Updated: Oct 10
Step 1: Do your best.
It's the first of the 4-step procedure we use to promote excellence in schools.
We work exclusively with independent schools that are inspected by Ofsted and our main aim is "to promote excellence in schools". That's it!
To achieve our aim we support schools to do 4 simple things over and over again...
✅ Do your best
💻 Monitor and evaluate what you do
🏋🏾♀️Strengthen what's working well
⤴️ Improve what's not working well
So let's talk about the first step - do your best.
Simple, right? But not easy.
In order to do your best, you need to be prepared and have the resources, including time, to implement.
Preparation. As a leader have you had the necessary training and experience to fulfil your role? This sounds obvious but some find themselves in leadership roles because they were promoted when the Headteacher left, and the proprietor struggled to fill the role. Others are proprietors who are so passionate about making a difference they insist on leading the school because they founded it, not because they have the necessary qualifications and experience to lead it. Others find themselves leading a school because they have extensive leadership experience within the company, albeit in a different sector. Do any of these examples describe you? If so, how much effort are you putting into getting yourself skilled up for the role you already occupy? If you are suitably qualified and experienced how much effort are you making to ensure that you continue to improve your knowledge and skills?
Still on preparation. Are you finding out as much as possible about the specialist area in which you work? By this I mean, pupils who have SEN, specifically the type of SEN that your school caters for; or SEMH; or pupils who have been through trauma; or non-association independent schools (if you are from the mainstream or care sectors) and so on. What have you done to improve your knowledge and skill in that area in order to be able to lead it better? Read books? Attended training? Watched relevant webinars? Joined networks and attended events? Hired specialist staff?
Resources – human. Do you have the right staff to support you to do your best? It might be true that QTS is only a legal requirement for teaching in mainstream schools but why not make it a requirement at your school too? On the other hand, I understand that it might not be feasible financially to hire a full complement of qualified staff in a situation where pupil referrals are not guaranteed, and pupil numbers decrease dramatically with the exit of each Y11 cohort. Therefore, if you do have some unqualified staff invest heavily in their training to develop their pedagogic and subject knowledge, assign them a coach/mentor who will hold them to account and spur on their development, give them regular opportunities to observe and learn from experienced teachers. Think about this – what use is saving money by hiring unqualified staff and not upskilling them (because there is no legal requirement) if you end up losing pupil referrals and having to close your school because of poor quality of education and poor inspection outcomes? Or if yours is a brand-new school where referrals are trickling in at the beginning and you still need to deliver the full curriculum to a handful of pupils. Consider part-time qualified staff, online learning from reputable organisations, some alternative provision. You cater for some of the most vulnerable pupils who have had negative experiences of education, your school is where they feel safe, let’s do everything we can to make sure they achieve as well.
Resources – time. Do you have the time? Or do you spend every day putting out fires, attending meetings and dealing with every matter which is escalated by staff. Are you one of those “my door is always open” leaders? There is nothing wrong with letting staff and pupils know that you are approachable, that you care about them and you want to support them. But if “my door is always open” means that it literally is, when are you going to get your work done? The work that none of them need to do or can do? The strategic work, the analytical work, the reading of masses of guidance? All of it at home? And when are you going to be mum, dad, husband, wife, partner, friend, relative and most importantly you? I care really deeply about this issue that I wrote a blog about it a while ago: Part 1 is here - https://www.marellconsulting.co.uk/post/working-on-your-school-versus-working-in-your-school-part-1
Remember, your best today is not the same as your best tomorrow. Or at least it shouldn’t be if you care about improvement. Keep on learning, experiencing, networking so that you can be consistently better at what you do.
Finally, it is quite challenging to do your best all the time – I understand that. Sometimes good enough will just have to do. But if you are aiming to do your best most of the time, then those pupils who have not managed to cope out there have a great shot of making it with your support.