One for the team

Is a sole leadership role is the perfect solution? Or is an extensive team is needed to lead a school to success?

We have lived through changing times in education. No change there, then. In fact, living with and through a constantly changing world of education is often cited as a reason to call a halt, quit and become a fisherman in Cornwall.

Oddly enough, even thinking of the above alternative to teaching/managing in schools brings me back round to the territory I wanted to explore for a moment: leadership. Jumping from a school to a fishing boat would just land you in another ‘unit’ with the same demands for a leader (a captain) and a staff (however many fishermen would be necessary for the job).

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The compelling past of Red Maids' High School

There’s a rich history to one of Britain’s oldest girls’ schools

Once upon a time, I was deputy head of the oldest girls’ school in the country, The Red Maids’ School in Bristol. On founder’s day every year – the school’s equivalent of speech day – the head girl read to the assembled parents, pupils, staff and dignitaries an extract from the will of the founder, John Whitson, a one-time merchant of the city and MP.

Any deputy head will tell you, speech day is a nightmare of organisation, particularly when it comes to getting the right prize, cup or book into the hands of the right recipient. 

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A life in higher education: unconditionally yours?

There’s been rampant growth in unconditional offers for university places

I wonder if it’s too soon to write the eulogy for conditional offers of a place at university? An unconditional offer of a place at a university of your choice reminds me of Japanese knotweed – once a rare thing – now rampant in the land and popping up every time you read an article about university entrance. Commonplace, in fact.

I understand that most gardeners would say the knotweed is a bad thing in the garden, an alien beast, and its invasion marks a radical change in the garden. I wonder if that will happen to the universities which have jumped aboard the unconditional-offer gravy train? Will they find themselves with large numbers of students with mediocre grades taking a very relaxed approach to their studies because it was easy enough to get in, and now you’re there, it’s no sweat doing well – look how many students get first-class degrees now, way more than 20 years ago, chill man, let’s start a rock band, ’cos you gotta find something to fill the days, actually you could get a few shifts in a fast food outlet…

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Music to the ears of educators

Independent schools play a vital role in supporting music in the curriculum

Put the right child – boy soprano – in the right church, preferably ancient and candlelit, at the right time, as close to Christmas as possible, and even strong men may weep. There is something about a frosty December night, the silence and stillness of a packed congregation, and the fragile purity of the young soloist piping the first verse of Once in Royal David’s City before leading the choir to their stalls to the accompaniment of organ and congregation. Such a moment will be one of the best of the entire Christmas season. The setting, the voice, the music, the imminence of the celebration of the birth of Christ in a stable – not a dry eye in the house.

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Be careful what you wish for

Edexcel has announced it will upload all of its marked A-level exam scripts; are we about to see A grades rise even further?

OK, so first you have to know that I am writing this on A-level results day, and whatever I intended to write has just been trumped by the newspapers reporting, not the pass marks, and not the vagaries of results over time, but something I believe to be even more important: Edexcel is today uploading all of its marked A-level exam scripts, and will offer free access to the exam scripts so teachers can judge whether a pupil or the examiner was at fault before they go through the process of challenging the grade awarded.

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Many heads make bright networking

What have I learned about the power of connections?

Once upon a time, at a conference in a galaxy far away, a very new headteacher (like, two weeks in post) attended her first association conference. She had seen Heads under whom she had served shoot off for such an occasion towards the end of a busy year, returning refreshed to the fray, reporting on great speakers, nice locations, how lovely to see old friends from their teaching past. What was not to like?

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The costs of the gender pay gap

What’s the gender pay gap in schools, and how does it impact senior leadership teams?

It had to happen: the rhetoric of the business world seeps even further into education and now it reaches the most important people in schools: the pupils. This time, what we are observing is part business-speak – and, indeed, practice – and part gender sensitivity.

As usual, there’s an outlier which is first to spot the trend and pursue its possibilities to become a trend-setter. 

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The play's the thing

Building a school theatre is always a good idea.

A wise and kindly headmaster once ticked me off for running a fund-raising campaign to build a new sports centre for the school of which I was headteacher, and which had not then entered The Schools Arms Race, with new facilities popping up like a rash.

“Good luck with that,” he smiled, in a ‘Been there, got the T-shirt’ kind of way, then added: “You do know you’re building the wrong thing?”

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