Sir Ken Robinson in his Element

Sir Ken Robinson is an enduring voice in thought leadership, a reference point for those who work within and think about the education system. Many of the anecdotes and research stories in The Element are familiar from his popular TED presentations and they’re predicated upon the perceived failure of the world’s education systems to prepare us for happy, fulfilled lives. The relentless examples of successful innovators who were failed by the system but rescued by a chance recognition of their Element, as Robinson acknowledges in the book, can be grating as well as daunting. Initially the book reads like a...

Leading reading

It wasn’t difficult to select the top five leadership reads I promised in last week’s blog post. They’re the ones bristling with tabs and notes on the shelf in my study. These are what I would describe as the most influential books I read between March 2008 (on appointment as head at DHSB), and the present day. I have read other useful books in between but these stand out in my journals and reflections as shaping my thinking at a particular point in my leadership journey. I have numbered the books in the order in which they were read. The...

And another thing…

We held our second Parent Forum this week. Every term or so we ask our group of volunteer parents to an evening session facilitated by our Family Support Advisor. Randomly selected and asked to commit to a year’s engagement, the parents are licensed, and expected, to share their strong opinions on policy development. We keep the numbers to between 10-15, in order to secure lively, manageable debate. Parents are given the topics on arrival, securing a fresh, emotional response to discussion. It’s not for the faint-hearted. Positions debated and designed with passion at Leadership meetings can be reconfigured abruptly. We...

DHSB joins the Twitterati

The first week back is over and I can complete this post and reflect on the impact of my Twitter input at the staff meeting on Tuesday. Four frenzied fifteen minute slots to groups of twenty or so staff on the first afternoon back after the Christmas break may seem a slightly cavalier approach to the launch of a social media initiative but it was actually the only option I had and the opportunity felt urgent. The first session felt swift at twenty minutes and by the time I’d stumbled into the last group I had only seven minutes to...

In which the author is astonished…

The National Professional Qualification for Headteachers (NPQH) will not be mandatory for applicant headteachers from early 2012. Steve Munby and I didn’t discuss this last week! If we had, I’d have told him that I considered it a backward step. Now that the National College has come under the arm of Government (another shame, I think), we can see the busy hand of Gove at work once again. Another unforeseen, controversial announcement at the end of a busy term. The issue even seemed to miss the TES this week. The White Paper, published last year, aimed to raise the status...

A visit from Steve Munby and a coaching conversation

We were proud to host Steve Munby’s visit this week. Steve Munby has been Chief Executive of the National College for seven years, the length of time that I have been in senior leadership. In fact, I’m something of an NCSL “Babe” having been through what used to be the three stages of the National Professional Qualification for Headteachers (NPQH) in one of the earlier cohorts. This relationship with the college, strengthened through involvement in pilot leadership programmes and by coaching colleagues in two schools through Leadership Pathways, has given a unique perspective on one of the most important Action...

Get Ahead with Student Leadership

“Get Ahead” runs in the library from 15:50 – 16:50, Monday to Thursday.  One of the most memorable observations from my recent spell as a Year 11 student came whilst experiencing the powerful ways in which students learn from each other. Of course, we have always been aware that student leadership in the school is strong. We have many fine ambassadors: prefects; Devonport Voice (the student council); peer mentors and club captains. And I will never forget the report that illustrated the influences on young people as a series of concentric circles. Peer pressure was closest to the centre. Teachers...

A step up… the role of bursaries

Justin Bickle and I are contemporaries. Subject to the same cultural and political forces, from the era of Margaret Thatcher and The Jam, we have both spent formative periods of our lives in Chester and we both understand how special Devonport High School for Boys is in developing the life chances of the most able young men in the Plymouth region. This is the second year that Justin has returned to award two £2,500 bursaries to Year 13 students about to enter higher education. Students who have been able to demonstrate an exceptional level of personal enterprise and initiative are...

National Takeover day 2011

You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view, until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) Friday 11th November was National Takeover day; an opportunity for young people across the country to get a unique insight into the world of work by taking on discrete roles within an organisation for a day. Tianyi Song (Year 11), did my job and I will share his reflections a little later in this post. In addition to this, and building on a pledge I’d...

Soft skills and small talk – adding value

Governors at DHSB polishing the social skills of students Educational commentators speculate regularly on the value of what is taught in schools and what will be valuable later in life. Perhaps the most high profile and sadly predictable expression of this occurs annually following the release of exam results. Standards improve and someone from the CBI is wheeled out to complain that young people are still essentially illiterate and unemployable. However irritating and simplistic this view is, the debate itself is essential if we are to continue equipping our young people for the exciting and competitive futures they face. Coalition...