Simon classic. Favourite song? Lightning Crashes by Live. Best book? I have recently discovered Agatha Christie and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and realise what I have been missing for years! Who would play you in the film of your life? Angelina Jolie – according to my son. What is your guilty secret? Pringles.

COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING SENTENCES I went into teaching, because from being a teenager I have always worked with younger children and later in a voluntary capacity taught art to all ages. I loved sharing my knowledge and understanding with others and learning from people too. Following on from my first degree, teaching was the most natural career progression. My own schooling was a mixed bag. I have few memories about individual learning experiences, but remember the people who inspired me. Shirley Howells and Toby Rigby always believed in me and treated me with respect. They enabled me to love learning. My most embarrassing moment in a classroom was a classic ‘out of the mouths of babes’ moment, in front of an adviser when the children were adding to a list of words which began with ‘sh’. My leadership style is… Just like the job, my leadership style needs to be flexible and adapt to each situation and sometimes each individual. I do always strive to be approachable, fair, consistent, challenging with a good splash of humour. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s write everything down. If I were the PM, I’d give all pupils free school meals and really ensure that there was equity of opportunity for all. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but although I love my job, I would still love to be a zookeeper. Tell us your best joke A man went to the doctor with a bad head. Instead of being examined by the doctor, a cat walked in and then a dog. The doctor said: “I’m pleased to say it’s all clear.” “But how do you know?” asked the man. “Well, because of the results from the lab test and cat scan, of course!”

WHAT TYPE OF PERSON ARE YOU? In five words: Dedicated, helpful, sporty, cheerful and friendly. Most prized possession? A poem dedicated to my niece who died at birth. Favourite biscuit? Malted milk. Unmissable TV? Match of the Day. Top film? Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Favourite song? River Deep, Mountain High by Ike and Tina Turner. Best book ever Trinity by Leon Uris. Which celebrity would play you in the film of your life? Martin Clunes. Guilty secret? Pinching the Maltesers from the Celebrations box in the staffroom and blaming the TAs.

COMPLETE THE FOLLOWING SENTENCES I went into teaching, because I was really grateful to my own teachers for providing me with the tools to lead a productive life and was inspired to do the same – hence my drive to work in challenging schools to make a difference if I can. My own schooling was challenging and yet inspiring at the same time. My most embarrassing moment in school was demonstrating a seat drop on the trampoline and breaking wind. My leadership style is a mixture of democracy and autocracy depending on the circumstances. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s the moment I think I have seen it all and know all the answers something happens that proves the opposite. If I were the PM, I’d make all government officials work in a school for a month, ask them to show progress in the children’s learning, then ask them if Sats and league tables are appropriate. I shouldn’t be telling you this, but when I hit a bad shot on the golf course at weekends I have been known to use some colourful Anglo-Saxon words. Tell us your best joke An elderly golfer returns from his regular Saturday game complaining to his wife that he is fed up with hitting his ball and not being able to see where it has gone. His wife suggests he takes his cousin with him next time – he has perfect eyesight. “Don’t be ridiculous,” says the husband. “He is 92 years old!” His wife insists the cousin is fit enough so the husband agrees to give it a try the following week. So, on the first tee the husband instructs his cousin to watch the ball carefully as he tees off, hits a fantastic shot up the fairway. He then turns round and asks: “Did you see that?” “Yes,” replies the cousin. “So where has it gone?” asks the husband. The elderly cousin thinks for a second and says: “I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten.”


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Teaching award winners

It might have been all glitz and glamour on the night, but what practical advice and wisdom can winners pass on, asks Hollie Ewers


celebration of teaching excellence took place in London in October and was broadcast on BBC Two. Eight individuals and four groups received gold Plato awards from famous figures including actress Emma Thompson, actor Henry Winkler, singer Michael Ball and Education Secretary Michael Gove. The Teaching Award judges, who visited every nominated school, selected the winners from a shortlist of 86 teachers, heads, teaching assistants, governors and school teams. The winners were chosen for their outstanding achievements and contributions to education. Tony Hull, Head Teacher of the Year, received his award from Emma Thompson at his school assembly. He recalled: “I knew something was up from the way everybody was behaving.” “I didn’t know that much about it until I was nominated. But the Awards are trying to celebrate what the profession does. So much of what we hear is bad news, but for once this is bringing out the hard work we are doing, which is well worth celebrating.”


He added: “I say to everybody that the award has my name on it, but it’s about the school and the people in it.” Vicky Kavanagh, head teacher of Crocketts Community Primary School in Smethwick, near Birmingham, which won the Department for Education Award for Sustainable Schools, led the rebuilding of her one-form entry primary with a great deal of input from pupils. Pupils’ ideas included a new swimming pool and corridor murals to help lost children find their way back to the classroom. “It was difficult because we started even before there were any building plans,” said Vicky. “But the school is our resource, and earlier this year Ofsted said our curriculum was outstanding, which is where we wanted to go.” Janet Lord, head of Langham Church of England Primary School in Rutland, was the Midlands Head Teacher of the Year, and took all her staff to London for the ceremony. “It’s been a lovely experience,” she said. “I enjoy celebrating what we do, and that’s what it’s all about. I believe our kids can do anything and I want to prove that.” Here’s a selection of viewpoints…

The primary school head TONY HULL Head of Costessey Junior School, Norwich, and winner of the National College Award for Head Teacher of the Year. Tony has turned around the fortunes of three primary schools in the past 10 years and is currently working on a fourth HIS VIEWS

“Everything you do in your working day is only worth doing if it’s actually going to have an impact on the children,” says Tony (pictured), who believes there are two overarching ways to ensure a school’s success.


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“One is that the teaching has to be good at least, that satisfactory won’t do. By good, I mean that it promotes good learning so that the work is clearly tailor-made to what the children need. The key to that is quality assessment. “The other side is that the ethos of the school has to be such that the whole place is calm.You have to get to a situation where the behaviour and discipline is coming from the children themselves because they want to succeed and to have a happy time.” Finance has proved challenging for Tony and the upkeep of school buildings has frequently been a burden, but by being “very cute about using the finite finances to best effect,” he has invested heavily in buildings, which he believes promotes learning and pride. Another factor that helped him win the award is his talent for spotting ambitious new teachers, with two newly qualified teachers having

You have to get to a situation where the discipline comes from the children because they want to succeed

become assistant heads in five years under his guidance as a consultant leader and mentor. “We want to attract dynamic people who are looking for a career. It works two ways: they work their socks off effectively to the best ends for our children, and then they’re promoting their own careers at the same time, so the children gain and they gain.”

Boundless energy, a sense of humour and a very fine eye for detail are characteristics Tony believes all heads should possess. “We use the line ‘if a mouse squeaks in this school, we know about it’ and I mean that literally. You have to know everything all the time.” An ability to develop rhino hide is another essential quality, says Tony. “You have to have the courage to have those difficult conversations with pupils, parents, governors, stakeholders, whoever. You can’t shy away from making the tough decisions because people will ride all over you.” When asked what wisdom he would pass on, he says: “Believe in what you’re doing, don’t be afraid to take a risk and believe that you can make a difference. Get people around you who believe that and make it happen. There is no way I could have done my job in any of the schools I’ve been in without the people around me.” CONTINUED ON PAGE 22 ➧ JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2011 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS 21

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The lifetime achiever PETER JONES Former deputy head of Cefn Saeson Comprehensive School, Neath, South Wales, and winner of the Ted Wragg Award for Lifetime Achievement. After 31 years at the school and now retired, Peter is something of a local legend HIS VIEWS

“One of the things I strongly believe is – other than in absolutely exceptional circumstances – you should never give up on children. With hard work, patience and understanding, it is possible to salvage some pupils who are going down the wrong road. It’s a matter of trust and relationships,” Peter says. And it’s the trust and relationships that Peter has built up with the local community over the years that he attributes to his success. “I taught in the school for 31 years. I’m not terribly fashionable or trendy but, on the other hand, I have been in the community for so long that you do gain the trust of the people in that community.” Peter was deputy head and manager of the pastoral team at the school, and says he has dealt with some very sensitive situations affecting individuals and their families. He puts a lot of his success down to the hard work of his team. “I was very fortunate in having a hugely professional and committed pastoral team who knew the pupils extraordinarily well and had engaged with parents and families and got their trust.” Pastoral work requires professionalism, consistency and making yourself accessible, according to Peter – as well having a sense of humour, being calm when you might not feel like it and getting on well with your team. “My work was reliant on other people and their relationships with pupils. It was like being up on my own little pyramid but the majority of the work was being done by heads of year and other people.”


Lenny Henry at the awards. The event was broadcast on BBC2

Time management proved a daily challenge for Peter in such a busy comprehensive school with a range of pupil ability and affluence. “It’s about prioritising time and issues and not neglecting the fact that the majority of the pupils need attention and your commitment as well. It’s very easy to get sidelined and concentrate on the immediate problems and ignore the needs of the majority of pupils.” Now retired, Peter can reflect on the demands and targets set on teachers today, which he believes have sharpened up education in a positive way. But he hopes that they will not affect the relationships in his old school. “Very often, where you get some of our more difficult pupils on the borderline of academic success who could go either way, it’s the quality of the relationships that can determine how well they do.”

