Monday, 27 May 2013


We need to find ways to celebrate, share and network excellence and constantly learn from what works! We need to develop a coherent systemic approach to help every school become a great school and we need to develop learning leadership. beautiful systems and intelligent accountability!

Interestingly, but not surprising really, my visits to the schools I know and love in York, Leeds, Lincoln, Sheffield, Nottingham and Guernsey clearly show that what we do is a team game. That even great schools need relationships with other schools, even great headteachers need relationships with other headteachers and even great teachers need relationships with other teachers. Headteachers and teachers I know want to belong to something or work with someone that can provide strategic leadership, allow them to be part of something bigger and connect them with something with the same values, beliefs and moral purpose. We all need a framework within which we can see the bigger picture, the connections, the outcomes and the impact we are making on the young people, the families and the communities we serve.

In a world filled with negativity and criticism, we must continue to work together and put the things that matter first. We must work together to ensure that not only our school is a successful, thriving, learning community but every school has the support, encouragement and the toolkit to become a brilliant school and every child has the teaching, coaching and opportunity to become a brilliant learner! Sad then that, in many authorities, where OFSTED rules, coaching, learning and professional development, based on what works, has been put on the back-burner. Sad then that in many authorities, where OFSTED rules, colleagues don't know where to find the support they need and for a lot of them don't necessarily understand/think they need it especially in a world where money is tight and with teachers/teaching being promoted as the answer to life, the universe and everything! Sad then that in many authorities, where OFSTED rules, there is also a lack the experience associated with good quality assurance and the ability to moderate judgements about what is great, what isn't and importantly what to do about it. 

The danger, for schools in a world where OFSTED rules, is that there simply aren't the people talking about school improvement and developing and sharing a coherent vision for learning! The 'well-connected' schools are finding support mechanisms through a range of providers; Whole Education, Learning Futures, FutureLab, National College, SSAT etc but the danger is that these programmes lack the local contextual flavor, the understanding of local challenges and fail to build capacity or work closely and connect with local teams. The danger is also that many of these providers are offering brilliant one day/one off events but real change is about long term sustained programmes of professional development that changes cultures and attitudes to learning. 

Teaching Schools clearly could provide some of the required infrastructure but schools are still deeply suspicious of any school that sets itself up as a centre of excellence. Clusters of schools must work together using the pockets of expertise and magic that exist in every school to share, network and learn together. In York we developed the Gatsby funded 'Schools Learning Together' initiative and we need to develop a Learning Schools Network with a research, knowledge and ideas portal that connects with and shares what works! These arrangements should be set within local structures providing every school with local learning leadership, beautiful monitoring/information systems, intelligent accountability and access to local support, challenge and celebration.

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