Do the right thing and work together: how to lift education through moral purpose and collaboration

We Are In Beta
Jul 19 · 30 min read

By Niall Alcock — Founder, We Are In Beta

The more I interview school leaders the more I ask myself: ‘What is it that stands out about them? And what is it that stands out about what they said?’

I often come back to two things. Authenticity — the extent to which they are being themselves — and clarity — how easy it is to remember their message.

First, my guest in the penultimate episode — #10 — of the pilot season of the We Are In Beta podcast is certainly authentic.

He speaks his mind. He is refreshingly ‘no nonsense’. Given the line of questioning, it would have been easy to slip into being negative, especially in the context of today’s education system. But if he’s got an issue with something, he presents a solution.

Second, his message is very clear: do the right thing and work together.

Whether we were discussing career progression, academisation, Ofsted, exclusions, workload, retention, professional development or funding, his answers were about moral purpose and collaboration. Little wonder he was elected by his peers to President of the Chartered College of Teaching.

I’m delighted I persuaded Stephen Munday — Chief Executive, The Cam Academy Trust &Executive Principal, Comberton Village College — to share his journey and his wisdom.

If you haven’t had the chance to see Stephen speak, or even if you have, I urge you to tune in and learn from one of the great people at the CCOT who are playing a crucial role in raising the status of the profession.



(For the full transcript please head to the bottom of this post)

In his interview, Stephen shares his thoughts on:

  • How a cup of tea with his Mum’s friend was the catalyst to becoming the President of the Chartered College of Teaching
  • His purpose and what he finds deeply inspiring about teaching
  • Which role in a school prepares you well for becoming a headteacher
  • What you need to keep reminding yourself as a headteacher
  • The biggest thing he has learned about headship
  • The biggest challenge of his career and how he overcame it
  • The moral duty that led to his school becoming a multi-academy trust
  • What he welcomes about changes to the Ofsted framework
  • What he questions about changes to the Ofsted Framework
  • How schools can reduce the problems with exclusions
  • The question school leaders need to ask themselves to reduce workload
  • The best CPD he’s ever done
  • How to get external support when needs can’t be met in-house
  • How to judge the quality of external CPD
  • How the Chartered College can solve the budget crisis
  • How schools can ensure they ring-fence enough money for investing in professional development
  • Tips for schools on how to balance the books
  • How he’s using technology to make professional development more scalable and accessible across the trust
  • The one question he would ask every headteacher in the country if he could
  • Why he is optimistic about the future of education and the role the Chartered College has to play
  • What one ‘less positive’ student shouted as Ofsted approached the school to begin an inspection

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Listen to Episode 10 of the We Are In Beta Podcast

If you want to access this podcast before anyone else along with the links to the organisatons and resources guests mention, along with free give away, every other Sunday, subscribe here. This week Stephen shares his favourite education book and an internal document that lays out their intentions for a new IT strategy.


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I’ve been working in partnership Teach First, the Young Foundation and Super Being Labs to build a community of teachers and senior leaders who are solving big challenges in their schools.

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Image credit: Athene Communications

Niall Alcock: [00:00:00] Welcome to the podcast, Stephen.

Stephen Munday: [00:00:01] Thank you very much. Delighted to be here.

Niall Alcock: [00:00:03] Before we get into the meat of the conversation, I'd love to talk a little bit about you.

How did you get into teaching? What inspired you to get into teaching?

Stephen Munday: [00:00:11] Decent question. I never had a burning ambition to be a teacher from a 3-year-old or anything like that. I came towards the end of my degree and thought I'd better try and do something. My degree was in Economics and I wasn't too sure where to go.

Cutting a long story short, following a cup of tea with a mother of a good friend of mine over the years, who was a teacher, she took my application for the Civil Service off me and gave me a form to fill in to pursue a PGCE, which I filled in.

I suppose the rest is history.

Niall Alcock: [00:00:43] I'm intrigued by what her name was.

Stephen Munday: [00:00:45] Her name was Doreen Leven. It was Doreen Leven. I do see her on occasion. She's long retired.

Niall Alcock: [00:00:49] Well, Doreen, thank you for persuading Stephen to make that application.

Stephen Munday: [00:00:52] She's a good person.

Niall Alcock: [00:00:55] What do you love about teaching the most?