The special needs head PETER BELL Executive head teacher at Grantham Additional Needs Federation, Lincolnshire, and winner of the Henry Winkler Teaching Award for Special Needs. Peter has overseen huge changes since he started at his school in 2004 HIS VIEWS

When Grantham Additional Needs Federation came into existence in September, Peter suddenly became responsible for 120 pupils, treble the number he had before. But the federation of Peter’s original school, Ambergate


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We work on building trust with students so we’re not part of a line of broken promises

Sports College, with another local special school, Sandon, was a smooth transition. And Peter puts the success of Ambergate, whose work was the focus of the award nomination before the federation with Sandon, down to the dedication of staff. “The staff are fantastic and always take that extra step with the youngsters they work with.They take a great amount of pleasure and enjoyment out of the small,

maybe not-so-noticeable achievements that our students make.We have a staff that has evolved over the past few years to be very much in tune with the needs of our youngsters.” When summing up his role in Ambergate’s success, Peter says: “I believe that my role as executive head teacher is to allow staff who have good ideas, motivation and drive to make the right environment and to give them the facilities they need to succeed.” Peter explains one of the main issues he and his team have faced when working with the children is giving them aspirations: “A number of our youngsters come to us through education which hasn’t worked for them or been a positive experience, so they come into school not necessarily from a background where they are encouraged to aspire and achieve. “The first thing that we work on is building trust with the students and also with the parents so that we can make a difference and so we’re not part of a long line of broken promises.” Numerous activities take place at the school, from canoeing and horse riding to rock climbing and bike riding. A significant proportion of the children go on to complete silver Duke of Edinburgh Awards but Peter is quick to highlight that they don’t get access to these activities unless everything else is right. “We have a comprehensive rewards system and there are a lot of carrots – you don’t get to do all these exciting activities unless your communication is good, you’re speaking to people in an acceptable way, you’re engaging in your academic lessons and so on.” Along with the kudos that comes with winning the award was a £15,000 bursary for Ambergate which Peter says will now benefit both the Ambergate and Sandon campuses. So winning this award has been significant for the federation as a whole, says Peter. “One of the beauties of the award and of us achieving sports college status is that success breeds success and confidence breeds confidence. So the award is just another step and another recognition for the staff and for the students. It builds their self belief and the belief in the community and local authority and so on. I believe excellence breeds excellence.”

The awards chief exec CAROLINE EVANS Chief executive of the Teaching Awards HER VIEWS

It’s clear that the Awards engage the public, especially young people and families, in acknowledging the work of the profession and valuing education. They also provide a way of identifying exceptional teachers, heads, teaching assistants and governors, and then sharing their ideas as widely as possible. “We do this through our network of Teaching Awards fellows – as all winners become fellows,” says Caroline. “The Awards also allow us to promote the profession – reminding the public about what happens in schools, and also explaining different roles: that of executive head, for example.” Caroline feels that it’s hard to define what makes a good school leader, however. “Something striking at the Teaching Awards is how different the heads we work with are from each other. That’s one of the wonderful things about headship: it’s an intensely personal job, and that’s probably also one of the keys to success. “Headship is such a demanding role that it can’t be sustained unless you’re doing it in a way that’s true to who you are, not just on your terms, but from your heart and with your soul. “Then there is the commitment to and passion for their school community – the children and young people, and the staff and adults who are part of that community within and outside school: that’s the sense in which school leaders are true public servants. “Alongside all of that, good school leaders need to have outstanding practical and process skills in leadership, management, strategic planning, finance, negotiation... not forgetting education. They need emotional intelligence in spades. It’s an astonishing list and that’s why I think school leadership is one of the toughest jobs.”


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What’s It’s getting harder to fill head teacher positions. Are deputies being put off, or are governors fearful of giving inexperienced candidates a chance? Carly Chynoweth investigates



ho would want to be a head teacher these days? Not enough people at all, according to the latest EDS recruitment survey. The 16th annual report shows that a third of posts in primary schools and nearly half (43 per cent) of those in special schools were not filled after an advertisement was published. The situation in secondary schools was not quite as bad, at 20 per cent, but all in all the situation has worsensed since last year (from 26 per cent, 27 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively). Underlying demographic changes and our aging population are at least partly to blame, says Russell Hobby, the NAHT’s General Secretary. “And another issue is that we can’t talk about a market for heads,” he says. “As a head you are only looking at a very narrow band of schools in which to work – primary or secondary, large or small,


faith or not and so on – and, of course, schools themselves are only looking for a certain type of head teacher. This means that for each vacancy the number of heads that could fill it is much smaller than the overall number looking for positions. “And of course the pressure and scrutiny of the position does not appeal to people. They look at their head teacher and they think: ‘I don’t want to spend my time just crunching data.’ ” Heath Monk, chief executive of Future Leaders (, a charity that prepares ambitious teachers to lead challenging schools, agrees – partly. “There is a generation of deputies who do not want the responsibility of headship,” he says. These older deputies enjoy their jobs enormously and do them well, but are not interested in stepping up to the top job. “This makes it very difficult for others to CONTINUED ON PAGE 26 ➧


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stopping you?

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‘Heads need good deputies, but governing bodies need to look beyond the traditional idea that you want a head who looks exactly like your current head’ progress through the system, because the vast majority of heads get there via being a deputy. There are a lot of younger teachers who want to be heads – the challenge is making sure that there are career paths there for them.” EDS’s Professor John Howson describes these permanent deputies as the equivalent of NHS ‘bed blockers’ and called on the role to be seen as a stepping stone to headship rather than a permanent post. “I believe that deputies should only be appointed for five years before being expected either to become a head or to reapply for their job,” he says. This is particularly important given that many schools are cutting deputy positions as a way of shrinking the size of their senior management teams and thus their costs. The other option, he says, would be for school governors to become more willing to recruit assistant heads into headship rather than demanding that candidates have experience at deputy level. Heath agrees that schools need to be a lot more open-minded when recruiting. “It’s not about trying to get rid of deputies, because heads need good deputies and they are valued in the system. It’s about trying to get governing bodies to look beyond the traditional idea that you want a head who looks exactly like your current head. “Governors want a safe pair of hands and someone who has been a deputy maybe looks like they have the experience… but really it should be about looking for people with the right skills and motivation, people who have the drive to make a real difference to children and young people.” It’s exactly that group of people that Heath and his team work with at Future Leaders. Many of them have leadership experience gained outside teaching and some will have spent only a relatively short amount of time in the classroom before joining the three-year programme, which combines intensive formal training with mentoring and a placement in a senior


A FUTURE LEADER’S PERSPECTIVE Zoe Thompson became deputy head of the Hammersmith Academy, which is due to open in September 2011, after finishing the Future Leaders programme this year. She expects to be a head teacher within the next couple of years – if not sooner. “The quality of the training provided by Future Leaders is outstanding,” she says. “It is very intensive. What is so good is that they have the best heads in this country, in Europe and in the US involved in the programme.” She has also learned a lot about leadership from people outside education, as managers from the private sector also contribute to the scheme. Alongside formal training, which includes a 15-day residential session, everyone gets a coach/mentor with whom they meet and talk by phone regularly. These are impressive people: Zoe’s is Sir Keith Ajegbo. “We meet every six weeks, sometimes more often, and that support is amazing,” she says. When she speaks to LF, she has just come off the phone to him after getting his advice on the new academy. “The other thing that has been very important to my development has been my network,” Zoe says. “The more people you have at your disposal, the more people you can discuss thoughts and ideas with, the better. It is not always possible to visit other schools to see other strategies in practice, but by networking with people you can get that broader awareness of what is working.”

management team. By the end of it, they should have the whole-school experience that will qualify them for the NPQH and ready them to fast-track into headship. What they have in common is a genuine commitment to headship at a challenging school: 97 per cent of participants go on to a permanent senior leadership position, while schools headed by Future Leaders have seen impressive improvements in GCSE results. But, despite the effectiveness of the programme, its reach is relatively limited – it operates in only five UK regions (London, the North West, the Midlands, Yorkshire and Humber and the South Coast) and is currently open only to people who want to lead secondary schools. Since starting in 2006, it has trained only 217 people, nine of whom are now heads and three associate heads. “It is a good scheme, but it is not big enough,” John Howson

says. “It clearly makes a difference for the people who go through it.” The good news is that head teachers can themselves help to increase the number of potential heads. The starting point is to offer staff more development opportunities, John says. This does not have to mean promoting someone, but it does mean being willing to delegate projects or events that will allow potential leaders to develop skills in budgeting, community cohesion and so on. The most important factor here is thinking not simply about what is good for your school but about what will be good for schools and children more broadly. “It is the old problem of not wanting to lose your best staff in case you can’t replace them, but heads have to recognise that they have an important role in their profession,” he says. “If you do not do this, your school might be okay, but everyone else will struggle.”


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1. HOW TO GET AHEAD Sign up to the National College. “Aspiring school leaders need to do the NPQH,” says Carrie O’Connor, director for leadership at Hays Education. “Starting the process early is a good idea. It will develop you as an individual and give you a chance to build up a portfolio of experience while getting lots of good-quality support from the college.” Don’t wait until you feel ready to be a head – start before then, because chances are that by the time you’re done you will be at the right point. If you’re still at middle management level, sign up to the appropriate level courses at the college – it is a great resource and would-be heads should take advantage of it, Carrie says. Don’t waste time on a master’s degree. These tend not to impress governors. “I don’t think that having a master’s degree is necessarily something that head teachers and governing bodies are looking for when they are recruiting to their senior leadership teams,” Carrie says. “I have never had that as a request in the person specification – not even as a desirable characteristic.” That’s not to

say such courses are bad – you may well learn a lot – but, if your focus is on progressing in leadership, it should not be a priority. Get to know the national standards. Familiarise yourself with what is expected and start thinking about how you can show the appropriate skills and experience. “Work through them. Think: ‘What have I done that means I can demonstrate that I have done this?’ ” If you can’t, look for a way to get that experience. For example, if you have not done much around strengthening the community, find a project that involves working with people outside the schoolyard. Money changes everything. “One area that people often don’t have the experience in is financial planning and budget management,” Carrie says. “This is a critical area but if you are not a head teacher it’s quite difficult to get the experience.” So volunteer to take on a project or ask to shadow the school business manager. Not all heads are comfortable delegating responsibility, so you may need to be assertive.

