How Brave Are Our School Leaders?

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I’ve recently  re-read Roger von Oech’s book ‘A Kick In The Seat Of The Pants’. An easy read with some great ideas. I was struck by these thoughts that come at the end of the book.

Just as a rock in a stream is molded by the current that flows around it or a cliff-dwelling tree is shaped by freezing rain and thin air, we too are shaped by our environment; the language we speak, the economic system of which we are a part, the clothes we wear, the food we eat, the media that bombards us. All of these influence the way we think and who we are.

But unlike stream smooth rocks or Alpine trees, we are free to choose some of the processes in which we immerse ourselves. If you choose to be involved in projects that stretch you creatively, that force you to explore, manipulate, evaluate and act in challenging ways, then ultimately you will be the beneficiary.

As school leaders in the 21st Century what processes are you choosing to immerse yourself in? What processes are you choosing to immerse the children in your school in?

As a Headteacher I was always concerned about the testing, stressful, target driven climate that prevails in many of our schools and the impact this was having on both staff and children.

I could see teachers being worn down by wave after wave of  externally generated initiatives. The brave leaders are the ones who challenge the status quo and lead their schools into situations that will mold their staff and children in a way that lets them develop creatively.

Many Headteachers will argue they have to compromise. They have to ‘play the game’ – trying to get a balance between achieving appropriate SAT results and ensuring children learn the skills that they need for the 21st Century.

This ‘game’ is forced on schools by central government, LA’s and, of course, Ofsted – who all have this strange belief that the only way to measure success is through a regime of testing.

At some stage someone has to break this cycle. Someone has to argue that such compromise is in fact detrimental to our children.

The secret of leadership is simple. Do what you believe in. Paint a picture of the future. Go there. People will follow.   (Seth Godin – ‘Tribes’)


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Our Education System Is Stuck & We Don’t Know How To Free It

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Here we are, the first decade of the 21st Century well and truly behind us and what can we safely say about our schools? They are stuck! Schools are basically a 19th Century invention trying to cope in the 21st Century.

We need to remember that the children who recently started school have a long educational journey ahead of them. They will probably not start work until 2028 or later.

That same child could still be in the labour force in 2070 or beyond. The chances are that he/she will be working with technologies that have not yet been invented and in organisations that have yet to be created.

Change is with us all the time, we need to embrace it, take control of it and enjoy it. “The future is not some place we are going, but one we are creating. The paths to it are not found but made, and the activity of making them changes both the maker and the destination.” (John H. Schaar)

Fifteen years or so of, so-called,  ‘improvements’ have got us where we are today – in a system where:
a) teacher’s feel fatigued because of too many initiatives
b) we have  an over reliance on test results within an escalating testing regime
c) there is an obsession with teaching and little understanding of learning
d) accountability systems  scare schools from being brave and adventurous
e) schools are not preparing children for the future because they are stuck in the past.

This has led us to valuing those things in education that we can measure, rather than trying to find ways of measuring those things in education that we value. We are ready to transform our schools but are we willing or brave enough to do it?

Sir Ken Robinson once said, “Reform is not enough. Reform is just trying to improve a broken model. We need a revolution in education.”