Stephen Munday: [00:00:57] In terms of teaching, working directly with young people and the joy of being able to work with them, and teach them, and see them develop in understanding, appreciation, and love of [their subject]- particularly, I'm an economist - that was my subject. Of course - that's my first root way in - actually, more broadly and ultimately - life and develop as young people to understand and appreciate life.

I believe, in the wider aims of education, developing into fine citizens, who want to and will take their role in society, make the most of themselves, but actually, make the most of things for others, and have a genuine sense of community and serving others, as well as their own interests.

Stephen Munday: [00:01:46] I guess, you know, given the way my career has developed, I have to do that via other people. So, I suppose, what I now most enjoy and appreciate is seeing great and wonderful people - directly teachers - working with young people, and inspiring, and engaging, and enabling their learning in various ways. So, watching a master crafts teacher at work, I find deeply inspiring.

Niall Alcock: [00:02:12] What was your teaching career like? And how did you transition into headship? How did that come about?

Stephen Munday: [00:02:17] It sort of happened really. So, yeah, I started as a main scale teacher of Economics. And then, Economics and Business Studies. And then, when you've got into a quite specialist territory like that, and this, that, and the other, somewhat, also... It's quite an interesting point that quite a lot of economists end up as headteachers.

One of the reasons is you're not averse to thinking of things to do with money and that way of thinking, I suppose. But, actually, there's an even a more pragmatic point that you, sort of, have to start moving on in various ways if that's your specialist background. Often through Sixth Form, which was my routeway. Either you start taking more things on there or you, sort of, remain as quite a specialist teacher in that [subject] territory.

So, I very quickly, for example, became a Head of Sixth Form in the first school in which I taught, as well as becoming Head of Economics and Business Studies. I got into overseeing and leading territory that goes beyond me and my own specialist area quite quickly. Where does this go next? And I think that's how I got set on a trajectory that, sort of, ended up where I am now.

Niall Alcock: [00:03:18] I was speaking to Chris Tomlinson from the Harris Federation [and now CEO of Coop Academies Trust] the other day and I asked him the same question.

He said that his Accountancy, Finance and Economics background helped him be a headteacher.

Stephen Munday: [00:03:25] I think there's something in that. But when I reflect on it also, I think, either you start taking on responsibility - and Sixth Form is always an interesting specialist one because taking on, particularly early on, something like Head of Sixth Form, it's almost like a school within a school. And then, you're handling things pastoral and academic, curriculum, the whole gamut, even the finance of the Sixth Form weather it adds up and all the logistics and organisation. And it's quite a good root way into, actually, I would say "I might as well oversee the whole school then!".

Niall Alcock: [00:03:58] Considering that we'll probably have aspirant headteachers listening, what's being a headteacher like?

Stephen Munday: [00:04:04] Look, you don't go into it in order not to work very much. So, of course, anyone who's said that it was a bit of a breeze would be foolish and are not telling the truth. I would say it's challenging, but it's absolutely worthwhile.

For me, it comes down to absolute core points. What you do have to keep reminding yourself is, 'Why did you come into this profession in the first place?' It probably wasn't for an easy life, and to earn a cheap buck, or if it was, you probably left quite quickly.

If you've come in because you think it matters, you want to influence for good reasons and be involved in the thing that ultimately matters most to society and, obviously, directly to young people, i.e., helping them to develop and be educated for the sake of them and for all of us, then, actually, having the opportunity to oversee that on a more significant scale and make more and more decisions that can impact positively on that, not just your own individual practice, very highly significant as that is, because, ultimately, our schools are as good as the great teachers that are in them. Then, that's what it's all about.

You do have to keep reminding yourself about that. So, "No, no. That's why I'm doing that. That's what needs to drive me". And genuinely, it's an opportunity to do that, and to build that, and to influence positively. And part of me has always said, "Look, someone's got to do this. So, I'll see if I can get on with it and make it work."

Niall Alcock: [00:05:22] What's the biggest thing you've learned through the experience?

Stephen Munday: [00:05:25] I think, the biggest thing, probably, I have to say, ties in with all of that. And that is, just remember what it's all about and why you're doing all of this because when things are getting ridiculous because of a particular parental complaint or certain things externally coming in from agency X, Y, Z, or the other. Or real challenges within the school, and some of the pupils, or even your staff, just remember what this is all about.