2. HOW TO GET A HEAD (OR OTHER SENIOR LEADER) Use a professional. Head teachers who want to improve their recruitment processes should start by engaging a recruitment professional, says Carrie, who works in recruitment. Such a person will be able to find more candidates than a simple advertisement in The TES can. “Bringing in a specialist recruitment company adds more options as they will have a database of candidates who are not yet actually looking but who are thinking about it and interested should the right job come up,” she says. Invite potential candidates to visit the school. “Often, when heads advertise these roles they do not give candidates an opportunity to come and look around the school before they decide whether or not to apply,” Carrie says. Given that an assistant or deputy who applies for a headship is likely to have to tell his or her head of their plans when they apply, they are unlikely to put in an application until they are confident that they want the job. Be honest about your flaws. Don’t try to keep skeletons in your cupboard. Candidates will find them and, chances are, they will walk away then and there without asking you for an explanation. “You need to be prepared to reveal them and be honest up front,” Carrie says. “It’s your responsibility to put a positive angle on any issues

you have had.” This isn’t about spin or PR but about explaining what the school’s challenges are and how it is planning to meet them. Open your mind. “Schools have to be careful not to assume that the only person that will be able to do the job is someone who has come from exactly the same type of school as theirs with exactly the same issues, the same number of pupils and so forth,” Carrie says. Focus less on finding an exact experience match and more on the candidate’s transferable skills such as improving performance, building a strong team and creating a vision. If they can do those things at one school, they can do it at yours, too. Use competency-based interviews. “That is where you have candidates give examples of situations where they have used a particular form of behaviour,” Carrie says. This lets them demonstrate that they have actually used a particular competency, not simply that they know it in theory. However, many governing bodies tend to use a knowledge-based approach by asking ‘how do you performance-manage staff?’ rather than ‘give me an example of a time you have performance-managed staff’.” This lets the candidate give a the textbook example, but does not give you any evidence that they’ve ever had to do it. Competency-based lets you hear from them how they have actually put it into practice.


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Rebecca Grant looks at how schools in the London borough of Islington have coped with 10 years of privatesector control of their education support services. Has it been a success?




ack at the turn of the millennium, the forecast for Islington’s schools was looking bleak. Out of its eight secondaries and 44 primaries, around a fifth were in an Osfted category. Former school inspector Mark Taylor, who was approached by the Local Authority in 2000 to work on school improvement in the borough, recalls: “There were some schools that were performing well, but if you looked at it as a borough, the GCSE and KS2 results were way off national averages.” The LA realised that performance of its schools needed to improve drastically, so it decided to send for external help. In August 2000, Cambridge Education, a private-sector company, was hired to take on the responsibility for delivering all the education support services in the borough. It was an unprecedented move that many people initially thought was far too radical. “We were very suspicious of Cambridge Education at first,” says Barrie O’Shea, head teacher at Duncombe Primary school in the north of Islington (pictured, left). “There was a lot of anxiety around ‘big brother’ coming in, and a fear that if private capital was being invested they’d want a profit. So we were worried that making a profit would take priority over CONTINUED ON PAGE 30 ➧ JANUARY/FEBRUARY 2011 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS

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looking after our schools.” However, more than a decade on, Cambridge Education is still at the helm, with a 400-strong team working throughout the borough, and Mark has taken on the role of Director of Schools. Mark explains why he feels the initiative has been a success: “There’s been privatesector involvement in education for a long time, in different guises. Sometimes it’s been a success and sometimes it’s been a failure. I think its success here is down to two things. One is the quality of the people and the relationships that we build with the schools. The other thing is that we are the whole show. We’re not just offering school improvement services. We’re handling HR, finance, welfare, education psychology, SEN admissions and asset management. “Everybody who works here has come from a headship or teaching background, or a local-government background, so in terms of the people, it’s not that dissimilar to what you would get in a traditional LA arrangement.” Because the services offered by Cambridge Education are so varied, the structure of the team is quite complicated – in some departments staff are assigned to work with certain schools, whereas other departments offer a single service to all schools in the borough. However, Mark says the setup needs to be that complex. “We have a clear vision that we share with our schools,” he explains. “In terms of people’s competence and skills we’re fairly uniform about that. Where it gets complicated is that schools are often very different places, so if you’re committed to offering a bespoke service, you have to offer a more in-depth, management-consultancy approach.” The bespoke support that it offers each school depends on individual needs. There are four categories of support that schools are given, ranging from ‘light touch’ to ‘intensive support’. For example, Duncombe – once one of the borough’s most challenging schools but now classified ‘good’ by Ofsted – receives ‘light touch’ support, which means the school is producing good results and is performing well enough for Cambridge Education to leave staff and governors to run things as they wish. However, every effort is made to ensure standards don’t slip, as Barrie has already discovered. “About five or six years ago we had a year of very bad results, so Cambridge Education put us straight into one of their categories,” he says. “But the system was set up to put the support only where and when it’s needed, which was great for us.” Over the past 10 years, Cambridge


THE EVOLUTION OF AN ISLINGTON SCHOOL – DUNCOMBE PRIMARY’S TRANSFORMATION When Barrie O’Shea first arrived at Duncombe Primary in 1989, he expected to be leaving again within a few months. “The school was registered as being beyond control, and HMI decided to close it at the end of the summer term, I arrived here just after Easter with a brief to keep the school running until then. I was the sixth headteacher in that year,” he recalls. A major contributing factor to the problems Duncombe faced was that the Local Authority in control at the time had completely neglected it. “The school seemed to have a large group of excluded pupils that had been put there because Duncombe had no management. Whereas you may get one excluded pupil in a school, and that might cause you issues around the school environment, there were six in every class, and that was classes of 15.” But Islington Council was impressed by the progress made during Barrie’s time in charge, and decided to keep the school open. Although Barrie wasn’t planning on applying for the permanent post of head teacher, he was encouraged to by the parents, who thought his ‘strict approach’ was what the school needed. His tough line paid off, and 22 years on, the school has been transformed from a failing school with fewer than 200 pupils, to a thriving learning environment with 480 pupils, good results and Ofsted’s seal of approval. Like most other schools in the borough, Duncombe now prides itself as being a ‘community school’. “When families move, they do everything they can to keep their children at the school because we are involved in lifelong support. We work on education, social services, health, the police, anything to do with domestic violence, anything to do with education, we look after them, and because we look after them we’ve got quite a reputation for the work we do. “The rationale of the school is lifelong care, that’s our mission for all pupils and parents, so it’s quite a huge aim but we really work hard at it.”

Education’s work with schools has evolved. In the beginning, the focus was on getting schools out of Ofsted categories, and keeping them out. Once this was more or less achieved – one school is currently in a category but Mark predicts it will be out very soon – the goal moved to making more schools ‘good’ and ‘outstanding’.

next, and we might formulate a succession plan, for example. Other plans might be to retain good staff or further develop their teachers’ skills.” This has certainly been the case at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson Language College, one of the borough’s outstanding secondary schools. Head teacher Jo

‘There’s been private-sector involvement in education for a long time, in different guises. Sometime’s it’s been a success and sometimes it has been a failure’ But Mark says that, even if all schools rose to ‘outstanding’ level, there is still work for his organisation to do in Islington. “Outstanding is an Ofsted judgment, and that’s right and proper as it’s the national organisation that makes those judgments. But that’s not to say there aren’t things in that school that you can’t continue to improve on. We always ask the head teachers at outstanding schools what they want to do

Dibb explains: “It could be easy to think you can leave a school like ours well alone, but I don’t think that would be a good thing. How it works for us is that challenges come by which open up opportunities for us, such as the chance to take part in a pilot scheme, so Cambridge Education will act as a broker to help us do those things.” Cambridge Education has also set up a


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forum and networking groups groups, which give school leaders and staff the opportunity to discuss matters concerning school life. Jo says that staff at Elizabeth Garrett Anderson are benefiting from these groups. “We have about 70 teaching staff here, and Cambridge Education has been able to facilitate teaching networks for them, so our heads of English can meet with other heads of English to ensure that there’s best practice across institutions.” As is the case for all LAs, Cambridge Education at Islington needs to keep abreast of the constant changes being made in the education system, especially since the general election and the subsequent announcements on education reform. To achieve this, it has allocated one staff member the job of checking all the latest newswires and releases to ensure it has all of the most up-to-date information – a service that is appreciated by schools in the borough, says Jo. “It’s good to have people that can keep abreast of all the changes and can feed that information

tto us, bbecause if you’re ’ a h head teacher you don’t aalways have the time to keep an eye on everything that is happening.” However, changes made by the Government to education spending, which have recently resulted in cuts to LA budgets, present a whole host of challenges for a private-sector company such as Cambridge Education. Although it has succeeded in renewing its contract twice already, the LA requires that efficiency savings must be made under the terms of each new contract and so it has responded by shrinking its workforce. “There has been a bit of shrinkage, as there has to have been across the board,” says Mark. “But we’re confident we can manage things well. It’s a big workforce still.” Barrie agrees: “With all the savings that have had to be instigated, the quality of service should have got much less, but it hasn’t. Instead, it’s moved from a system where all schools were supported but the ones with the greater needs were given the greatest levels of support, to one where

th those schools h l that th t are working ki quite it wellll carry on working quite well with very little support unless it’s called for.” Cambridge Education’s current contract at Islington is due to run until 2013. The plan is that, by this time, the council will be able to stand on its own two feet in offering education services, although Mark predicts there will always be some sort of partnership arrangement within the borough. “I’m not convinced that the free-forall around the education market is necessarily a bad thing,” he says. “There will always need to be proper checks and balances, but at the same time I think head teachers are the best people to make decisions. However, heads will need some support around those decisions because, quite rightly, their primary interest is around children and young people and their attainment.” Cambridge Education is a private-sector company with more than 25 years’ experience in providing services throughout the world. It is part of the Mott MacDonald Group


