Of the 13 members of our middle and senior leadership teams, all but three of us are between our early twenties and early thirties. The potential difficulties of this were brought home to me recently as the stork landed at Cherry Orchard.
I am delighted for everyone personally, and professionally I had no doubts about our capacity to manage as the first person told me their news a few months ago. It was much the same when I heard similar news from another member of the senior leadership team a few days later. By the third announcement, from a middle leader, my smile was somewhat fixed, though my personal pleasure for them remained.
We do a lot of work with other schools, so my initial reaction to our having some gaps this year was that our consultancy would have to be put on hold. Then, when interviewing for temporary roles, I realised that our curriculum team structure and approach to continuing professional development were about to bear fruit.
I have always believed in a variety of training methods. We offer bespoke and contextually based internal development provided by our staff, and we commission others such as advisers and a former HMI to work with existing and future leaders. Curriculum teams are managed by a middle leader, and all staff become members of a team and contribute to development planning and evaluation. Staff also get the opportunity to "work shadow" a middle or senior leader.
This allows inexperienced teachers to see beyond the prescriptive and constraining competency approach that characterises so much external professional development and initial teacher training. As a headteacher, I fight against the use of "tick box" methods because they can stifle creative ideas and courageous action by encouraging the view that there is a stock answer for every issue in leadership.
Yet there are some good external leadership opportunities. We are in the third year of using Growing Tomorrow's Leaders Today (SSATNCSL) and the Forging Ahead programme (BirminghamNCSL) in which future leaders gain experience and network. As a result of these approaches, we can sustain capacity and have a range of people with knowledge and expertise ready to step up to leadership.
I am confident of the future for us and know that shortly, when back to full strength, we will have an even stronger team, although my commitment to saving wildlife will be sorely tested if I see another stork on the horizon.
Sue Robinson, Headteacher, Cherry Orchard School and Children's Centre, Birmingham.