Image credit: CAM Academy Trust.

Niall Alcock: [00:05:52] Tell us a little about the CAM Academy Trust.

Stephen Munday: [00:05:54] Well, I began working at Comberton Village College as the Principal just over 18 years ago. It wasn't even bordering on a twinkle in anyone's eyes because academies didn't exist. So, it's sort of grown out of the academies movement.

Although, predating that, I think, myself and some others always had a view about trying to work significantly together, not just plowing our own furrows, which you could argue presaged teaching school alliances even more perhaps, because it's, obviously, a looser arrangement.

So, there is a bit of a philosophical background, but then it came through, the big move towards academies, potentially being available to Comberton Village College, where I'm Headteacher, was in a position where it could, early on, go. It had always had a bit of an (in inverted commas) 'independent streak'. It wasn't a grant-maintained school or foundation school.

So, philosophically, it was probably pretty likely to become an academy. That was decision number one. But, straight away, there was also, in the early days, “Will you work with another school, typically one in challenging circumstances?” We said, "Yeah, we should do that." That, of course, led to, early, becoming a multi-academy trust.

And then, from there, the world has developed like it has, and we've, in our local area, we made a clear decision - local, that's what we are - engaged with to the point where, now, we have four secondary schools and six primary schools trying to work together based around some key educational values that hold us together.

Niall Alcock: [00:07:24] I think that your education values, probably, will be a factor in your next answer to the question. Ofsted put out the new framework, and what are your thoughts on the next framework shift?

Stephen Munday: [00:07:32] Well, if we're talking particularly about the suggestion that the whole of the curriculum matters for, and we want to use the phrase 'whole education, broad education', and the arts, and technology, and physical education, and other areas, matter very significantly, as well as, the more obvious core academic subjects, absolutely, right.

I completely and utterly would hold that view. That, unsurprisingly, our first educational principle is an excellent education for all. But we do go, and define that, and say, "That means interpreting that in a broad and not so narrow way." So, absolutely.

If that is what is at the core of what's being suggested through the framework, then I applaud that. I think it makes begs some interesting questions about, "Does it mean that and in local contexts, interpreted in particular ways?" Or is there more of a: "This is the curriculum that you must follow. And if not, you've got a big problem"? Then that would be somewhat different.

But in its broadest sense, I applaud the notion of, "Let's look at the whole educational offer, 'Why have we got the curriculum that we have? And what are we trying to do with it to provide a great education?" Absolutely agree with.

Niall Alcock: [00:08:48] One of the other aspects is: personal development, and behavior, and attitudes. It does reference things like off-rolling, which are very much in the press lately. Where do you stand on that debate?

Stephen Munday: [00:09:01] Well, I think, in terms of what that phrase means, which is getting rid of pupils because it's convenient to the school to do so, for reasons that aren't necessarily, clearly absolutely educational in nature, I think it's appalling.

I think you have to be a little bit careful that, I think, genuinely that majority of heads, and I really, really hope and I do believe I'm right in saying this, don't just dump pupils, whenever a pupil’s might be mildly inconvenient to their statistical position.

If that is going on significantly across the system, we've got massive problems. And it must not happen. So, some might call it an extreme view. I would call it an ‘inclusive view’ about this that we need to move to a system where 'exclusion', in a certain way of defining it, doesn't exist anymore.

That doesn't mean that every single young person must be full-time in a mainstream classroom because quite clearly that doesn't work at times. We all wish that it might. But for a range of different reasons both for that young person, and for all the others involved, and the adults, specifically the teachers, who might be teaching them, it doesn't work.

That doesn't mean we have to start kicking those children out of school. I think it's up to us the schools to work within our schools, and to work with each other to provide for those young people, and to look at the resource that is available, wherever it is in the system, and bring that in, and provide for those youngsters.

So, in a perfect world, I would say unless someone's moving out of the area, they stay on roll at the school. That doesn't mean you should keep them in the classroom, but you do look at much more flexible and creative ways of overseeing their education. Even if that is they might have to be educated somewhere else, but still you maintain responsibility for and help to provide for that.

