No more heroes: heads told to pave way for new blood

10th June 2016 at 00:00
The ‘hero head’ may be dead, but not enough is being done to foster the next generation of school leaders

Headteachers need to do more to ensure the next generation of leaders is in place to run schools, academy trusts and federations.

This will be one of the key messages at the annual Inspiring Leadership Conference in Birmingham next week.

Steve Munby, chief executive of the charity Education Development Trust – one of the event’s organisers – will warn school leaders that they will be left with a significant problem unless the younger generation are encouraged to step up.

Ahead of his speech on Thursday at the conference, sponsored by TES, Mr Munby said: “We need to invest in our younger leaders. We’ve become much better at coaching teachers than we were, but I am not sure we are as good at coaching and developing leaders as we need to be.”

Proactive, not reactive

Mr Munby said that it was equally important to ensure that older school leaders were “replenished and energised” to prevent them quitting the profession.

The chief executive believes school collaborations – such as trusts, partnerships and federations – can provide opportunities for younger leaders to develop more quickly, such as job swaps and work-shadowing placements, and offer an exciting change for older leaders.

The three-day conference – which is run in conjunction with the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the NAHT headteachers’ union – seeks to encourage school leaders to become more proactive in tackling the challenges they face, rather than simply waiting for the government to step in.

“We are going to need more leaders and more effective leaders, and unless we cherish the ones we have got, then we are going to have a problem,” Mr Munby said.

Sian Carr, ASCL vice president and principal of The Skinners’ Kent Academy in Tunbridge Wells, said that she would focus on how to inspire middle leaders to take up senior leadership roles and headships during her presidential year.

Ms Carr, who will be running a workshop on inspiring leaders in a self-improving system at the conference, said: “We need to think about growing the next generation.

“At the moment, they think ‘I can’t’ and ‘I don’t want to’. We need to be role models and show that it is a great job.”

Finding the time

Ms Carr agrees that leadership development and training must be improved – but she does not believe collaboration is the sole solution.

“There needs to be guidance and support through all the various stages. School leaders need to make the time to do that,” she added.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, will run a masterclass alongside ASCL on school leadership development at the event. The union leader believes it is too risky to rely on the government to provide high-quality development and training of leaders.

“If we want to be in charge of our own destiny, then we have to take on training ourselves,” he said. “We need a steady supply of future leaders, so we can keep it going, regardless of the latest fashion.”

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of ASCL, said that it was important to “move away from the ‘hero head’ model”.

He said that heads should spot staff with leadership potential and distribute the individual responsibilities that they were accountable for. “The headteacher cannot be the sole leader – you have to distribute leadership,” he added.

Mr Trobe also argued that there is insufficient coaching and mentoring available to school leaders.

“We don’t have a culture or history in education of having coaches working with senior leaders and I think we should be looking at developing that,” he said.

“We have had too much promotion of the ‘hero head’ model and that works against the idea of leadership as a team.”


For more details about the conference, visit:

‘With a peer review your aim is not to prove, but to improve’

Heads should be encouraged to organise more peer reviews of each other’s schools to complement Ofsted inspections and encourage collaboration, the Inspiring Leadership Conference will hear.

Steve Munby, chief executive of the Education Development Trust, will stress the importance of robust peer reviews as a way of working together to improve. “When you have Ofsted inspections, your aim is prove you’re doing well,” he said.

“With a peer review, your aim is not to prove, but to improve. You open your school up to other ideas and ongoing support.”

Headteacher Sian Carr, vice president of ASCL, agrees: “We must be agents of our own accountability. Everybody wants to be the best they can be and working with their peers is one of the best ways to do that.”

NAHT leader Russell Hobby has witnessed a “growing movement” of peer reviews across schools. “Getting groups of school leaders together is an enormously productive activity. They feel they are able to improve,” he says.

But Mr Hobby believes the picture across the country has been “patchy”, as some school leaders could be put off by the additional workload and logistics of the process.

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