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10 SIGNS THAT A SCHOOL MAY NEED THE HELP OF AN NLE/NSS 1. Weak leadership 2. Very low staff morale 3. High staff absence 4. Some fantastic teachers, but also some dreadful ones 5. Lack of structure; or complex systems 6. Support staff with variable workloads – some working exceptionally hard, other people not doing anything 7. No accountability 8. No focus on teaching and learning 9. Staff and children not cared for or cherished 10. Dirty schools – buildings not looked after List compiled by Ani Magill, NLE and head teacher at St John the Baptist School in Woking, Surrey



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Send for reinforcements The number of National Leaders of Education is set to double by 2014. Sarah Campbell looks into the work they do and why the Government wants to see so many more of them


n some respects, National Leaders of Education (NLEs) are the paratroopers of the teaching profession – the head teachers who parachute in when a school is in trouble, often taking control of institutions that have been left leaderless. And yet, as is often the way with people who go beyond the call of duty, they are the last to label themselves heroic. Ask them, ‘Why so modest?’, and they’ll reply along the lines of: “I don’t act as an individual. Unless I had a very strong team working with me I wouldn’t be able to support another school.” One such veteran of the NLE scheme is June Foster, executive head of the federation of Arthur’s Hill Primary Schools in Newcastle upon Tyne.The federation comprises two schools: Moorside primary, where June has been head for 16 years, and nearby Westgate Hill primary, which June went into as an NLE when it was put in special measures in 2009. NLEs constantly have to balance the needs of their own school with the school they are supporting. June explains: “For 16 years Moorside had been my baby. Then, suddenly, you’re moving into new territory, but unlike a new headship you still have the responsibilities that you’ve had previously and all the loyalty that goes with that.” It didn’t take long for June to grasp the size of the challenge she faced. “Within a

very short space of time my loyalties were divided and we were working flat out to get Westgate Hill out of special measures,” she recalls. It is testament to June and her team that Westgate Hill is now out of special measures and had ‘19 goods and a few outstandings’ in its last inspection, thanks to the teams from both schools pulling together. Her team gets credit because the NLE is only half the story. The NLE’s school acts as a National Support School (NSS). Partnering with a struggling school involves the NSS as much as the NLE, and that has always been the intention, says Di Barnes, operational director at the National College for Leadership of Schools and Children’s Services, which oversees the scheme. Di says: “The creation of the scheme was about being able to put together a flexible package of support that could involve a range of staff – not only the head but sometimes members of the leadership team, or a head of maths or a literacy coordinator, or possibly a business manager or a behaviour management expert.” The first 68 NLEs and NSSs were appointed in 2007, after the National College was asked by former Education Secretary Ruth Kelly to find a way to help schools out of special measures. And it’s been a success – to the extent that the scheme is set to expand. One of the five key aims of the Government set out in the White

Paper published in November is to ‘support teachers to learn from one another and from proven best practice’. One way this is to be achieved is to increase the number of National and Local Leaders of Education (see box on page 34 for more about Local Leaders) from the current 1,154 to 3,000 over the next four years. There are now almost 400 NLEs, with another 100 likely to be appointed at the end of January this year. The plan is for there to be 1,000 National and 2,000 Local Leaders of Education. Although the NLE/NSS model has been a success, it’s not a quick fix.While June’s NLE story looks set for a happy, federated ending, in Southwark, South London, a turnaround story is still in the making. Last June, Irene Bishop, the head teacher of St Saviour’s & St Olave’s CE Secondary Girls’ School, took on the leadership of St Michael and All Angels CE Academy, which was suddenly without a head and had been given a notice to improve. “The main issue was – as Ofsted had found – the behaviour,” Irene says. And so she and an associate head from St Saviour’s & St Olave’s moved to the other school full-time and set to work. “I spent time first of all talking to the students, working with the staff, doing Inset on behaviour management.The teachers needed empowering and enabling to have the authority to deal with behaviour,” she says. CONTINUED ON PAGE 34 ➧


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Some of her first changes were to scrap the varying finishing times, after consultation with the local community, and install outdoor table-tennis facilities and seating shelters so that the children would be occupied at breaktimes, rather than getting into fights. Internal truancy has now dropped and Irene and the school team have turned their attention to low-level classroom disruption. “It’s like any other school now; it’s beginning to gel together.” The journey is far from over, however. The roll at St Michael and All Angels should be 900 but it’s much smaller because of its poor reputation. Irene has been working on recruitment but her work suffered a setback when her deputy, Katherine Birbalsingh, caused a stir at the Conservative Party conference in September with an impassioned speech about the country’s ‘broken’ education system. The ensuing media storm during the time that parents were making decisions about where to send their children ‘didn’t help at all’, says Irene. Irene’s role in this case is one of rescuer, but the NLE/NSS model has already come

LOCAL LEADERS OF EDUCATION In addition to National Leaders of Education and National Support Schools, the National College identifies and trains Local Leaders of Education (LLEs), of which there are now about 1,160. These are head teachers who provide mentoring and coaching for other heads. The LLE model was developed under the City Challenge, a project to raise attainment for young people in London, Greater Manchester and the Black Country. It is still closely identified to these three regions but Local Authorities across England and Wales are now offering the scheme. Mike Wilson, head teacher at Orrell Holgate Primary School in Wigan, is an LLE in the Greater Manchester Challenge. He explains how he views his role: “The approach taken by an LLE should be client-centred. So what the person doesn’t do is go into the school with the answers – the idea is the problem and the solution rest with the people in the school. You’re providing what I term a reflection partner.” At the moment Mike is not actively working as an LLE – he is a support associate, a serving head teacher and LLE who works with active LLEs and NLEs (Mike works with six NLEs/LLEs) to make sure that they are getting the support they need from the National College and LA, but also to make sure that the school is getting what it expected from the NLE or LLE. “It’s like a quality assurance role,” he says. To find out more about LLEs, email

‘I haven’t got any special powers. It’s really simple: get the basics right and be nice to the staff and children’ Ani Magill

a long way from being solely about getting failing schools out of special measures, says Di at the National College. “There is quite a wide spectrum of the sort of support that they can provide,” she says. This includes supporting schools that the LA thinks might fare badly if inspected, or helping out schools that are heading for amalgamation or academy status. Head teacher and NLE Ani Magill and her NSS, St John the Baptist (SJB) comprehensive school in Woking, work together so seamlessly that her deputy has now become the head teacher of the school she was most recently supporting, St Andrew’s Catholic School in Leatherhead, also in Surrey. “The model that we prefer here at SJB is to intensively support a school and then gradually withdraw as that school becomes sustainable. A lot of the job is to try to find an outstanding head teacher for the school – I see it as part of my role.” This is a strategy with a flaw, however. Her success at developing her leadership


Irene Bishop

team to become heads themselves means that over the past 12 months she has lost three deputies to headships in other schools. However, after being drafted in to help three struggling schools over the past few years, each time for six months, she claims she can now ‘write the script’ before she gets there. “For the last school I went into, I wrote a list of the 10 things I would find before I set foot in it – and all 10 were correct,” she says (see box, page 32). On the upside, it means she’s pretty sure what she’s going to be dealing with. “Putting these things right isn’t difficult,” she says. “I haven’t got any special powers. It’s really simple: get the basics right and be nice to the staff and children.” Over at the National College, Di is waiting for more clarity on how the next generation of Ani Magills is to be funded. She says: “The College doesn’t have the funding to pay for the actual intervention of NLEs and we’re a little nervous with the austere times ahead that there will be

June Foster

sufficient funding in the system to continue to pay for that intervention.” Ani also worries what the expansion will mean for the quality of the NLE programme. “I don’t think three years’ headship is enough [this is a current criterion for applying]. Also, a consequence of expanding a programme can be a drop in the baseline. It’s important that all the people who become NLEs have got good evidence of already having supported other schools.” June, however, is cautiously supportive of the expansion. “It’s a positive thing, providing the criteria for becoming an NLE aren’t diluted,” she says. But Irene emphasises that heads must be made of stern stuff to take on the challenge. “It can be at great personal cost – you have to be emotionally robust and quite centred as a person,” she adds. For more information on NLEs, visit the National College website,