I think that is the right way to have a full system that works for all that avoids permanent exclusions of youngsters. And we all know what sadly happens to such youngsters as they move. And it's not in any one of our interests to do that.

So, we need to work out ways that aren't stupid and silly, and say, "Just keep them in mainstream classrooms," because for various reasons that won't be plausible for everyone, but we do need to maintain responsibility.

I think, my final thought about all of that is it's up to us as a profession and school leaders to challenge each other over that. Ofsted can come in and tell me off or not for that. I hope they would tell me off. Actually, I'd much rather ‘School X, Y and Z’ up the road came and tell me because they jolly well should do.

And the notion of us as a profession overseeing that, and that's why I've been a really big supporter of the newly developed 'Ethical Framework for School Leaders' that would give a proper understanding of a set of ethical standards that we all buy into that would enable us to challenge each other over this, and say, "We can't do that because we agree it's not within our principles about what we're trying to do."

Carolyn Roberts Chair of the Ethical Leadership Commission and Headteacher at Thomas Tallis. Image Credit: Education Fest

Niall Alcock: [00:11:50] You put a heavy emphasis on "if schools are off-rolling”. And you mentioned the definition of off-rolling.

How would we enable schools to challenge each other?

Stephen Munday: [00:12:00] Well, I think, ultimately, schools and school leaders have to take responsibility for all this. I think this works best within an area. And in the area where we have to operate and this happens, you get a - we call it an 'inclusion partnership' - they all agree they will not permanently exclude. The local authority devolves the funding for out of school education to that group, to those schools, and we all say, "We've got to make this work."

If a school just suddenly started going rogue, and suddenly said: "We're going to permanently exclude". First of all, we'd say, "But you can't. We don't do that. That's not how it works around here!"

Ultimately, they'd have to leave the organisation and sit over there on their own. And I hope and believe that they wouldn't do that and certainly wouldn't want to do that.

So, that seems to be the way, the best way of doing that. Actually, it's the only way you can make it work because, sometimes, you might need to swap pupils with each other. We need protocols about agreeing how we do that. But if we all buy into this, we can make this work.

Niall Alcock: [00:12:57] Workload is often cited as one of the biggest contributors to the issues around the teacher retention we're facing the moment. For every one that leaves, we've got to recruit another.

Stephen Munday: [00:13:10] Yeah, absolutely.

Niall Alcock: [00:13:11] How big is this problem? And what are solutions at a national scale, and what can schools do?

Stephen Munday: [00:13:16] So, you've asked two questions. ‘How big an issue is workload?’ and, also, the other question is about ‘retention’. I mean, statistically, obviously, it's an issue. A few years into the profession, and how many are left?

So, workload - my own view is that workload must… Us as school leaders need to take responsibility. And we must just say, "Hang on a moment. Who is it who's responsible for the work of people in my organisation? Well, hang on! It might be me, actually. So, what am I, what are we expecting?"

Niall Alcock: [00:13:46] You as a headteacher?

Stephen Munday: [00:13:48] Yeah, absolutely. And if it's too much, and it is not clearly contributing to a great education in school, I've got to ask myself, "Hang on a moment! Why? Why are we doing this?"

"Isn't that what the Ofsted framework says?"

"I don't know! But even if it is... nah!"

Actually, even Ofsted frameworks: what are they ultimately all about? They're all about great education for young people. There isn't a framework that, ultimately, should be doing all of that. It is when you get more split, and that means you all have to mark in this way. It takes tonnes of time. You've got to say, "Whoah! No!"

Really, I think it has to be for us in schools to say, "What are we doing about this?" I'll be really honest, I don't need a toolkit out there to tell me that. And if there's an edict there, there and there, and something we're supposed to be there and we didn't quite do it, "Well, why don't you come and have a look at the quality of education?"

I've got no problem with people being held to account for the quality of education going on in any school I'm involved with. I think I should be held to account, no problems at all.

It's when somehow it gets contorted and confused into goodness knows what else. But actually, I do think that this is all about us. It's us, as the profession, overseeing and being responsible for - and that includes in schools - we, as school leaders, need to make sure that the workload is appropriate.

I do have a bit of a view that people didn't tend to come into teaching in order not to work pretty hard. Often, significantly hard. So, the idea that I will persuade teachers "Just don't work much" is laughable.

