Inspectors to call with a new agenda
Take me to your leadership team. They might not say it, but from September inspectors at Ofsted will be focusing beadily upon schools' vision and drive.
The new inspection framework is expected to focus heads' minds on what the Chief Inspector, David Bell, has called "a stubborn core of weak leadership and management where headteachers do not do enough to make a difference to the standards in their schools".
The framework, which cuts form-filling for schools and asks pupils for their views, also distinguishes sharply between leadership and management.
Both should be judged, according to Ofsted, on their effect on quality and standards. Leadership should provide drive and direction while management should make best use of resources and processes.
"Effective leadership is the driving force behind every good school," says Mr Bell. "For a school to succeed, it needs a committed governing body and a head with a strong vision and ambition to help staff focus and deliver the best quality teaching and education to pupils. Good heads also build leadership capability at all levels in the school and expect staff carrying significant responsibilities to inspire and promote confidence in their teams. The result should be that everyone - parent, pupil or teacher - understands the values of the school and its key purpose of maximising the educational achievement of those who attend it.
"Improvements in leadership have been something of a success story over recent years, and more schools than ever are now well led and managed.
Ofsted is currently working on bringing together all our inspection and management evidence into a report we hope to publish later this summer."
In Hertfordshire, self-review is already built into the school leadership system, so the local education authority will stand up well to the new inspection framework in September.
Clive Mitchell, senior adviser in school development for the county, says the framework's increased emphasis on leadership reinforces the need for regular self-review - both by governors and teams inside the schools.
"Leadership issues especially need 360-degree feedback so that leaders can understand and act upon the perceptions of leadership from those who are led," he says.
In Hertfordshire, governing bodies are encouraged to use "Governing Body Self Review: a self-assessment tool", which is part of the LEA's framework for school self-evaluation.
Hertfordshire governors are supposed to build reviews into their annual cycle, covering their effectiveness in their strategic, monitoring, executive, accounting and supporting roles. Review includes feedback from all governors on how well they feel the governing body is working and the extent of their impact on pupils. Leadership groups in schools are also expected routinely and systematically to gather views about the clarity of the vision for the school, staff motivation motivation of its staff, the effectiveness of teamwork and the inclusiveness of the school.
Headteachers in Hertfordshire use the LEA's leadership audit to gather the views of their leadership team. Teaching and support staff are encouraged to use the LEA's questionnaire software, "Seeing Your School", produced with Strathclyde University.
"If leadership is to genuinely continue to improve and develop, data and information gathered through such means needs to be openly considered and actions for improvement agreed, by the school community as a whole," says Mr Mitchell. "The principle of transparency is paramount."
The new framework's focus on leadership at all levels means that schools need high-quality leadership across all subjects. This means learning from the best practice within, linking experienced and high-performing subject leaders with others, and using local and national courses such as "Leadership from the Middle" to develop skills in subject leadership.