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Red Arrows take heads to new highs

The crack RAF team shows staff systems of self-analysis that can work in the classroom

The red arrows have put on a display of leadership skills to inspire a group of headteachers and school advisers. The pilots' use of videos to analyse and improve their flying displays earned them top marks with six educationists.

Collette Firth, head of St John's CofE primary in Peterborough, said: "It's given us loads of ideas on filming lessons, briefing, debriefing, recruitment, interviewing people, and general leadership skills.

"I'd like to adopt similar techniques, such as briefing the teacher the day before an observation, filming the lesson and analysing the footage together," said Mrs Firth, who organised the visit to the RAF base in Scampton, Lincolnshire, earlier this month. "We can set targets for the lesson to be delivered again two weeks later."

The visitors observed the aerobatic team's daily training session: an intense briefing session during which each pilot verbally runs through their tasks in detail. After flying, they come back to base to watch their display on video. The pilots do a second flight to improve the previous one - an exercise which is repeated three times.

Wing Commander Jas Hawker, the team's leader, who is expected to make a presentation to Peterborough's headteacher conference this autumn, said: "Ours is not a blame culture. But things are pointed out to people and criticisms are made. This is the only way to encourage and improve.

"I think for schools it is easy to observe lessons and move on without following it up. We make time in our day to make improvements, add them to the next briefing, and redo the exercise with precision and determination."

"They had a really analytical approach," said Laura Martin, head of Southfields Junior School. "When they watched the video they were extremely self-critical."

The heads were particularly interested by the pilots referring to themselves as numbers.

"When they watched the video back and gave their self-analysis they didn't use names," said Mrs Firth, "Instead they said, 'Two: deep. Five: wide'. This eased the criticism as it was less personal."

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