I might encourage them not to drive themselves into the ground when they don't have to do that. But I also feel I have a responsibility to make sure that when I know they will work hard because they're dedicated, and committed, and believe in it, it's worth it! It's good stuff! "Do you know what? I quite like doing that. I don't mind doing quite long work. It's when it's a lot of old tosh that somehow doesn't fit with any of that, I don't want to do that".

So, my suggestion is don't do it then.

Niall Alcock: [00:15:37] If there are things that headteachers listening out there like what you're talking about, reducing workload and making it easy of teachers, thinking about solutions and practical strategies, what would your advice be to them?

Stephen Munday: [00:15:47] Yeah. And then you get into things. So, what should you or shouldn't you do with marking? I think you need sensible discussions amongst all yourselves. Simple criteria, what actually does make a difference to youngsters learning? And how do we do that in a way that is most time and resource-efficient?

Feedback does matter. It's a fundamental part of education. But if somehow or other, we lose the plot in terms of what we're doing and it gets a life of its own...

Again, it's where I think senior teams set the tone within all of that about, 'What's the ethos? What's the culture? What's the orderliness around school?' that helps. Then you're not spending all your time picking up this, that, and the other, seeing children in negative ways because you're trying to sort out this bit of discipline here and there.

Well, actually that's not all only sheer workload. It's also unhelpful angst and stress. And there's always going to be stress in good hard work to achieve things, but it's good stress rather the bad stress.

So, I think it's those sorts of things where we want to run schools that enable, fundamentally, teachers and professionals to get on with what their job really is and make that work.

Niall Alcock: [00:16:56] A little bit about professional development.

Stephen Munday: [00:16:59] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:16:59] What's the best piece of professional development that you've ever done yourself or you've brokered into your schools?

Stephen Munday: [00:17:04] I suppose, actually, the most powerful professional development of that sort, that I think I've been involved with is I've been fortunate to get involved with numbers of other networks, schools, school leaders, and really comparing notes, and thinking through with them in a fairly open way, I found professionally challenging and stimulating and very, very helpful.

So, I think as an approach, that side of things, for me, has made a really big difference, which is part of why I think it's so important that all schools are outward-looking, that we do deliberately make sure we're part of networks, and we don't become insular within our own school and close doors there, within our own trust and close doors there because that's unhealthy. But you're just missing out on so much as well.

So, I suppose, as a general principle that would be right. And therefore, the same is true for people in our schools. We'd always want them to visit others, and work with others across our trust, and seeing that work including cross-phase - wonderful. But really importantly outside of that as well.

In terms of actual programs, I think the best programs we've done are where we've done and designed programs that are utterly focused on teaching, and learning, and developing that, which enables looking at practice, reflecting on that, and having programs around key areas of pedagogy, working as a group from about four, five, six different schools - some of them might be inside our trust, some of them might be outside of that.

Image credit: Cambridge Teaching Schools Network

Niall Alcock: [00:18:35] And these are programs you designed internally?

Stephen Munday: [00:18:36] Absolutely, based on one or two models. Obviously, based around key principles of good and effective approaches to pedagogy but within all of that, yes, we've designed it and it's run by people within our own organisation, but it deliberately brings together colleagues - two or three from different schools - and brings them all together as a group, works on that together and host some of the events in each other's school, etc.

There's a lot of learning going on through all of that, as well as some clear direct input as well, about key principles of pedagogy. But much more interesting to go into a classroom. So, what did that look like and all of the rest of it? In a very open and reflective way. Now, the feedback we get from that: never had anything other than "Loved it!"

Niall Alcock: [00:19:22] You talked earlier about bringing in resource and pulling different parts of systems together to make things happen. It's not always possible to meet the needs within a school. There are lots of organisations out there supporting schools.

When you can't meet your need, what's your approach to finding it, checking it, and bringing in?

Stephen Munday: [00:19:40] Yeah. Okay. I think there are two different answers to that. One answer, you won't be surprised to know, from what I was saying before is, but I might know another school where I'm aware that some good stuff is going on there. I might just have a word with the head and say, "Do you mind if this group comes in?" And usually they say, "Well, no. We'd love for them to come along." So, making sure we're working with other schools, other colleagues, and absolutely learning from them, as well as we hope from us. So, that would be a general approach.

