The OECD reported recently that test anxiety of UK students is the third highest of 72 countries.

The school leaders I speak to are fully aware that too much pressure can create unhealthy levels of stress in teachers and students alike. On the other hand, there is an accountability regime that means that small changes in performance can create large, and very public, declines in league table positions.

One of the problems here is the short-term nature of responses to performance pressure. An intense burst of activity for groups of students at risk of under-performing can absolutely make a difference to that year’s results. …


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Photo: Unsplash

As we near the deadline for ballot papers to be returned, I would like to thank all those who have actively supported me through letters, meetings, phone calls and encouragement.

Being the ASCL Council’s ‘nominated candidate’ is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, I am flattered to be selected from a competitive field, and reassured that my skills have been assessed by a professional recruitment firm as well as a panel of serving and representative school leaders. On the other hand, some have sought to paint me as the establishment figure, seeking to preserve the status quo. In fact, I have been clear throughout that there is a huge amount of work to do and no room for complacency at all.


Over the last few days, groups school leaders in different parts of the UK have been kind enough to invite me for a discussion with them. For those interested, but unable to attend, here is a flavour of my input and the Q&A put to me from the Kent meeting held in Tunbridge Wells on 9 January.

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Bennett Memorial Diocesan School

Introduction

The Chair, Ian Bauckham, welcomed members and introduced the session. He explained that it had been challenging to arrange a date for this session owing to time pressures over Christmas, and that while both candidates had been invited to meet Kent members, Chris had been able to accept by Geoff had not. He had sent his apologies owing to work pressures at school, but had explicitly said he did not object to the meeting going ahead if Chris was able to attend. …


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It’s mid-afternoon on a freezing November afternoon in Friends Meeting Place near Euston station. A group of 30 or so people are engaged in a passionate discussion.

  • ‘What’s really important is that we challenge the notion that headship is a lonely and isolated role — otherwise, why would we expect that teachers will want to do it?’
  • ‘Right! Actually, the chance to really understand your own core values and principles, and use them to work with a team and shape a vision for a school, that’s pretty stimulating!’

This is a meeting of the Leadership Coaches for a programme called Getting Ahead London. The programme is the brainchild of the Greater London Authority (GLA), and comes directly from research carried out by Anna Trethewey, James Kempton and Challenge Partners, run by Professor Sir George Berwick CBE, who is known to many for his role in London Challenge. …


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Photo: Unsplash.com

Teachers make the biggest difference to students’ learning; and for students from disadvantaged home backgrounds this is even more the case. This makes the recent news that the DFE is cancelling the National Teaching Service alarming. The pilot had secured only 24 teachers against a target of 100, despite an extension to the timetable.

We should certainly acknowledge the 24 who stepped forwards. And also, that at least by using a pilot DFE avoided a much bigger and more costly mistake. But we should expect that some lessons to be learned. Research provided by the Education Development Trust called ‘Redistributing excellence: using teachers’ views to inform workforce planning for a more equitable education system’ (supported by PwC while I was the education lead there) made it clear that three aspects of design would be…


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We all love a bit of magic, and at this time of year there is often a budding Great Soprendo to be found at the school end-of-term show, making our 50p pieces disappear before our astonished eyes, or pulling unfeasibly long scarves from a hat.

However, even the best trick is spoiled when viewed from a school hall with a leaky roof.

In the same way, the national funding formula consultation does pull some surprising rabbits out of the hat, but we must watch out for the sleight of hand.

Let’s start with the parts of the trick that ministers would want us to notice. …


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Photo: Unsplash

Eric McNulty’s fascinating review of new research into the link between charismatic CEO’s and company performance has interesting resonance in education systems.

As Eric argues, in the business world the link between charisma and performance had already been firmly challenged by the 2002 book, Searching for a Corporate Savior: The Irrational Quest for Charismatic CEOs. Whilst there was a perception in the markets that certain ‘star’ leaders were always good for company performance, the data did not support that impression.

And yet in education, as in business, we are still fascinated with the ‘hero head’ and find it hard to shake the notion that an inspirational leader is likely to be good news for school improvement. A new business study helps shine some more light on that. The Leadership Quarterly paper sampled 150 German companies to assess the link between CEO charisma and company profits. Although there was no direct link found (supporting those who argue for the death of the Superhead), there was an interesting link to a couple of intermediary variables: Transformational Leadership and Organisational Identity Strength. …

About

Chris Kirk

Experienced education leader, Director CJK Associates. Interested in transforming lives through education.

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