There has been a wealth of studies examining what shapes the perfect leader. One of the traits of authentic leadership is the consideration of soft as well as hard data, but are decisions based on non-quantitative data possible in the current funding climate? Since Sound Training was established in 2011, we have worked with hundreds of schools with the same goal - to raise literacy levels and achievement across the curriculum. The school leaders and teachers we work with may have lots in common, but one thing that stands out is innovative leadership.
Heading up a team of 20 people you’ve never met before and leading them into a world that you barely understand can teach you a lot about leadership. As we arrived in Kathmandu, ready to continue the training of teachers in Nepal, only a handful of our self-funded volunteers had any experience of teaching. Nobody knew who I was or why I was qualified to be running the show. The volunteers ranged from 17-year-old sixth formers to 60+ year old librarians. We also had well-established teachers, and one headteacher who I had viewed as a heroine and force of nature for quite some time. This was going to be a challenge.
It was from first-hand experience and a gleaming recommendation that initially piqued Jane Cartlidge’s interest in InVentry.
At the third national #WomenEd unconference in Sheffield, Amy Jeetley spoke about how brilliant teachers don’t always make brilliant leaders. I absolutely agree, and would say that although the skills are in some ways related (getting the best from the students you teach/getting the best from the colleagues you lead), leadership demands something specific from us. Working with and through other adults is a challenge of a different nature to being an excellent classroom practitioner. So what is it that DOES make for effective educational leadership at all levels (middle leadership, senior leadership, headship, executive headship), and what are the tools every leader needs to have in their toolkit and draw on?
The REAL David Cameron, as he’s known, is a presenter, trainer, consultant working in all areas throughout education and children's services. Well known and highly-regarded across the UK teaching community (“@realdcameron is amazing!” remarked leading author Jane Hewitt upon learning of this interview), we sat down with David to get his thoughts on the modern education scene.
Since taking on a head of department role four years ago I have had the same flashback every time I sit down at my desk on the first morning back. I was up on the bleak wilds of Dartmoor in October with the daylight fading and rain coming down fast and furious. I wasn’t sure where I was or where I was going. Panic rose in my throat. I was lost.
I wasn’t always going to be a teacher. In 1988, I was at Jesus College, Oxford researching the iconography of landscape in British film. In the late eighties, it was a topic right on the edge of Geography. My thesis supervisor was the razor sharp Professor David Harvey; probably the most famous geographer in the world at that time. But a postcard note in my college pigeonhole changed the direction of my life. A colleague in the School of Geography had obtained a lectureship and asked me to take over his part time teaching job at St Edward's School in Summertown, an Independent School just north of Oxford. I accepted the job. I thought it would be an interesting change from the Upper Reading Rooms and the cramped viewing booths of the British Film Institute, plus a much needed boost to my scholarship stipend.
If you’re a subject leader, you have to make friends in school strategically. If you’re the head of English like me, you firstly need to befriend whoever guards the gate to reprographics needs the bounciest, sunniest, most dribblingly sycophantic version of you that you can muster. We’re talking bottle of wine at Christmas, chocolate egg at Easter, flowers on their birthday. Because they can do something that you could never do since the highest qualification you’re likely hold is in English Literature (or the one pertaining to your subject), a degree that required you to pontificate on postmodernism for 2 hours a week – they can fix the photocopier, a machine so psychopathic, so actively engaged in the utter destruction of your soul, that it makes HAL 9000 seem like a Care Bear. “I’m sorry James, I’m afraid I can’t do that,” you imagine it says as it mangles your Year 10 mock exams in its hot, metal, inky gob.