I guess there's another interesting territory though more generally about clarifying what is good professional development and what's the all-around. That's where you start getting into territory like Chartered College’s beginning attempts to create standards that, then, professional development can be geared towards.

And then, you've got an understanding about there might be numbers of providers that do this, but this is a model of standards that describes really excellent teaching. And here is professional development that can move to and enable teachers to hit these sort of standards, which any of us would say, "You're a great teacher if you can do that."

So, I think, obviously, nationally, that that's very helpful if we've got those frameworks that can confirm that.

Niall Alcock: [00:20:59] Are you talking about those standards in the specific context of the C-Teach Program or general CPD programs?

Stephen Munday: [00:21:05] I would say that's a very good example of - I think, absolutely, Chartered Teacher Status would be - So, there are a set of standards that have been created by professionals. These are descriptors of very high-level practice as we would see. So, what's the professional development routeways that can help to support, and then the evidence that can clarify people who have reached all of that? So, yeah.

Image credit: Chartered College of Teaching

Niall Alcock: [00:21:29] We were talking earlier about, the Institute for Teaching and their Masters in Expert Teaching. How do those two programs sit together? And if there are schools that are looking at either one, how would they go about deciding between the two?

Stephen Munday: [00:21:39] I think, obviously, the Chartered College is in emerging territory at the moment. But where we would want to get to and I absolutely believe, the Institute for Teaching and others would want to get to is, a clarification of those standards that we all work together as a profession saying, "That's right." Then, you would significantly reference those standards, and you'd want to do that.

So, whilst at the moment, because this is very much emerging territory, you wouldn't see them as absolutely together. I do think that we are moving to something where we would have a greater integration and agreement on those standards. And very clearly, that's what we should be aiming for as a profession.

Niall Alcock: [00:22:24] We are living in difficult times economically, budgets are shrinking in real terms. What's the secret to ensuring that schools do ring-fence enough money to invest in their staff?

And, also, what are the secrets to balancing the books and running a sustainable organisation?

Stephen Munday: [00:22:42] Good line of questions. I think, there are numbers of answers to that. Biggest, biggest answer of all, to all of this, again fits in with the agenda, of course, the Chartered College. I would say that, wouldn't I? And that is raising the status of the profession and for us as a society.

So, whatever matters, boy oh boy, does education and does teaching matter?! Because, ultimately, we live in a democracy. And if all of us believe that, guess what, resource is going to be prioritised.

So, I think your second question about professional development, I think that is an easy answer actually because it says, "Well, what matters in our organisation? Well, we're a human organisation that's all about teaching and learning, and pupils developing and achieving. And how is that possible? Through the great work, and endeavours, and high skills of the people in our organisation?"

Well, the idea that you don't see professional development on an ongoing basis as fundamentally important is sort of a nonsense then if that's your overarching view and belief, which, seems to me, it has to be.

Now, when we haven't got much, we might have to be creative about how we do that. And, I think, again, working with others, and going, and seeing each other's practice. You don't pay large amounts of money to do all of that. But it does still take time and effort. You just have to say it is part of what we are and who we are. You don't necessarily have to have a thumping, great monetary amount set aside for that. But you do have to prioritise the way that you work and enable teachers but, actually, all staff in your organisation to buy into that.

What's the secret to how you balance your books? I haven't got a magic wand here and I would like to have more resource in schools. I would say that if you can get it right as a group of schools, logic says that that is going to add up better than if you try and do it on your own, particularly if you're not that big. I'm enough of an economist to know about that.

So, we have one finance director across 10 schools. We buy an insurance policy for 10 schools, not one. And it's a lot cheaper doing that. We can deploy staff, so that we don't have something that doesn't quite add up in one school, so it's more expensive than it should be.

So, there is one bit of an answer that says - whatever your view about academy, academy trusts, or whatever - but the notion of schools pooling together resource and expertise is part of an answer to that.

It's part of an answer about: how do you get ongoing professional development? And how do you get the best for all youngsters? So, yes, I am a great fan of groups working together significantly for common and mutual benefit.

Niall Alcock: [00:25:30] Time and money, to what extent do you think technology can help overcome these problems, specifically with regards to professional development?

