This blog is an overview of a presentation that I delivered at a Lead Meet event in June 2016. The end of my first senior leadership post has provided the best opportunity to reflect upon the most relevant things that I have learnt. In this role, it became apparent that the skills and attributes that helped me reach this particular point were not necessarily the ones that would enhance my skills / influence as a leader. The seven points below are a summary of my reflections during this period of time and an outline of things I wish that I had known at the start.

This article is based on a presentation given at Teaching and learning Leeds (#TLLeeds) held at GSAL (The Grammar School at Leeds) on Saturday 2nd July 2016. Collaboration was the central theme of the conference.

“Great schools rarely go it alone. The most successful schools are not isolated and separate from their local community and other schools but actively encourage and embrace interaction with others. This approach has led to complementary benefits.” (Buck, 2016)

A few months ago, I spent some time with a few newly-appointed senior leaders, all assistant headteachers who had recently been extremely effective in middle leadership. None of them could be described as shy or retiring, yet having already proven themselves, they had now lost confidence and fallen foul of the dreaded ‘imposter syndrome’. A few days later, I was in a room full of educators at a conference who related their very similar feelings. It is much talked about, isn’t it? We all of us have probably been there at some point in our careers and it certainly isn’t picky about which gender it chooses to afflict.

Teacher-focused grassroots organisation WomenEd has started 2016 by recruiting 60 volunteers, who are being trained as regional leaders this term, to spread their enthusiastic message. The popular movement is currently in consultation with the DfE and working in conjunction with ASCL, the Future Leaders Trust and The Leading Women’s Alliance. They will be presenting at an Inside Government event in April, which will review the barriers inhibiting gender equality and the progression of female leaders across the public sector.

To set the scene for my thoughts, I first want to share with you that one of my pet peeves in the learning environment is the use of PowerPoint presentation software. Not that there is anything wrong with PowerPoint software – it can be an incredibly powerful tool when used in the right environment. But when used as a lecture tool in schools, attempting to provide students with information on a particular subject, it can become a cold, one-way communication tool.


Here we are in a new academic year. For those in leadership last year, analysis will be done regarding the success of the initiatives under their remit in bringing about positive changes in staff and student performance. Inevitably, there will be room for improvement somewhere, and so we start the vital process of listing our existing initiatives, programmes and tools in order to sort the wheat from the chaff.


Independent education charity Sports Leaders UK have just launched I Can Lead, a practical leadership award that has been developed to minimise the administrative burden for teachers while increase leadership learning in secondary schools.

So, if you’re a Middle Leader, what motivated you to move to that role? It may be that after spending some time as a classroom teacher you felt ready for a freshchallenge, and wanted the opportunity to extend your sphere of influence into other classrooms in your subject or pastoral area. It may be that the chance to work with and through other people, to support and challenge, encourage and inspire other staff, in addition to trying to get the best from students, constituted an appealing new area of responsibility. I’ve previously written about why you might want to move to a Middle Leadership role and how you might start to prepare yourself.

It’s May 2014, and the education world continues to atomise into a bewildering complexity of mini systems, school types and quasi-commercial support. As we begin another run up to a too-close-to-call general election, we education professionals must gird up for the inevitable hectoring. The wind tunnel of derision will blizzard the usual stuff about standards, quality and behaviour at us – it must not blow us off track.

Although this video is aimed at business leaders, I believe there are take-away pointers for school leadership as well. What follows is my attempt at summarising some of the key points from the various speakers and a few thoughts on their application in a school context.

Leaders need to develop the skill of managing across real or imagined boundaries

Schools are full of boundaries. Some are real while others are imagined. There are boundaries between grades and departments, among the pupils (across and within grades), professional boundaries (often linked to a lack of skills in certain areas), boundaries of knowledge, boundaries of leadership capability, boundaries of time, boundaries of classroom doors and walls separating physical space and boundaries set up by those who seek to maintain their sense of power by position alone. Effective school leaders are those who can identify the boundaries in their school which are causing conflict and inefficiency and deal with them decisively and fairly.

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