HAVE COURAGE Ian is about to embark on just such a quest: to ensure pupils are set – and do – homework regularly. He adds that, in his opinion, the bravest thing he has done was to trust his two deputies when they wanted to switch to a continental system of opening the school between 8.15am and 2.15pm. “I thought it was a very bad idea. However, because of the respect I have for my deputies, I agreed the policy,” says Ian. “It was a massive success. Trusting the courage of other people’s convictions – that’s much more brave than banning mobile phones.”
Going ‘Gangnam Style’ Xavier Bowers Mount Carmel RC High School London “Bravery is dancing when others expect you to lecture,” says Dave Harris in his book. He might not have meant it literally. But Xavier Bowers slipped on his dancing shoes last December, when he and his staff made a Gangnam Style parody video, posting it on YouTube and the school’s Facebook page. In the video, filmed in the school, teachers sing and dance to the popular song – with some staff appearing in the changing rooms dressed only in towels. It’s not the first spoof video Xavier and his team have made, although it’s the first one they’ve posted publicly. It’s a tradition that stems from that other popular end-of-term celebration, the pantomime, he says. “It reminds the children that we are normal human beings who have lives outside the school and a sense of humour. It helps build confidence and trust with our young people.” He admits the move was ‘risky’ but says the school had great fun making the video, which has now been viewed more than 35,000 times. Not everyone thought the video was a great idea, however. Xavier and his team were criticised by local Tory councillor Peter Britcliffe, who told a local newspaper that the spoof would undermine pupils’ respect for their teachers. The story went viral and was picked up by several national newspapers, ensuring Xavier’s phone 30
rang non-stop over New Year. “I was frustrated and quite angry, and ironically, exactly the opposite of [the criticisms] was the case. The video hugely enhanced our profile across the world, and the reaction was overwhelmingly positive,” he says. The media storm taught Xavier a lesson, however. “You realise how vulnerable you are as a head teacher,” he says. “When we posted the video online there was euphoria among the staff, and I didn’t think that anybody would put a negative spin on it.” So would Xavier do something similar again? “I would,” he says. “I’m not put off, but I would be more prepared for the reaction next time.” He doesn’t think it was the bravest
thing he’s done, however. That accolade goes to the very tough decision he had to make in his second term as head at the school, when he decided to remove the head of maths from his post. The school had done badly in its Ofsted mathematics subject survey, and Xavier knew he had to act. The head of maths was replaced, although he remained at the school in a different post. “It was a major decision and this is my first headship. But we were vulnerable, and we needed to go back to basics. I’m delighted to say its all going well now.” Watch the video here: tinyurl. com/af3qdlj
SEVEN STEPS TO BEING BRAVE 1 Identify the bravest thing you have done this month. And then the stupidest. Work out why the brave one wasn’t stupid and why the stupid one wasn’t brave. 2 Write down which movie character would best match your leadership style, and why. 3 Identify an issue which will be helped by you showing your vulnerability. 4 Meet a selection of pupils every month for refreshments and a chat. Ask them what they are pleased with and what they wish was different about the school. 5 Embark on at least one new partnership with another school. 6 List three ways that you will give away your authority this term. 7 Ask a colleague to write a paragraph about your leadership. Highlight all the positives. Give yourself a bonus mark for every time they use the word ‘passion’.
Taken from Brave Heads: How to lead a school without selling your soul by Dave Harris, published by Independent Thinking Press, £18.99.
LEADERSHIP FOCUS ● MARCH/APRIL 2013
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Leadership Focus March/April 2013