School leaders face huge challenges: they need support

We need to build a support network for our school leaders: they must be empowered by others and have the opportunity to collaborate

Leadership, school leadership, school leaders, Charted College of Teaching, Teaching Schools Council

How do we future proof the teaching profession? It is a topic which everyone in teaching is likely to have thoughts on – indeed, any discussion could easily go on until the early hours of the morning. What needs to change? What needs to stay the same?

Whatever steps we take next as a profession they need to be taken together. Teaching is experiencing great fragmentation, but this does not have to be the case. Bringing everyone together is a vital step on our way to ensuring our pupils receive the best possible education. This doesn’t mean eradicating the plurality of views in the profession: the ‘voice’ of teachers is not homogenous. However, there is much more that binds us than divides us. What we want is a new form of collegiality as a bedrock for the profession along with the sharing of ideas.

For this to happen, the first step on the journey needs to involve looking at how we support our current and future leaders. We know in the past that leaders may have been able to call upon an army of training and advisory support – this is not necessarily the case now.

We know there are organisations – such as the Confederation of School Trusts – which are providing that opportunity. However, for leaders of smaller schools, the constant challenge of keeping on top of the to do list means that there is little opportunity to reflect and learn from others.

Leaders then start to feel that they have to invent everything themselves and many try to develop their curriculum from scratch. At a time when we want to be enabling leadership to engage with the key areas that Ofsted are exploring, it is so important that they have the opportunity to share ideas, to look outside of their school and their local community and tap into what works.

Fostering an environment of collegiality where leaders feel empowered to share their practice can have a positive impact on reflection. We want leaders and their staff to have the knowledge and the confidence to respond to the new inspection framework in a way that will obviously benefit their pupils and community. A response which is borne out of reflection and collaboration can have a lasting impact. It is the responsibility for all of us to support our school leaders so that not only can they describe these decisions but also evidence them.

It’s not about providing the answers and telling our leaders to ‘do’, but is about providing them with a route map so that leaders are developing the confidence, the grit and the determination to make these decisions. Ones which bring together intuition and theory.

This is part of the reason Teaching Schools Council and the Chartered College of Teaching are working together to support leaders. We both realise the importance of collaboration to build a network of leaders with the knowledge of practice and the access to research to strengthen their teaching. For example, the Leadership Development Group, which we are both part of, was established one year ago and is embodying greater collegiality by bringing together organisations across the profession to look at governance, leadership and development.

A drive for collegiality will also support those who consider moving into leadership in the future. We recognise the ongoing challenges facing leadership from the constraints on budgets and the access to support. A profession that advocates the importance of collaboration to build the confidence of leaders sends the signal that our leaders are not alone. This message is hugely important to our teachers; that reflection and cooperation is something to be valued. Wherever our teaching journey takes us, the opportunity to research, to develop and adapt is something to be encouraged. At the end of the day, this can and will have a hugely positive impact on our fantastic teachers and leaders of today and the future.

Professor Dame Alison Peacock is the chief executive of Chartered College of Teaching and Richard Gill is the chair of the Teaching Schools Council

Professor Dame Alison Peacock and Richard Gill are both speaking at the Inspiring Leadership Conference, taking place on 6 to 7 June. For more information about the event, click here. 

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