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Sir David Carter: my vision for instilling moral purpose into the schools system

In his first article since agreeing to become the new national schools commissioner, Sir David Carter (pictured) outlines his plans for the role and for the education system

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During the last week of term I was offered, and was delighted to accept, the post of national schools commissioner (NSC). From 1 February, I will succeed Frank Green who is not only a leader for whom I have huge respect, but is also a leader who has, throughout the time I have known him, retained his focus on ensuring that children receive their entitlement to a good education.

I was a music teacher in three comprehensive schools at the start of my career. The job came alive when I could see how the children I was teaching could harness the power of the arts to enable them to express their feelings and ideas. Later, when I began to think about becoming a deputy head and then a headteacher, I wrestled with the dilemma of whether being further from the classroom would leave me less focused on the experiences of the children in my care. The answer, as I now know, is that while the focus is different, the opportunity to play a part in the lives of thousands of children as a school leader is an experience that I would not have missed for the world.

In the summer of 2014 I was appointed as the first regional schools commissioner (RSC) for the South West. The same anxieties returned as for the first time I embraced a career opportunity that was not in a school setting. How does someone leading across the system influence the lives of children when they no longer work in a school with the same children and staff every day? The answer to this question has been easy to find. As an RSC, I believe that every intervention in a school I have commissioned or every decision to approve a new sponsor or multi-academy trust has, front and centre, the goal of making education better for the sons and daughters of parents and carers in my region.

When the news was made public that I had been appointed as the national schools commissioner, I tweeted my thanks for the kind messages that people were sending me. I also tweeted this: “Every leadership post I have held has enabled me to put the education of children at the heart of my work. As NSC I intend to do the same.” Twitter is a great vehicle for communicating simple messages well. It is also a vehicle for past statements being revisited as people check whether you have been true to your values…

So my planning as the new NSC will place the moral purpose of doing my best for children at the core of my work in the same way that thousands of staff do every day in all of our schools. Great educational leadership has to have the achievement of young people as its DNA. The best leaders know that developing a multi-talented workforce is the means by which we achieve it. As educational leaders our business is people development. The learning triangle between the teacher, the parent and the child is the lens through which this moral purpose becomes a reality for families up and down the country.

I recognise that schools across the country are at different stages in their improvement journeys and that for some children this will slow down their progress and leave their ambitions unfulfilled. My role is to work alongside my fellow RSCs to ensure that the best leaders, schools and sponsors are supported and encouraged to work with us to create an education system where every family has access to a great school delivering a great education. If we achieve this we will have an education system that recognises educational excellence everywhere. If we collaborate to align our priorities and values around the needs of children, then we could be on the brink of something exciting and unique where the power of schools leading the system will sustain improvement for the next generation.

Sir David Carter is regional schools commissioner for the South West. He will become national schools commissioner on 1st February

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