Climbing The Hill

Categories: Pedagogy and Practice, Leadership Learning, Curriculum Design

Building Better Leadership


I used the above slide, (above), tweeted by Alistair Smith, with a primary SLT team as the basis for a leadership learning discussion last week.  Pretty much every bullet point resonated with colleagues and gave plenty to reflect on. 

It prompted me to contemplate our own leadership journey at Woodhill:  how far we have come; where we are now and work still to do. Shared below are my own top ten leadership behaviours and actions that have, and will make the biggest difference for our children.

  1. Ensure your learning environment and school building embodies your personal values
    The spaces we learn and work in communicate messages more than any words. They provide the stage on which we share our leadership narrative.  Make sure yours enables the right story to be told. (See below: Office reception area packed full of quotes from families about impact of teaching on learning since September 13)


  2. Be passionate about your vision and communicate it in as many ways as you can
    Communities need to know leadership cares.  Find your passion and share it, daily. It doesn’t have to be a grand 5 year plan. Visionary leaders think in the short term, here and now as well as the longer term. Woodhill Teaching and Learning Expectations (below) are seen and shared everywhere across our school.
  3. Model behaviours and expectations
    Don’t expect staff, children or families to ‘get it’ just because you talk about it.  Leadership must be visible and model the quality we aspire to. We are all leaders of teaching; learners of leading and must be seen to be so.  The very first expectations displays at Woodhill (below) set the pace and the tone for change to come.


  4. Be an honest leader and ‘eat that frog’– especially in the early days
    The first term in a new school is a critical time for establishing the culture and climate for leadership. Take advantage of this by giving regular appraisal and feedback.  Be clear with staff and provide realistic deadlines. Check this ‘diagonally slices’ across the community to ensure all stakeholders are involved.  Ensure all leadership has license to do the same – but beware those who might not be ‘on message’.

  5. Design your own learning journeys
    Great leadership creates their own roadmap for success. Each pathway is unique and specific to your school context. Create your own curriculum based on your children, staff and school strengths.  Abandon schemes and quick fixes. Have faith that ‘we’ know best. Click here for examples of ‘bespoke’ mid term planning from Woodhill Primary.


  6. Be outrageously creative in recruiting talent
    (thanks Alistair) and also as innovative in staff deployment. There is no single template for staff formation. Decide on one which works for you and be flexible with it. What works today, might not tomorrow.  Don’t be bound by process and structure and be mindful of rogue governors. 

  7. Uncover the hidden gems and keep polishing
    There will be staff who have been forgotten, lost or neglected. Don’t be too quick to write people off.  Provide clear and focused support converging on the leadership of teaching and learning.  Build multiple opportunities to collaborate across the school and celebrate those who sparkle. Establish ways to celebrate staff successes as well as children’s.

  8. Make leadership of data everybody’s responsibility
    Too many failing schools hide behind ‘the data person’; or even worse, have no data systems in place.  Set up a data leadership timeline, share it and hold everybody accountable to this.  Use governors wisely to give traction to data leadership and train staff well.  

  9. Build a philosophy about how children learn that is right for your school
    Identify the core ingredients of great lessons and ensure everyone uses them. Make them visible and celebrate when they are in evidence and the impact it has on learning. Our core text approach to raising standards (examples below) has had a huge impact on standards but also the way we ‘design’ learning.



  10. Live your narrative and tell it daily
    Story is powerful. Find your school leadership story; make it positive, affirming, but most of all, ensure it is enduring. Ensure you build a common language for your school. This becomes part of the narrative. For the most wonderful metaphor about leadership learning for children, check out Shaun Tan’s ‘Rules of Summer’. Not only does the language permeate our school culture, it becomes an essential part of our curriculum planning. "At Woodhill, we always bring bolt cutters."

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