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Sites for sore eyes Parents, and to a lesser extent pupils, are setting up web pages to attack school leaders. But it needn’t be the end of the world, says Mark Jansen


he web changes everything – even the nature of parental complaints, with a growing number of members reporting campaigns against their decisions conducted through Facebook. These can be distressing, highly personal and frustrating, but they can be stopped with the right tactics. And, if it gets out of hand, the NAHT will actively defend members on this front as in all others. “Occasionally, if there’s been an incident at the school which they don’t feel has been dealt with appropriately, parents will set up a page on Facebook and start commenting there,” says Siôn Humphreys, policy adviser at the Association. For example, Siôn dealt with a case where a pupil suffered an accident at lunchtime. A parent set up a Facebook page claiming the child had been inadequately supervised. A dozen other parents began adding comments, with some holding conversations running to four or five postings. The NAHT’s advice in such situations is consistent: contact those who started the


page and invite them to discuss their issues directly with the school leaders. “Make it clear that venting their spleen on a social networking site isn’t going to change anything. It would be seen to be giving in to bullying,” says Siôn. Local Authority ICT departments may also be willing to approach Facebook or any other site where the content appears to request its removal. Many school leaders who contact the NAHT believe the online comments are libellous or defamatory. However, NAHT solicitor Simon Thomas says there are several obstacles to prosecuting those who make the postings: “Most sites or hosts are based in the US, where the courts will generally not enforce defamation judgments from UK courts. And where publication consists of opinion or is published to a limited group then, while it can still be damaging, it may not be easy to establish liability. And of course, individuals are not always easily identifiable,” says Simon. A spokeswoman for Facebook, where many of the attacks take place, says

‘YOU CAN’T HELP BUT TAKE IT Some head teachers have been left so shaken by the experience of being attacked on Facebook that they prefer to speak anonymously. ‘Sarah’, a deputy head teacher at an English primary school, learned about a Facebook campaign against her from a school cleaner. The cleaner gave Sarah vague details about an online petition calling for her to be dismissed, but refused to say any more. Sarah contacted a local police officer, who spoke to the cleaner, but was also unable to extract any more details from her. He promised to make a personal search of Facebook that evening, to try to find out more. “I was very upset,” recalls Sarah. “At that point, I didn’t know what had been written about me. I was worried there might be some allegation that would lead to me being marched off the job – an immediate suspension while they investigate. You can’t help but take it personally.”



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PERSONALLY’ Later that evening, a friend rang to say they had found the page. It turned out to be so ludicrous that Sarah felt almost relieved. A woman unknown to Sarah had written on a Facebook page that, in her view, Sarah was unfit to be a teacher; many people with children at the school felt the same way; and if anyone else agreed, they should sign their names. The author is believed to be a friend of a parent at the school with whom Sarah had some contact many months previously over child-protection issues. There was nothing to back up the allegations and no one else had signed up. The police were unable to make contact with the author of the page but did speak informally to her friend. They also spoke to one person who left a comment accusing Sarah of being ‘a bit posh’. No arrests were made because there was no specific allegation against her.

“The police just said it wasn’t appropriate behaviour, but there wasn’t much more they could do,” says Sarah. “They even said I could let the page stay up there, because there would be more chance of somebody writing something inflammatory and then they could take stronger action, but I didn’t want to.” Sarah also contacted the NAHT, which advised her to phone her LA. The LA’s ICT department then contacted Facebook and the page was shut down within 24 hours. Sarah would advise anyone suffering a similar experience to also contact their LA’s ICT department. “If this woman had come into the school yard with a petition, she’d have been made to leave, but because it’s on the internet, there’s not a lot you can do,” she adds. “We were lucky the police were willing to go round for an informal chat.”

Three pupils were suspended from Beaumont School in St Albans in Hertfordshire after a Facebook page was set up criticising the head teacher’s dress sense. Elizabeth Hitch, head teacher at the mixed comprehensive, believes the page was initially set up ‘as a bit of a joke’ but it quickly escalated into something nastier. A pupil created the page one day in November 2009, with a comment about a jacket Elizabeth had worn. By evening, there were 10 comments on the page, including one that used foul language and another that Elizabeth describes as ‘very abusive’. The pupils who made those two comments were suspended for three days each, along with the boy who started the page. Elizabeth also wrote to the parents of all the other children who made comments. “I said it was inappropriate to make comments about a member of staff in this way,” she remembers. The story found its way into The Daily Telegraph with a quote from an anonymous parent complaining that the head was interfering with the children’s ‘freedom’ outside school. “We felt that putting these comments on the site was the equivalent of daubing it on walls around town, because it is public,” says Elizabeth, who was alerted to the page’s existence by a former member of staff. Since then, the school has had two other, more minor, incidents involving Facebook, with pupils commenting on the eccentricities of a member of staff. Elizabeth believes that although such pages are usually started as a bit of relatively innocent fun, they frequently turn malicious. “The fastest way to get them taken down is to talk to the perpetrators directly,” she says.


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If those who post are parents, ask them to discuss their issues with the school through the normal channels. Make it clear that posting comments online will change nothing. Facebook users must give their real names when they sign up and so can be traced. Anyone can report offensive content via Facebook’s home page. Click ‘help’ and then search ‘report abuse’. Facebook promises to deal with abusive pages in 24 hours. Some school leaders recommend asking the posters to remove the comments themselves as the most effective way to take down abusive content. It is difficult to make a successful claim for libel or defamation over comments made on a website. However, the police are willing to intervene in some cases. Local Authorities and the NAHT will offer advice and support if you are a victim of an attack. Teachers who use social networks should ensure they understand the privacy settings – as they may not offer the level of protection you expect. If in doubt, ask the school ICT department.


anyone can report abusive content by using the ‘help’ button on the site’s homepage, then entering a search such as ‘report abusive content’ and then clicking on one of several FAQs that appear on the subject. Emails about abusive content are dealt with in 24 hours, she adds, and people who have posted anonymously are contacted directly. However, she does concede that there is no telephone number that allows you to speak to someone at Facebook to discuss any problems. The website has also attracted a lot of criticism for allowing anonymous posting by pupils, but it does not yet have a high enough profile in the UK to make it a serious concern and Siôn says the NAHT has not received any complaints about it, although it is monitoring the situation. As Siôn notes, this isn’t a problem that is about to go away. “This is what some people do, in our cyber world,” he says.

‘THESE CAMPAIGNS ARE NOT GOING TO STOP’ A nasty shock awaited Nardeep Sharma (pictured) when he returned from his half-term break in the autumn of 2009. A former pupil at the school where he is principal had started a Facebook campaign calling for his dismissal. The page had attracted 300 visitors and contained a number of abusive comments. To make matters worse, the incident was reported in The Sun newspaper as ‘Head bullied on Facebook’, as well as in local newspapers. Speaking to LF a year later, Nardeep explains that the campaign was started by a 16-year-old pupil whom he’d decided to exclude on the last day of school before half term, because of his previous bad behaviour. The campaign was in full swing by the time Nardeep returned. He felt unable respond to journalists’ requests for a comment because he did not want to say anything that might compromise the exclusion process, which had yet to be ratified by the school governors. Calls from the press were redirected to the Local Authority press office. “I would have liked to have put my side of the story, but I couldn’t,” says Nardeep, who is principal at Colne Community School and College in Essex, a mixed comprehensive with 1,450 pupils. He called in the police. “As far as I was concerned, it was a public order offence, so I took the matter to the police. The pupil was arrested.” Nardeep is unsure whether the boy was prosecuted but says he would have been happy to give evidence in court and he was also relieved that Facebook took the page down after being alerted to it. Thirty other pupils who also made comments were called into his office one by one for a ‘carpeting’ and their parents received letters. In addition, Essex police gave a school assembly to all pupils to explain how improper use of the internet can constitute public order offences. Nardeep also wrote to all parents to assure them the situation was being properly handled and received a gratifying number of supportive emails and letters in response. He says ruefully that while newspapers reported 300 visitors had ‘joined’ the campaign, they had interpreted page views as being supporters. “I felt like ringing up the Press Complaints Commission to point this out,” he says. Looking back, Nardeep says he was more annoyed than upset about the incident. He would advise other schools to make sure they have a behaviour policy with clear rules for postings on social networks. In addition, anyone coming under attack should seek the support of their LA and their union. “I don’t think these campaigns are going to stop,” he concludes. “It can be stressful, certainly, but seek the support you need and carry on doing the job you are paid for.”


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A sudden loss of form 40


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You may be free from the shackles of the selfevaluation form, but school leaders shouldn’t walk away from selfevaluation itself, argues Ian Rowe

as the self-evaluation form (SEF) simply a one-size-fits-all approach that fitted no one? Scrapped in September 2010, the SEF certainly seemed to fit few perfectly and, for many, it was an inefficient path to school improvement. The form was Ofsted’s means of encouraging schools to take responsibility for their performance. The process was meant to ensure that decisions would be based on verifiable evidence, with school leaders better able to make informed decisions and prioritise areas for improvement. However, more often than not, it was seen as a tiresome burden. To assess school leaders’ views on selfevaluation, Kirkland Rowell, a supplier of self-evaluation surveys, asked more than 300 heads of state-funded primary schools in England about their attitudes. When the results came in, it showed that 83 per cent believed that their schools had improved because of self-evaluation processes. At the same time, schools were keenly aware of the double-edged sword of the SEF. Almost three quarters of respondents said it imposed significant burdens, with its lengthy and generic demands. An appetite for creating a better fit between self-evaluation and school circumstances has existed for some time. But the lessons from the SEF’s demise need to be learned if self-evaluation is to be successful. The main concerns lie in retaining the value that self-evaluation adds to school improvement while ensuring high standards. It would also be helpful to lessen the association between the burden of the SEF and how worthwhile selfevaluation is seen to be. There is also the risk that we arrive at the potentially absurd situation of asking schools to evaluate their self-evaluation. Hopefully this will not happen – it should be implicit in the self-evaluation process that the quality of its design and evidence will underpin the quality of any remedial actions identified. What’s more, by repeating and updating self-evaluation on a regular basis, trends are likely to appear. The degree to which it enables school leaders to track the impact of any significant changes – and to identify previously unknown problems and successes – will go some way to indicating the quality of the evaluation. In developing a rounded self-evaluation, the views of staff, pupils and parents need to be incorporated – and the Government clearly believes this is what we should work towards. To take one example, the recent

