How Brave Are Our School Leaders?


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’)