Stephen Munday: [00:25:38] I think you can answer on numbers of levels, but for ourselves, we've come to view a really good and effective IT strategy across our trust. It's one of our absolute priorities. And confirming a post of the Director of IT Strategy across all of our schools as a full-blown post, which has got a number of aspects to it. But one of those aspects is: how do we make sure that all the good resource for teaching and learning that might be being developed by professionals in any of our schools becomes properly genuinely available in all of our schools?

Well, good and effective use of IT absolutely can help to making a reality of a community of professionals across schools, not just for the - even within one school, actually, that's a true and an effective way - let alone the notion of how do you do this across schools without keeping on jumping in your cars and getting a bit frustrated about the time this all takes.

And also there are ways that you can use programs for professional development and training, which are, at least, somewhat online. So, the programs I talked about with you before, developing effective teaching, developing outstanding teaching

Niall Alcock: [00:26:45] And this is the CAM Academy Trust?

Stephen Munday: [00:26:45] We, CAM Academy Trust, are putting some of that online now, as well as some of that on Facebook, you can do that. But absolutely, you make a very good point about: if the biggest community of all that could exist is the community of all teachers, then absolutely.

For example, if you've got a journal that might be called ‘Impact’, where top articles are being produced, how do we also produce materials online that are in their nature about professional development and training that link in to all of us? Yes, you can. And they can be accessible to all. It can be used by schools, be used by groups, and locally, or whatever. So, technology gives a huge opportunity to do those sorts of things.

Niall Alcock: [00:27:28] Moving away slightly from CPD, but still looking outwards.

Stephen Munday: [00:27:32] Sure.

Niall Alcock: [00:27:32] I've asked every guest on the podcast this question, and that question is,]: if you could ask one question to every headteacher in the country, what would it be, and why?

Stephen Munday: [00:27:40] Okay. I think it has to be a question that I do, and must ask myself. So, it's reasonable to ask all others, which really comes back to: 'Why am I doing this? What is all this about? What is actually driving why any of this is taking place? And am I driven by “I want a wonderful and a great education for anyone that I might be deemed to have responsibility for, and I really want to engage with fellow professionals in making that happen? Actually, having a satisfied professional community because they know that they're doing that. Is that driving what I'm up to?"

Because if it isn't, if there's something else that's driving it, then I'm probably in trouble.

I think you just have to keep reminding yourself, what's this all? Why am I here? What did I come into the profession for? And what's it all about? And then, you seek to do the right thing, and you just have to pursue that, and can only be content if you're doing that, I think, is an answer.

All of us have our particular inner beliefs, and motivations, and value systems. But I think in a sense, where everyone's coming forward, we need to coalesce around this is what it's really about.

And again, I come back to that's why things like ethical frameworks for school leaders, we do need to agree on these things and say, "Look this is really core to what's driving us and what we're all about." If we can agree on that, that we're going to be in a better place and if we don't have any other.

Niall Alcock: [00:29:07] And you're talking about the frameworks. Are you able to talk about those frameworks?

Stephen Munday: [00:29:12] That's being pulled together with an agreement. The framework that's coming from, sort of, an understanding of philosophical background, using the Nolan Principles for Public Life, which are relevant to all of us, particularly those of us in leadership positions in schools and say, "Here's what we can agree, a framework that can overarch the way we act and behave and can be" and that is, then, going to reside under the auspices of the Chartered College of Teaching - of course, it would, as the professional body that wishes to set and then oversee standards appropriately - That's what that is. Via the Chartered College, that can be seen. But even now, you could get hold of the framework just by putting 'ethical framework for school leaders' [into Google], and the material does exist that people can see right now.

Niall Alcock: [00:29:59] A big question around the future of education now. What does it look like? What do we have to be optimistic about? And what do we need to make sure it happens?

Stephen Munday: [00:30:06] Well, I'm going to give an answer about, you know, none of us knows the future, of course, but I'm going to say what it needs to be, and it's up to us to make it. And that's my grounds for optimism, and that absolutely overlaps with my own view about the need to put my lot in with the Chartered College because my view about where we take this forward in a positive and clearly optimistic way, under the sort of banner of the school-led system and the profession-led system is it becomes more and more an education and school system that genuinely is, in a positive and an appropriate way, owned and overseen by the profession.