White Paper, The Importance of Teaching, states the following in relation to behaviour and safety: “Evidence from pupils and parents will be considered alongside evidence from teachers… Inspectors gather this information about parent, pupil and staff views of behaviour through surveys and discussions during an inspection. Ofsted will review how this information is collected and used during inspections, including the best ways to make findings available to the schools and parents.” Of our sample, 99 per cent of primary heads used some kind of stakeholder survey to inform their self-evaluation. At times this will uncover new information, as 55 per cent of our respondents found. Yet just as importantly, such surveys can confirm instincts and dispel myths about stakeholder attitudes, helping school leaders to tackle ‘soft’ issues such as morale and perceptions, as much as ‘hard’ issues such as attainment and provision. Steve Keating, deputy head teacher of Gosden House School in Surrey, reported that: “One big advantage of using external

‘Self-evaluation surveys can help school leaders to tackle “soft” issues such as morale and perceptions, as much as “hard” issues such as attainment and provision’ surveys is that you can be sure they are drilling in to the areas that matter most. If you do the surveys yourself, there can be a temptation to avoid difficult issues and there’s always going to be a risk that you don’t ask the questions that you need to.” David Priestly, head teacher at Greenfield School Community and Arts College in Newton Aycliffe, County Durham, also found that a key advantage of stakeholder surveys is the ability to measure the impact of policy changes over time. “The timeseries graphs we use are very useful to plot trends and see developments in various aspects of school life.” Seeking comparisons with other schools in similar circumstances also has a CONTINUED ON PAGE 42 ➧


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significant role to play. Looking at the standards achieved by those working with the same challenges contextualises the results of self-evaluation. This is something that David Bennett, executive director at Havelock Academy in Grimsby, recognises. “We are in what you’d call an area of extreme deprivation in terms of the local employment and housing situation,” he says. He found being able to compare his school to others in equivalent environments extremely useful. It gave a truer picture of problems and successes, as well as pointing to further worthwhile improvement strategies. Remarkably, this is currently one of the most undervalued self-evaluation activities but as the opportunities to convert to academy status increase, and with free schools soon to open their doors, school leaders now tasked with designing their own self-evaluation should look to their peers for inspiration and encouragement. School leaders will also need to resist the temptation to move budgets and staff away from self-evaluation as resources become scarcer. This will often be a false economy, as Steve Keating notes: “I’d hoped a stakeholder survey would be valuable as every education professional is keenly aware that they are expected to account for every penny they spend, but it has paid for itself in spades.” Ian Rowe is general manager of GL Performance, the publisher of Kirkland Rowell Stakeholder Surveys and Schoolcentre, an online school improvement planning tool NAHT members are entitled to a discount on Kirkland Rowell Stakeholder Surveys. For more information, call 0191 270 8270 or visit and


BUILDING A ROBUST PARENTAL PARTNERSHIP: CEDAR ROAD PRIMARY SCHOOL, NORTHAMPTON There’s no such thing as an average school. Each institution brings its own unique set of issues and challenges. Take Cedar Road Primary School, situated a mile outside the centre of Northampton. The 400-plus children that attend pretty much hit the average of every national category of measurement, says the school’s head teacher, Kay Gerrett (left). But in the five years that Kay has been in post, she has seen substantial changes, not least of which was the school taking Year Six pupils for the first time in 2007. “It’s not the case that you’re just dealing with bigger 10-year-olds; they have a different set of development needs. You can interact more and they can also be given far greater responsibilities,” says Kay. And as well as changing the atmosphere of the school, it also introduced the need to prepare for KS2 Sats. Kay passionately believes that during periods of upheaval, it’s essential to monitor how those changes are affecting everybody connected to the school – particularly parents. “I’ve always been keen on building a strong relationship with the parents,” she says. In the past, Kay had developed a questionnaire that she sent out to parents, seeking feedback on how they perceived what was going on in the school and what they thought of the initiatives that were under way. The problem was, says Kay, that analysing the results and then determining what they told her about the school in comparison with similar establishments was time-consuming and difficult. “Our governors have always been very hot on the importance of the parent voice and building a strong partnership with parents,” Kay says. As such, families have been a strong focus for her team of staff and everyone has been on board with the idea of using a parental questionnaire to provide information that will improve the outcomes for children. Kay looked at a range of parental feedback surveys, but she found that while they covered some of the issues she needed to explore, they didn’t really allow her to delve into the matters that were most pertinent to her school. To ensure she could find out what parents really thought about what was going on in the school, in December 2009, Kay decided to use a parental stakeholder survey from Kirkland Rowell, one which was formulated specially for primary schools. “The surveys have been designed to establish which issues parents care most about and what schools need to get a handle on,” says Kay. The surveys are based on the views of two million parents, with their responses used to identify the 20 most important areas to them. These include school discipline, quality of teaching and the suitability of homework. And at only four pages the questionnaires are not onerous for parents. Before the questionnaires were distributed, Kay had ensured that she could include questions that were specific to Cedar Road. For example, she had been concerned that the parents of Foundation Level pupils may have been wanting more contact with the school, so she was able to include this as part of the questionnaire. “The results backed up my assumptions,” says Kay. “As a result, they provided the impetus to address that and put measurements in place to assess our progress.” Cedar Road (whose pupils are pictured, left) received responses from almost half of its parents and carers – a rate which added weight to the validity of the results. Once the questionnaires had been returned, Kirkland Rowell analysed the results, producing a report that helped put the parents’ answers in to perspective, with results broken down by gender and year group. “The nice thing about this report is that we could compare our results with schools that are similar to ours. Without that data, it is difficult to put the parents’ responses into context.” The survey played an essential part in the school’s Ofsted inspection in the summer of 2010 as the results provided evidence for each of the quality indicators that the assessors were evaluating. Kay had the survey report to hand when the inspectors called and she was able to answer all the questions they had on the partnership with parents.


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Partner contacts The NAHT is committed to negotiating a wide range of high-quality, value-added benefits and services for its members. If you have any comments on the services provided by our affinity partners, please email John Randall, the NAHT’s Head of Marketing and Communications, at

SERVICES FOR SCHOOLS ETEACH Online staff recruitment 0845 226 1906 Email: SCHOOLS ADVISORY SERVICE Staff-absence insurance 01623 643 555 KIRKLAND ROWELL Self-evaluation surveys 0191 270 8270 H TEMPEST School photography 01736 752 411, ext 421 (please quote ‘NAHT’)

SERVICES FOR MEMBERS ROCK Travel insurance 0844 557 5874

Figures confirm why stress should be taken seriously

Stress, depression and anxiety are the biggest causes of absenteeism among teachers in their mid-50s, according to an analysis of claims data by Schools Advisory Service (SAS). The analysis found that teachers aged over 55 were more likely to take sick leave than any other age group in the education sector. And while musculo-skeletal disorders make up the majority of work-related illnesses, the SAS statistics revealed that education has a significantly higher than average rate of work-related stress, depression and anxiety. They also show that more teachers are affected by one of these three conditions as they


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age, with the number of claims peaking at the age of 57. Stress or depression among teachers accounted for just 14 per cent of total absenteeism in the 32-36 age group, but in the 55-59 category it had doubled. In addition, 86.3 per cent of the total of stress/depressionrelated absentees were teachers - compared with 11.8 per cent of support staff and 1.3 per cent of caretakers. SAS director Les Marshall said: “This analysis clearly demonstrates why our Staff Absence Insurance Cover, which provides additional medical and well-being benefits to staff, is fundamental to any genuine provider who seriously wants to help schools reduce and prevent absences.” Visit www.schooladvice. for further details.

Aviva is offering an online-only car and home insurance policy, giving you access to current Aviva offers. On car insurance, we are offering NAHT members, with four or more years’ no-claims, 12 weeks free* when taking out a year’s policy. On home insurance, we are offering NAHT members, who buy our buildings insurance contents cover, up to £55,000 free** when you buy these together from Aviva. For a quote, visit www.fromyourassociation.

Our online-only policies offer you the opportunity to tailor your quote to meet your needs, but we will continue to offer our existing car and home policies to education professionals through our call centre on 0800 046 6393. * Proof of no-claim status may be required. The discount doesn’t apply to any optional covers. Minimum premium applies. We reserve the right to withdraw the offer at any time, however quotes are guaranteed for 60 days. ** Proof of no-claims status may be required. Your contents value must not exceed £55,000. Minimum excess – £100. Minimum premium applies. We reserve the right to withdraw the offer at any time, however quotes are guaranteed for 60 days.


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Five tips on... Saving money 1. Turn off the PC These days, many schools are running networks akin to those used by a medium-sized business, and yet there is little management of energy usage. Computers are (understandably) left on through the day to avoid losing valuable learning time while a teacher waits for rows of computers to boot up at the start of a lesson. But this practice is wasteful of both energy and money. Energy-saving software, such as Verismic Power Manager or NightWatchman, can program computers centrally to power down out of school hours, in breaks and at lunchtime, and then reboot automatically just before lessons start. Low-powered sleep modes can be used during lesson time to reduce consumption further, without causing disruption if a teacher moves from book work one minute to computer work the next. This reduction in ‘up time’ also helps prolong the life of older equipment that many schools rely on. A trial conducted in a UK secondary school recently with 1,000 pupils and 600 computers, resulted in projected yearly savings for the school of £13,248. If you do the sums, across a Local Authority with 35 similar secondary schools, this would mean power costs could be cut by nearly half a million pounds annually – and that is not including primary schools.

