Follow the leader

11 Jun

Estyn has recently published a report that is critical of the leadership qualities that exist within our schools. Specifically they cite concerns about the capacity to grow those skills for future aspiring school leaders. The truth is there are a few reasons why this has developed into a problem.

Firstly, the focus of training has generally been narrowed for the entire profession. A few years back the Welsh Government became highly prescriptive in how it delivered professional development for the teaching profession. Teachers and school leaders were told in no uncertain terms that all training should focus on literacy and numeracy and nothing else. While of course these issues are important the insistence that all training be driven by them, and them alone, has undoubtedly resulted in a lack of development of wider teaching skills, including leadership qualities.

Secondly, the notion of access to training in general has been somewhat of a myth in recent years. Schools have found that they have neither the funding nor time to release teachers to access professional development. Where there is a small amount of give in the system to allow that to happen, as stated above, it has been focused on other specific priorities.

The third, and in a way most concerning issue, is the fact there is a lack of individuals wishing to take up leadership roles. Many teachers have the qualities, and indeed the qualifications, to be school leaders. However, they know the huge workloads and pressures that go with the role. It is becoming harder and harder to make school leadership appear an attractive proposal.  The cost-benefit balance is quite clearly being skewed in the wrong direction.

What is more those currently in leadership roles have no ability to develop future leaders within their schools as they are driven solely by immediate data orientated targets.  Hitting this weeks objective for regional consortia and local authorities is such a high-pressure, high-accountability factor in the thinking of a headteacher that the ability to ponder even medium, let alone long-term, about the deficiencies that exist within a schools structure no longer exists.

The Minister has talked a lot about his ‘New Deal’ for teacher’s development. While we are still yet to see any tangible action on that there does at least appear to be more of an acceptance that training as an ongoing tool is required across a wider set of parameters. There is a sense that in future professional development should be driven by the needs of the individual and school, of course while keeping the context of national priorities firmly in view. That should allow schools who wish to create succession plans, or even just develop the leadership qualities of their department heads and classroom teachers, to focus more readily on this point.

In terms of the actual role of leading a school, unless we tackle that problems that acting as an inhibitor for those who would become senior leaders in their schools then realistically this leadership deficiency will only increase.

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