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SCHOOL CHALLENGES FOR THE NEXT FIVE YEARS – and some opportunities too

By June 29, 2015Newsletters

Based on the recent Blog article and presentation by Robert Hill (Institute of Education, University of London)

As we write this the new government is settling into parliament and there looks set to be many challenges for school leaders over the next five years.

Much of the media focuses on the negative aspects of changes in education policy. We at Vision, don’t necessarily agree with the changes being made.
We do however recognize that the so-called Serenity questions apply here as much as anywhere:

1. What can we change?
2. What can we influence?
3. What might we need to accept?

Most of us have little potential to influence policy. Lying down and accepting the changes in many cases might feel lame and impotent. Another perspective might be to that we can look for the opportunity in the areas we cannot, at first sight change. This article challenges us to seek opportunity under the current government.

Depositphotos_22339083_originalOne might argue that under neo-liberal philosophy, there would appear to be a very deliberate intention to create tensions in the education system that will force change, and generate a new order. That for the time being at least is pure speculation.

Potentially one of the most important opportunities which might exist is greater collaboration within and between schools.

Collaboration may well be vital in the coming years because it will allow teachers and school leaders to do five things:

1. Remodel how teachers are trained.
There is a welcome opportunity to reimagine how initial teachers are trained. Instead of being crammed into a single year, training could be spread over three, which would allow a significant amount of on-the-job training for all. This would make it easier for teachers to acquire the wealth of knowledge, experience and skills that they are expected to develop these days before qualifying. A real opportunity to shape your own culture as teachers train and develop.

2. Redefine CPD for teachers after they have qualified.
The opportunity exists to re-conceptualise the CPD of teachers, once in post, to be something much more holistic and personalised than that which is currently offered. Vitally, this would include co-coaching and action research to help teachers optimise their learning. Within this new training framework, teachers within and across schools would collaborate to ensure best practice is shared most widely. The chance to redefine and re-engineer CPD away from single school, whole school and “one size fits all” towards a truly embedded and personalized culture of continuous learning might well be here. Even greater collaboration with other schools and commercial sector organizations could become an essential element of training forced by limited budgets.

3. Re-envisage leadership of learning.
In our most effective schools the headteacher is also the lead learner, but this must be embedded in every school and senior school leaders also need to take a very active role in coordinating learning cross groups of schools. School leaders ultimately need to be learning experts as well as leadership experts. This may give rise to a reinvigoration of the teaching headteacher/principal. Giving rise to more “in-touch” leadership in some schools. Indeed budget cuts may force senior leaders back to the chalk-face, to balance the books.

4. Build a leadership pipeline.
There is still a chronic shortage of school leaders with the necessary knowledge, skills and experience to tackle the challenges in our schools. The more recent “hire and fire” culture in schools has potentially made the most senior leadership roles less attractive. In order to address this groups of schools may find themselves collaborating even more to provide opportunities for people who have shown they have the potential to be highly effective leaders to develop specific aspects of the role. This will require a more enlightened view from many people working in schools about the sharing of senior staff, and the need for targeted leadership placements. Outstanding home-grown CPD for leaders will be more in demand as schools push to develop and recruit the right middle and potential senior colleagues.

5. Use resources more effectively.
The new era of academies and other more autonomous schools provides the opportunity for collaboration within education in all sorts of ways that were not possible before. This includes the sharing of key staff, economies of scale in securing resources and multi-institution approaches to vital elements such as IT provision. All these elements could help schools to use their scarce resources more effectively at a time when budget cuts are threatening to compromise standards in schools.

Discussion points
You can use the above five points as a stimulus for discussion in a small group or whole staff meeting within your school. Here are some questions to consider:

Which of the factors mentioned are most relevant to our school?

Who are our most obvious partners, and who else might we work with to secure a brighter future for our students?

What are we already doing to address some of the factors mentioned?What should our first steps be in taking our work to the next level?

How does this all fit in with our vision and values?

This looks set to be both a difficult and a fascinating area for schools over the coming years, and we would be delighted to hear from you with details of how your school is managing to embrace the opportunities that lie ahead.

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