2. Switch to portal power Schools can make significant savings by switching to online communication rather than paper. Mark Leighton, ICT director at Blatchington Mill secondary school in Hove, is an advocate for this approach and uses the school’s online parent portal to communicate with parents, staff and students. “We distribute our reports electronically now, but previously we would have used around 190,000 pages to produce our reports across the school per year. This would equate to £1,000 worth of paper

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and an estimated £1,500 on toner cartridges. “We always sent reports by pupil post so there was no postage costs but if schools did use Royal Mail, switching to online could amount to another £500 of savings. “Added to this is the saving in time as we no longer have to print, collate, staple and distribute reports via form groups, as well as collating all the return slips. There is still some administration time involved in online publication but it is far less.” The reports are also always online for staff and parents to access and Mark feels the process has had an impact in other areas. “By making the process simpler it has allowed us to provide more regular and frequent reporting to parents, which pays dividends in school by allowing for earlier and more targeted intervention.” Mark adds that most of the school’s families are on email, which is used for mass mailings during the year – such as reminders about parents evenings and newsletters. It also has most families’ mobile numbers for urgent messaging – which gives it almost 100 per cent coverage. For those who cannot access electronically it will use conventional post and the telephone. The school also holds meetings for ‘hard to reach’ parents out in the community - at community venues such as halls or pubs, where they find it easier to attend.

3. Use electronic money Switching to e-procurement will also help schools save money. In some LAs, schools can use the DfE’s OPEN portal, or the xchangewales portal for Welsh schools. These allow schools to shop online and compare prices easily from different suppliers. Schools can purchase and pay automatically from their financial management system. It means better prices, a better audit trail and less administration time spent on this task. Carol Hughes, administrative

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It looks like the Government will give schools more control over budgets but, with less money in the purse, some belt tightening will still be needed. Graham Cooper looks at ways to use technology to save money

in schools information systems (MIS) and knew that many of these tasks could be performed well by the systems that they have already bought and paid for – and therefore they did not need to invest in new technology and new training. However, even these users admitted that they were not aware of all the functions their MIS could perform. The lesson we can take from this is to look at what you have already got and call your suppliers to see if your existing MIS or other software can adapt to your new requirements rather than immediately assume you need to invest in something new.

officer at Tryfan School, one of the original Welsh pilot schools for the xhangewales portal before it was rolled out to everyone, explains the advantages: “Now, the order is authorised on the system and sent via email to the supplier – this saves paper, the cost of faxing the supplier and everything is done much more quickly. “I can search for an item and it will automatically come up with the various options that are available. I did this for a colour printer fuser unit and it came up with a choice of three – and there was more than £70 between the highest and lowest price. The result is that we have far more choice now and get better value for money.” The system processes orders more quickly, enabling the school to get next-day delivery on many items rather than waiting for a week or more. This helps schools to control their spending better. They only have to order what they need, when they need it and even urgent requirements are easily met. The time savings have also been considerable. Across the Gwynedd school network it is estimated that schools have achieved a 60 per cent saving in the time to process orders, equating to around 80 hours of time a week.

4. Utilise what you have Capita’s Children’s Services SIMS Partnership Schools Conference was held last November at the National College. It was attended by a variety of state secondaries, primaries, and academies, along with a couple of independent schools. It was interesting to see that a number of delegates – mainly school leaders – mentioned that they were often approached by their internal staff to purchase new software, for pupil-tracking systems or software to help monitor behaviour. Fortunately, the schools appeared to be pretty savvy users of their management

5. Work smarter, not harder In difficult times people are often asked to do more with the same amount of money and one way to achieve this is to change to more efficient practices. A rather simple change – the payment of invoices by BACS instead of cheques, for example – can reduce the amount of time taken to authorise and sign cheques. For an average secondary school, this results in a saving amounting to £3,500 per year, according to Capita’s calculations. Most schools I know could find a good home for that sort of money. Streamlining other processes also help. Stuart Lee, SIMS manager at Sprowston Community High School in Norfolk, is an advocate of this approach: “We calculated that when teachers enter achievement and behaviour information directly into our MIS, 370 hours, or 10 weeks, of administration time is saved per year – time that will be refocused to support teaching and learning.” For primary schools, dinner-money collection is also a timeconsuming task that can be improved. Tracey Pearson, a clerical assistant at Little Heath Primary School in Coventry, is an advocate of using technology to help: “I can do the dinner numbers in five minutes now. It is probably saving me half a day a week,” she says. Graham Cooper is Capita Children’s Services’ head of product management. Capita supplies 21,000 schools with their SIMS management information systems. For more information, see


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The latest products, books and teaching resources

Assessment John Gardner, Wynne Harlen, Louise Hayward, Gordon Stobart with Martin Montgomery McGraw-Hill for the Open University Press £19.99 Written by members of the Assessment Reform Group, this book looks at the methods involved in developing assessment practice. It deals with the differences between formative and summative assessment and explains how teachers and schools can build on existing practice and how the system should react to support them. There are nine chapters split into three sections, and at the end of each chapter there is a set of questions designed to prompt individual reflection and group discussion on the key issues concerned. A professional development template is also included in one of the appendices, which can address these types of questions in the context of the school, Local Authority or higher education.

So, I’ve ggot Dyslexia… y now what? Hannah Mortimer QEd Publications £6.00 This book aims to help adults and children to deal with and understand dyslexia. Suitable for children from seven to 14 years old, it focuses on what dyslexia means and how young people can make sense of what adults are saying about them and how best to help themselves. The framework provided in the book helps on a practical level by dispelling some of the confusion and difficulties often experienced by children with the condition. The book is full of useful advice from the author, an educational psychologist who has worked in Local Authority, NHS and independent schools.


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Remember R emem emb beer tto ow watch attcch tthe he b birdie ird die thi this is w winter intter This T h hiss winter, th the he R RSPB’s SSPB B’s B Big ig SSchools’ cho oolss’ Bi Birdwatch irdw dwatcch marks mar rkks its 110th 0th th b bir birthday rthd hday during durring the he week weeek off 244 JJanuary anu uaryy – 4 FFe February ebru uary and d on once nce aga again ain tthe h he biggest big b ggest su survey urveey of b birdlif birdlife d fe w will illl occur occur in schools scch hoo ols l across acr cross s the he U UK UK. K. Last Laast yyear, eear, th the he R RSPB SPB PB iint introduced tro rod duceed tthe h he Little LLitt tlee SSchools’ cchool ols Birdw Birdwatch, dwaatcch h, eespecially sspeecciaally ly des designed esigne g ed ffor o or children cchi ildre d en aaged ged ed ffiv five ve aand nd d und under. nder. e A As we wel wellll as a helping hellping h p tto d discover o r and n learn e n about b t thee birds i that a share h e ttheir i school c o eenvironment, r m n cchildren d n will i be b helping e i tthe RSPB P tto b build dap picture t of the t e birds rd visiting v t tthe school h ol grounds. o n Various r u curriculum-linked u c u l ke aactivities i e aand learning ar n ca can b be ggenerated e t from m thee survey r y too. o See S thee website e t below b o for f more m r information iinformat fo o ation o and a d a free ree tte teachers’ each chers’ r ’p pack pack, k whi w which ich h con contains ontain a ns guidance guid u daan ncee not notes, otes, s a bi bird ird d iden identification entificati i a ion pos poster, oster er, cco counting ount nting n cha chart hartt aand n nd sur survey urvey ey fform. m

Show Sho ow o off ff yo your our llabel abell ffor or FFairtrade aiirttrad de Thee Fa Fairtrade airtraadee Foundation Fou und datio on is ho holding oldin ng its aannual nnu ual FFairtrade airttrad de FFortnight ortn nigh ght fr from rom m 28 Feb February bruaaryy to 1133 M March arcch tto o prom promote motee th the he d difference iffeerence tthat hatt Fai Fairtrade irtraade ma makes akes to mill millions lion ns off p pe people eople in n developing dev velo opin ng co countries. oun ntriees. W With ith h th this his yyear’s ear’s th theme hem me o off ‘Show w of off ff yo your our lab label’, bel’, school schools ls ca can an gget et involved invo olveed o over verr the tw two wo w weeks eeeks by b becoming ecoming a Fa Fairtrade airtrradee schoo school ol an and nd rregistering egissterring on thee website websit te below, below w, o orr by us using singg thee re resources esou urces available avvailaablee and d downloading do own nloaadin ng a cop copy py o off the th he Schools Sch hools A Action ctio on Guide. Guid de. Teaching Teachin ng the the children chilldren about ab bou ut where wherre the th he clothes clothes the they ey w wear earr an and nd thee foo food od tthey heyy ea eat at co comes omees ffrom, rom m, th the he FFairtrade airttrade Foundation Fo oun ndattion will willl also alsso highlight highligh ht the th he tradee industry aand nd thee ine inequalities equaalities ffaced aceed b byy so some omee farme farmers, ers, worker workers, rs, theirr fam families milies aand nd communities com mmunitties in d developing evelop pingg co countries ounttriess as we well ell ass at home in tthe he UK.. For full de details etaiils aabout bou ut becoming bec com mingg a FFairtrade airttrade school scchool and and to access acceess the res resources sourrcess and d ho hot ot ttips, ips, go to:

Could C ould d tthe he sschool cchoo hool library llibra b ary b bee m moving ovingg online o nlinee in n ffuture? uturre? In n a ssig sign gn o off th the he ttimes, ime mess, o online-library nlin n ne-l e libra b aryy provide provider r ider Questia Q s a Media e a hass ma madee itss collection l t n available av a e for o the h iPhone P on aand d iPod o T Touch. c T Thee application, ap i t , called al d Questia u t LLibrary, a provides o de m mobile b bile access ac es to the h ffull text t t off 74,000 , 0 books o s and n more m e than h ttwo o million i o journal, o n magazine, g i and n an newspaper w a r articles. rt e The T e collection l ct n consists o s mostly m s y of copyrighted p g e w works r aand iss selected l t and d organised rg i d byy professional o s o librarians r a tto ffacilitate l t academic c e i research, e a h eespecially e l in n the h h humanities m t and d social o l sciences. i c Thee application p c o m makes k browsing o n ffor research researc e a ch purposes purp u pose o es easy, easy sy, allowing allowi a wingg users s s to drilll d down own tto ow o 66,700 ,700 700 rre research esearch e c topic top opicc pages. page a ess.

