It’s nearly Christmas and, you know what they say: ‘tis better to give than to receive’. So, I thought I would temporarily cease my usual blogging stance of high-horsing cynicism in favour of giving something back. I mean, why should a great leader keep all their effectiveness to themselves rather than dish it out to the hoi polloi?
Thing is, there doesn’t seem to be anything left to talk about. Every educational sacred cow seems to be already slaughtered. I can’t advise about lesson observations because they’re now considered to be illegal in some counties. Anything on behaviour and I’ll be crushed in between the Inclusionists and the Excludedites. You can’t even mention staff appraisal without being accused of sending teachers to work down coal mines. The government messed up astute use of data analysis for all of us. Don’t mention curriculum unless you want to get bored to tears by a progressive/traditionalist debate. And even Ofsted are giving marking a kick in the praise sandwiches.
So, what is there left to talk about?
Maybe I could talk about my school? Thing is, if I start doing that people will begin thinking I’m setting up some kind of edu-cult. They’ll expect me to start writing manifestos with messages about education that are so strong they make Trump’s election campaign look like Joanna Lumley advertising Mellow Birds coffee.
Maybe I should tell the world that the reason our disadvantaged children’s scaled score in maths was 302 was because we put them all in isolation tanks during their lunch hour and piped times tables raps into the disorientating darkness. (Admittedly they now all have skin like sultanas but by Gove they know what six sevens are.) But I just can’t be bothered.
I can’t be bothered to pretend that I have an uncompromising approach to education. I can’t be bothered to be misinterpreted and end up being defined by something I happen to believe in. Not because I don’t have strong beliefs. But because I’m quite up for changing my mind. I enjoy adapting. My beliefs are very strong but they are also apt to change depending on situation and context.
I don’t think that makes me a nightmare to work with. I’d like to think it makes me someone you can rely on. Allowing myself the luxury of accepting the subtleties and complexities of life has enabled me to adapt systems and policy in favour of trying to get the best out of every situation.
All very convenient but where does this leave me in terms of doling out guaranteed wisdom? You can’t take ‘we’ll see what’s around the corner and act accordingly’ and write it on your school action plan can you? Especially if you’re not actually any good! I mean, I can just about get away with it, but you? No, no, no. You need something a little more concrete if you’re to scale the dizzying heights of my headship.
So, let me think.
The only thing I can think of is something so dry and dusty you may as well close this window and go back to looking at mannequin challenge videos. It’s not sexy. It’s not nu-ed. You won’t find a hashtag of it anywhere on Twitter. It’s not appropriate for pinterest. And it certainly won’t win me blogger of the year.
Ladies and gentlemen, middle and senior leaders, I give you:
@theprimaryhead’s approach to school development planning.
Forget what you thought you knew. Throw away your smart targets. Get rid of the ‘who’ ‘how’ ‘cost’ columns and, best of all, delete the ‘by when’ column because it’s absolutely useless. Prepare yourself for a new age of action planning that will set you free in its simplicity. And no, this isn’t leading up to a big groovy joke where I say ‘action planning is for squares’, I’m being serious. It needs to be done and too many people do it badly. But luckily, I have the answer.
Where have you all gone?
That’s typical, isn’t it? If this was a blog about the educational research that suggests lesson observations are best done blindfolded so as to prevent the observer from making preconceived judgements on the quality of teaching, or, that phonics through music results in children being good at drawing polygons, you’d be all over it wouldn’t you? This blog would be trending Twitter right now.
But it isn’t. Because nobody cares about the boring bread and butter of leadership. Bread and butter doesn’t interest people, does it? People today want their bread and butter covered in bashed avocado or prosecco dust. I mean let’s be honest, once you’d all clicked on the Mellow Birds link you never came back.
Well fine. I know my place. Somebody, help me up onto this high horse.
Oops, wait a minute, I’m there already.