Principal’s Round-up – 18th May 2018

‘There is no doubt that schools and teachers are fighting chronic national negativity, [policies that create] short termism and a tendency to put ideology above evidence.’
I wish I had said that, but this comes from Paul Drechsler head of the CBI. Never did it resonate more than after the announcement by Damian Hinds last week confirming the decision to allow existing grammar schools to expand through a new £50m fund, including the potential to open ‘satellite’ sites. Tom Middlehurst from SSAT wrote this week, ‘whatever your views on grammars, the announcement on 5th May by Damian Hinds is a slap in the face to most schools’.

Tom Middlehurst continues ‘for a secretary of state who claims to want to listen to the profession, he has failed to do so. For a department who want their schools to be increasingly evidence-based, we have a lack of evidence-based policy thinking. For ministers who value a knowledge-rich curriculum for all, we have an unavoidable dichotomy. Above all, although £50m may not be a huge amount in the grand scheme of things, all schools deserve a cut of this (and more besides), not just a chosen few.’
£50m is not a lot of money in education. But the fact that ministers have decided to focus on the 163 grammar schools in England, at a time when, every other type of school is being forced to reduce their budgets is genuinely insulting to the sector. It’s frankly wrong and it makes me very angry indeed. However, as in all things, it is sensible not to respond in anger, but to find ways to continue to improve the school for the benefit of colleagues, students and for the community.

A little while ago I read a discussion about sustaining change. This was related to leadership style, and specifically the pitfalls of competitive leadership. On the one hand, some say a competitive leadership style and the winning culture is important. On the other, some say that “winning” is a destructive force … especially when leading change. Perhaps, instead, we need co-operative leadership, especially in education. But what does this mean? John Shultz tells us that change should be driven by intrinsic motivators, those things that ‘tug at people’s sense of equity and feelings of service or accomplishment’. I believe that competition and co-operation can work when used together to achieve the right outcome … for the right reason.

In education, winning is potentially destructive. When we think of competition it’s usually a win-lose situation. Competition implies that someone else fails … this isn’t good for relationships. Relationships are crucial when leading change. What’s more, winning seeks compliance. It relies on the manager to persuade, cajole or demand people into accepting a vision for change. Sooner or later this approach fails. In most situations, co-operation is needed, where people work together for mutual benefit to achieve a shared business objective. Basically, success is not achieved by overcoming others but by encouraging co-operation.

Change ultimately should lead to the creation of a service that not only meets, but exceeds customer expectations. As we learn from John Kotter and Dan Cohen in their book ‘The Heart of Change’, employees can readily identify with delighted customers because they want and expect reliable outcomes and attentive services for themselves. In addition, people feel a sense of achievement and often generosity toward others because of association and the will to work together for the benefit of both the organisation and the customer. This is co-operation. Co-operation always works: it is neither soft nor weak. Rather, co-operation is about working with people to get things done. To get results quickly. Co-operation propels the organisation forward. Co-operation succeeds where competition fails because it is positive, tough, forgiving, and clear.

1. Positive
The successful change leader knows the benefits of co-operation and forming alliances. They also know why relationships are important when leading transformational change. A co-operative leadership style is appreciative, positive, confident and flexible. This means the change leader fully appreciates what people are saying and has sufficient self-esteem to hear critical feedback. As such, they are flexible and open in their approach, and are equally happy to follow as to lead.
2. Tough
The co-operative leadership style uses the tit-for-tat strategy. This was first described by political strategist Robert Axelrod in the 1980s. While the goal is always to co-operate, the co-operative leader does need to be tough at times. So, if someone is unco-operative the response is competitive … unco-operative behaviour is punished by capitalising on their mistake. And, when unco-operative behaviour ceases a return to co-operation follows.
3. Forgiving
The co-operative leader knows when it is necessary to smooth over awkward or rough patches to get back to business. They are confident, compassionate, and fair. They portray themselves with honesty and integrity, and have the confidence to share their feelings and to protect the feelings of others. Above all, they can move on and move the team forward. Their example motivates and builds confidence. Progress is made.
4. Clear
The best outcome for organisations and customers is co-operation. Co-operation gets results … quickly. People know what needs to be done because the co-operative leader is clear about the task and so are others. The co-operative change leader knows how to communicate the vision, but also knows how to encourage and listen to divergent points of view. Co-operative leadership isn’t about working together in harmony, it is about finding the best path to a solution. This is achieved when employees have a say in what happens.

Winning is for the athletics field. Serving customers is the job of a successful educational organisation. Talking of which, we have had some outstanding successes in athletics recently. Following on from success at the Plymouth and West Devon championship hosted at the college on Thursday, our athletes performed again on Tuesday at the Super 8 championships at Brickfields.

Shaun reports that the whole team were outstanding, but some notable performances include –
Tyler Hunt (Year 9) – 1st in hurdles and 2nd in shot.
Dan Luckham – 2nd in 1500 metres – running half with one shoe!!!!
Will White – 1st in 800m – running 2:23.
Will Russell – 1st in 1500m – running 4:51
Emily Frost had success at the Devon county finals on Sunday finishing 3rd in the 100m Under 17s women’s competition with a personal best time of 13:24 and 2nd in the long jump with a PB of 5:24m.

We are now in the final countdown to 25th May and the introduction of the new GDPR regulations. Please read the MAT Data Protection policy when arrives, and the new privacy notices. These are in place to protect you, even if they feel a little restrictive. Any changes we introduce are in place to guard against a data breach and will be built upon best practice. All school documents must be stored in Drive and memory sticks and hard drives of any kind will not be permitted. If you have a business case for using an external hard drive it must be made in writing to me and if accepted you will have a device encrypted by the IT team. Other measures in place are now the automatic locking if your computer (although you must still do this if you leave your station unattended) and the need to make all class plans electronic and stored in Drive.

Finally I’d like to say well done to Jenny Harris and Wendy Stephens who secured promotion into internal posts as Associate SENDCo and Head of Year respectively. They were both in a strong field, and as ever, I am delighted that colleagues take internal opportunities when they arise to continue the work we have started.

Have a lovely weekend
Sarah