The Complete p Guide to Lesson Planning and Preparation Anthony Haynes Continuum £17.99 From the author of 100 Ideas for Lesson Planning, this guide provides practical advice and information and outlines a number of fundamental issues that should aid all teachers with planning their lessons. The main chapters cover a range of topics that will affect the way lessons are taught, from the physical space of the classroom and the seating to time, curriculum, language and resources. Anecdotes, reflective questions, tables and diagrams feature alongside the expert advice on effective lesson planning and preparation. And each chapter concludes with examples of further reading.

The Essential Guide to: Teachingg 14-19 Diplomas Lynn Senior Pearson Education £16.99 The latest in Pearson’s Essential Guides aims to dispel the myths around this new qualification and to provide guidance and practical skills for all those involved with teaching it. Various aspects are covered, from its history to the elements involved and the teaching strategies advised. Throughout the book, there are tips, diagrams, key-ideas summaries and prompts for further reading. The hands-on framework of the book attempts to instil confidence for teaching the diploma. Each chapter is written individually to allow readers to dip in and out of the various concepts and implementations of the diploma that they may need more support on. And the education section of the Pearson Bookshop website offers a 20 per cent discount on all titles for LFF readers.


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The Looking for Learning Toolkit

The Looking for Learning Toolkit can transform your school and make it more learning-focused. It can help you to make the shift from looking at the teaching to looking at the learning, to rehaul the way you structure your meetings, your evaluation and planning formats and to change the way your whole school – teachers, children, parents – thinks and talks about learning. We have much more to tell you about the Looking for Learning Toolkit. Without any obligation, we look forward to talking with you.

The Looking for Learning Toolkit is telling us everything we need to know about learning; how kids learn, what learning in action looks like, how to improve it. It’s all right there for us in the Toolkit. The thinking behind the Looking for Learning Toolkit is phenomenal and as we pick away at it we’re going deeper and deeper in understanding learning and how we can improve it. Peter Pretlove, Headteacher, Bransgore C.E. Primary School, Bransgore, Christchurch, Dorset, UK

To get more information or to talk to a school working with the Looking for Learning Toolkit visit us online at, call +44 (0)20 7531 9696 or email

From Fieldwork Education, a division of the World Class Learning Group NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2010 ● LEADERSHIP FOCUS 9

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RANTLINE What’s driving you mad? Is it league tables, over-work, FMSiS or all the aggravation caused by the snow and ice? AREA: West Yorkshire SUBJECT: Snow and ice

AREA: Hertfordshire SUBJECT: KS2 tests

Dear editor When all the bad weather was forecast, my Local Authority bombarded me with emails about my responsibility to keep the school open if at all possible. I was reminded that travel to school was ‘an essential journey’. I did manage to stay open some days and on those days I’d say around a fifth of the pupils made it in. I couldn’t help but notice that other schools in the town closed for the duration. Now if I’d known for sure I would only have a fifth of our pupils, I’d have opened with the staff who live within walking distance. But what would happen if a lot more than that turned up? We’d be babysitting the ones that came. I really resent being pressured to open at all costs.

Dear editor The publication of this year’s KS2 league tables is yet another slap in the face for school leaders.Yes, parents need information about their children and their school, but league tables are massively misleading. Let’s pray this is the last year we have to put up with such an atrocious system which doesn’t meet the needs of pupils, parents or schools.

AREA: Gloucestershire SUBJECT: FMSiS Dear editor We have just received a letter from Michael Gove about getting rid of the FMSiS. This is great news as we are a very small primary school of 70 pupils and we’ve just gone through a great deal of work to complete the FMSiS – and paid to have it accredited by an outside assessor from our own budget. My main bugbear is Mr Gove’s letter, which acknowledges how much time this has taken up of teachers and governing bodies. But he has omitted bursars completely from the equation and it is the bursars who have done the main spread of this work – so I can’t help but wonder what he knows about the way schools are run.

They won’t be allowed to bring their guns to school, so I fail to see how they’ll be any more effective

AREA: Essex SUBJECT: Troops to Teachers Dear editor I’m not going to jump on the bandwagon that says every Troops to Teachers participant will be a screaming, bullying, shiny-shoed disciplinarian but that does seem to be the point of the exercise. Unfortunately, these recruits will only have the same discipline tools open to them as any other teacher – it’s not as if they’ll be allowed to

bring their guns to school. So I fail to see how they will be any more effective in disciplining unruly children. Or am I wrong?

AREA: East Midlands SUBJECT: Work from home Dear editor Is anyone else frustrated by the lack of opportunity for working from home? I have an allowance agreed with my governors for one day a fortnight (equivalent to PPA) and view it as a good opportunity to get some work done and give my deputy experience of being in charge. But my diary gets so full I rarely have time for a day at home and I’ve been warned it gives the wrong message to the staff who apparently assume I’m off doing my Christmas shopping!

AREA: Dorset SUBJECT: Too much work Dear editor Is anyone else feeling overwhelmed? I think I’ve just about had enough of headship. The workload seems to increase year on year and each year the pressure to do well is unrelenting. I’ve been feeling this way for a while now and wondering if I should chuck it all in and get a nine-to-five job and be able to spend some time with my family.

A PROBLEM SHARED… Angered or annoyed by something at work? Get in touch and we’ll air your grievance. You can email naht@ or leave a message on our dedicated rantline: 020 7880 7663.


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Writer delights the senses To celebrate the New Year, I’m thinking of starting a campaign. The trouble is, what I want to celebrate is all a bit nebulous – but I think it could be summed up in the phrase, ‘the Campaign for Real Schools’. We all know ER, House and Casualty aren’t accurate portrayals of hospital life. The same goes for school drama, whether it’s the frankly unbelievable shenanigans of Waterloo Road, or the piousness of Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society. So why does the media behave as if schools all fall neatly into certain preordained categories? You know what they are. No teenager at St Studious ever swears. No child at Bogstandard School gets an A*. No pupil at Hannibal Lecter will ever move off benefits. Yet heads, teachers, support staff and millions of parents know the truth: that most schools are hard-working places, staffed by dedicated people who aren’t in it for the money (usually); with pupils who are like the rest of the human race but because they’re kids can be exhilaratingly unexpected, wildly talented and very funny. In short, schools are like real life but more surprising. I was reminded of this at a prize-giving evening I attended recently. It’s the kind of event that remains largely unchanged by the advances of technology. There are teenagers, there are bigwigs, there are handshakes, there is the doling out of cups and certificates and pens. It’s exciting enough to make it to the school website, but probably not the local paper. The audience had reached a state of happy stupor when on walked the guest of honour, who happened to be Peter James, a bestselling crime author who lives in the area. We glanced at our watches. How long before he


used the phrase ‘happiest days of your life’? As it happens, he did use the phrase. But not quite as anticipated. As is obligatory, the guest took us on a quick trip down memory lane, with lurid reminiscences of his ‘insane’ prep school head, who

marched kids round the school at night and whose main advice appeared to be a warning to shun ‘older boys being friendly’. The head of his public school didn’t fare much better either. Revenge being a dish best served cold, Peter immortalised both of these school leaders in his novels. For just one teacher, who spotted his writing potential, there was praise. The same teacher also told the writer that if he was ever tempted to say that his school days were the happiest of his life, then he would have failed. At this, the audience

perked up visibly. With eveyrone hooked, our author then moved on to his career and how he checked his facts. One novel, he said, featured the discovery of a severed head: but how could he find out how heavy one of these would be? “I tracked down someone who as a young constable had been sent to a suicide on a railway line,” said the writer. “The decapitated body was on the line, and the constable was sent, with a torch, to look for the head. He saw a pair of eyes looking out of a bush at him, and decided he’d better go in from the back, which was a bit of a struggle.” Text speak is the best way to describe the faces of the platform party at this point :-0 Warming to his theme, he continued: “The constable then wrapped the head in his coat – it seemed the best thing to do – and put it in the boot of his car to drive to the mortuary. Every time he went round a corner he felt it rolling around.” And in answer to the question of how much it weighed: the answer was “about as much as an oven-ready chicken.” At this point, the chair of governors appeared several shades paler than the uncooked bird and the new expression of choice in the hall was now :-D Every teenager in the place was grinning from ear to ear. And then came a final, delightful, touch. “You’re all high achievers, which is why you’re here. But don’t forget that half of the companies in the American Fortune Top 100 are led by people who didn’t go to university.” It was an utterly brilliant night that is unlikely to be forgotten by anyone present. Lots of school is like that – a delight for the senses – and I want this column to celebrate it. If you would like to invite me to a school event or have any stories of education with a difference, email me at


Schools are like real life, just that bit more surprising, says Susan Young


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Leadership Focus Jan-Feb 2011  
Leadership Focus Jan-Feb 2011  

National Association of Head Teachers magazine, issue 47