A different boss for every day of the week

2nd May 2008 at 01:00
Old Ford Primary in Bow, like all schools in Tower Hamlets, east London, has pupils with high levels of deprivation
Old Ford Primary in Bow, like all schools in Tower Hamlets, east London, has pupils with high levels of deprivation. But it achieves above both borough and national averages. As a result, Amanda Phillips, the head, has been designated a national leader of education.

So when Culloden School in nearby Poplar was identified as struggling in 2006, it was natural to link it with Old Ford. The two schools retain separate governing bodies, but Ms Phillips acts as head of Old Ford and executive head of Culloden. She has a team of five assistant heads on each site, who take it in turns to act as lead member in charge for one day a week. This means she is free to travel between the two sites.

"Both schools work together enthusiastically and it's given us real opportunities to distribute leadership at all levels," she said.

Joint work between the schools is intensive, and covers leadership development, curriculum design, teaching practice, coaching and mentoring, exchanges of support staff, financial management, administration and social networking.

"It allows us to try different ideas that wouldn't ordinarily be possible," said Ms Phillips. "By pooling resources, you broaden the capacity to do specialist work. The teachers in the more developed school have the opportunity to go into the less developed school to manage interventions and do project work.

"It works incredibly well: the staff in the less developed school also benefit because they can use the models from the support school."

Pupil performance at Culloden improved markedly in 2007. Further gains are expected this year.

Ms Phillips is clear that leadership of a school is about moral purpose. She demonstrates that commitment in practical ways. Although she can't attend all assemblies, she makes sure each child receives a personally signed card to mark their achievements. And parents at both schools know that she is always available to talk to them if there are any problems that cannot be resolved by the assistant heads.

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