Good leaders allow teachers to do what they do best

27th July 2018 at 00:00
From learning the art of tricky conversations to enabling staff to fulfil their potential, leadership presents many challenges, writes Claire Lotriet

It’s that time again: the sports days, statutory data submissions and reports are finally over and the holidays are stretching in front of us.

It would be nice if I could put the job out of my head completely and focus on reading something other than a children’s book, but the reality is that teaching is never far from my thoughts.

Summer is, of course, a time to relax, but it’s also a time to reflect on the past year at school. Lately, I’ve found myself thinking about what leadership has meant for me and a few common themes have emerged.

The first is navigating tricky conversations. Whether it’s with a colleague, another professional, or a parent or carer, this is something that I’ve learned to become more comfortable with. Going into a meeting knowing you have to deliver a message that the other person will find tough, for whatever reason, is unavoidable at times. I’ve found that the art of the tricky conversation develops over time. It’s not something you should expect to be instantly good at.

Leadership is all about people

Another thing that has been reiterated for me is that leadership is all about people. Having a team alongside you that you can rely on, that shares your vision and your ethos, is key, and leaders’ professional relationships with people are at the heart of this.

Really, though, there’s an even bigger theme that’s come through for me: I think the main objective of school leadership is to create conditions that allow teachers and other staff to teach effectively so that the children are able to achieve the best outcomes possible.

This is done in so many ways. It’s having systems and approaches that ensure behaviour doesn’t get in the way of learning. It’s having policies in place that mean teachers only have to give marks and feedback in ways that are effective and manageable. It’s developing a curriculum for teachers to deliver that is purposeful and meaningful. It’s getting rid of stuff that doesn’t need to be done and constantly looking for ways to make sure no one is doing anything just for the sake of it. It’s making sure middle leaders have time to fulfil their roles properly and have the chance to make a real impact.

At times, it can even be about shielding your staff from stuff that they just don’t need to know about or a situation that they shouldn’t have to deal with.

It can be so many things – some planned, some unexpected – but I’ve seen so clearly that allowing teachers to get on with teaching effectively is really at the heart of the leadership role.

Claire Lotriet is assistant headteacher at Henwick Primary School in London. She tweets @OhLottie

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