What appeared to have started off as an encouraging discussion about the benefits and shortcomings of the new curriculum, eagerly willed on by the democratic leadership of our Deputy Headteacher, soon required a bit of authoritarian leadership from the Head Teacher when discussion moved onto a change in school ethos and what direction the school improvement plan should take. The staff meeting petered out somewhat and a laissez-Faire conclusion was adopted which left the school with more questions than answers.
It got me thinking...as teachers, what do we actually want from leadership?
I came to the conclusion that effective leadership in schools should help teachers with a series of issues.
TIme. Can middle managers, senior leaders save teachers time? We've all sat through staff meetings, INSETs, phase meetings, PPM meetings, curriculum meetings and we've all had in the back of our minds the various jobs to be completed so we can achieve the public's perception of 'Leaving by 3.30'. It seems to be the mood in the schools I've worked in that the leaders who are valued most are the ones that save you time. This might seem like an obvious point to make and I'm not saying that in order to be the best leader you have to mark my literacy books, I'm talking about issues that add to your everyday normal workload. Supporting you with parents, when a parent makes a complaint or wishes to see you, your leadership support you and take that problem off your hand. I want leadership that ensures the time you do have in front of the children is spent effectively and for their benefit. If you have leadership that spends its time buying you gifts, making an effort in thanks for all staff in everything they do - which is technically their job - then they don't have the time to do their own job. What happens when leaders don't have time for their own jobs? They get stressed and inevitably the undue stress gets passed down. I had a headteacher who used to give gifts to staff for 'working hard' this just caused more problems than it was worth, what constitutes 'hard work'?, jealousy from members of staff. All it preceded to achieve was the headteacher getting stressed about staff moral. So please don't look for our every whims, we're all grown up and professional and we know ourselves when we do a good job.
Trust. The very nature of schools nowadays is accountability and it is a very important and valuable part of how we as teachers operate. Problems occur when leaders move away from accountability and into the realms of a 'control freak'. Leaders should reduce bureaucracy and trust you as professionals so that you can be free to teach the children you have in front of you. They should trust that you know them, you want the best for them and that you know the best ways to achieve that. They should trust you to know when to ask for help. They should trust you with behaviour management. They should support your dealings with parents when you have to take a tough line with a particular class. They should make sure your authority is not undermined by sudden changes in the behaviour policy. A sudden introduction of not being able to keep children in at break or lunch is not going to maintain the standard of behaviour management and/ or standard of their work.
Lead. I think the most important thing we want from our leaders are people who will lead. They will take responsibility for the direction of the school. They will make sure that every member of staff is under no illusion as to where the school is headed. They are the models which show the school's ethos and they are the engines which drive school improvement. They make sure they are a strong body of people who have all bought into the direction the school is taking and believe it is genuinely needed. I think it is important to have leaders with different styles, ideas and motivations, but I don't believe any dirty laundry should be aired in public and certainly not aired during a staff meeting so every Tom, Dick and Harry can throw their own brand of washing powder at it. I don't want a senior leader who will send an e-mail at 5 am citing a new report by Ofsted and therefore the 10 point plan that should suffice in keeping them 'happy'. I want leadership who don't cower behind Ofsted, but leadership who take tough decisions and lead in the direction they know will be best for the children and the community we serve.
Professional leadership is not controlling, it is visionary, a drive and a force for exceptional standards for young people - if this isn't you, lead me alone.