That's likely to mean insisting on higher standards for ourselves because that's actually what happens when proud professions oversee themselves. They don't tend to go for a low bar. They tend to go through rather a high bar. So, I would absolutely say it's going to be associated with very high standards.

But, absolutely, it's us, as a profession, who are responsible for setting and overseeing standards, clarifying with each other and the rest of society why this is so important, and for helping and supporting each other to be clear about good, effective practice and things therefore, that we will be doing because evidence clearly suggests that.

So, as the profession and the experts around here, that's what we're saying to each other we will do, and we will support each other to do that. Anything else doesn't look so good to me, but because we're going to go into that territory, I feel optimistic.

Niall Alcock: [00:31:38] What's the biggest challenge that you faced in your career? And how did you overcome it?

Stephen Munday: [00:31:43] Okay. I would say the biggest challenge was on a particular day, which happened to be a challenging one through personal circumstances as well, but it is also the day where a school that we took on that we arranged has now gone to a very local trust. And we've taken on other schools more local to us, which for everyone is right.

But it was the day when a snap Ofsted inspection came in, and the headteacher came and I saw myself and the chair of governors at the time, and said - this was after day one and said, "Here's my resignation letter. I will be leaving shortly, and I won't be coming back tomorrow, and don't try and dissuade me from all of that."

So, by day two of the inspection, which did put the school into special measures, and correctly so, the school had no headteacher, and it was a school that we'd agreed to take on because it was in a very challenging circumstances.

So, the next morning, the day before half-term break, I had to stand up with the chair of governors in front of the whole staff and say "I need to give you a little bit of feedback about the Ofsted inspection, most specifically, I probably need to tell you that the person who was your head isn't, and I now am as of this morning. Although, obviously, I've still got a few other things I need to sort out, but we'll have to try and make this work. By the way, we've probably got a few challenges ahead."

And we did have and that was very challenging and working your way through all of that with the challenges that school faced. Now, that school's moved on very positively. Real, real hard work, real challenge with all of that, but it's in a much, much better place than it was. But yeah, that was an interesting moment.

Niall Alcock: [00:33:24] If you look back in your career Stephen, what's the one moment that will always make you laugh?

Stephen Munday: [00:33:30] Of course, one of the wonderful things about working with humans, and particularly young people is there are many. That's life, and that's what's joyful about being a teacher. I think one that I always remember that's symbolic for me was I remember, fairly early in my career with an Ofsted inspection coming in, and it was a time when goodness knows how many inspectors they used to send in in those days, and they'd be roving around, all the rest of it.

I just remember looking out of my office and seeing the lead and deputy walking around and walking towards them, near a bench that was there, was possibly one of the...erm... less positive young people in the school - let's put it like that - who they were clearly going to bump to. Your heart's in your mouth thinking, "What's going to happen here?"

He looked up, and he realised that they were the lead inspectors, and he looked to his right and shouted across to his friend at this point, "Look at this new bench that the school’s bought for us. Isn't it great, the way they treat us around here?" and walked off.

After I picked myself up after fainting, I thought, "There you go. That's good isn’t it."

Niall Alcock: [00:34:42] It's not the way you thought it would turn out.

Stephen Munday: [00:34:42] So, it was rather a lovely story there. Yeah.

Niall Alcock: [00:34:46] Stephen, it's been an absolute pleasure talking with you. You've been an absolute tour de force, values-led. It's been a pleasure. So. thanks for your time.

Stephen Munday: [00:34:53] It's been great to be able to reflect. Thank you very much.


Who are we?

I’ve been working in partnership Teach First, the Young Foundation and Super Being Labs to build a community of teachers and senior leaders who are solving big challenges in their schools.

You can read more about We Are In Beta and how you can get involved here.

To stay up to date with interviews from the community when we release them, sign up here.

If you want to access this podcast before anyone else along with the links to the organisatons and resources guests mention, along with free give away, every other Sunday, subscribe here. This week Stephen shares his favourite education book and an internal document that lays out their intentions for a new IT strategy.


If you enjoyed this interview, check out Episode #9 of the We Are In Beta Podcast with Linda Emmett, Headteacher of All Saints Catholic College, Cheshire on how to create a culture of absolute joy and support on the journey out of special measures.

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Listen to Episode 9 of the We Are In Beta Podcast here

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