Posts by Kristian Still

Helping one to help many

Like most schools, we know that flourishing requires more than academic ability. At our school, we have OneSchool Skills  (Academic Achievement, Leadership, Involvement, Fulfilling Potential, Management skills) and I am keen to offer, develop and recognise these skills and students achievements, within and beyond the school gates.

I have always keep one eye on the look out for assembly fodder and now, I am also on the lookout for OneSchool Skills catalysts aswell. Currently we are exploring Management Skills – Cooperation, Organisation, Self-Directed Learning, Reflection, Communication and Initiaitive.

The first six where relatively easier to outline and explore, whereas, initiaitive though easy enough to outline, far more difficult to illustrate. That is, until Gayle Allen interviewed Mick Ebeling on Achieving the Impossible.

Ebeling takes, what appears unsolvable problems, and seeks solutions; committing first and then figuring out how.

On Tuesday I will be sharing with our students how Ebeling enabled ALS graffiti artist Tony ‘TEMPT’ Quan (paralyzed from head to toe) to draw again.

Mike Ebeling is our role model for OneSchool Skills initiative.


Rubbing salt in the wounds

Rubbing salt in the wounds of the teaching profession is conceived from a random mixt of inputs. The Financial Sustainability of Schools Inquiry,” midweek reports that schools have slashed CPD budgets, an Ofsted presentation “Growing great schools: what has the most impact? a long drive home from Canons Park TSA yesterday “Working with Complexity in School Leadership and a pithy quote regularly aired via social media.

Taking each of these in sequence;

The DfE continues to report two delusive financial statements, that the overall schools budget is “protected in real terms,” that the government has increased the schools budget by 7.7% from £39.6 billion in 2015-16 to £42.6 billion in 2019-20.

Thanks to our investment in school funding, which at more than £40bn in 2016-17 is at its highest level on record, we are giving all schools access to the resources they need. (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-38827188)

As we know, as reported, taking into account pupil number rises of 3.9% (174,000) in primary schools and 10.3% (284,000) in secondary schools and inflation, funding per pupil will, on average, rise only from £5,447 in 2015-16 to £5,519 in 2019-20. A real-terms reduction.

You could hardly expect the DfE to report

We expect mainstream schools will have to find savings of £3.0 billion (8.0%) by 2019-20 to counteract cumulative cost pressures, such as pay rises and higher employer contributions to national insurance and the teachers’ pension scheme.

Ironically, the National Audit Office also reports that, with regards to publishing advice and guidance for schools, DfE has made “made progress in some areas,” clearly not better than expected.

Towards the end of the week we hear from national and education press outlets that schools are wiping out their professional development budgets at a time that teaching staff are still managing monumential curriculum,exam and assessment change and need that input demanded from the Department of Education. It is my professional and personal experience, that access to professional development, is a key ingredient of meaningful “employee recognition,” essential to the success of any organisation. Not overlooking that 78% of employees report that being recognised motivate them in their job (WorkforceGrowth Report, 2012). Retention favour is undoubtedly being yet further bruised with prospective teachers hardly encouraged.

Next followed the Ofsted presentation from which I taken these Monthy Pythonian statements unintentional adding salt to the open wounds of a stagnating profession.

In the schools that were found to have improved, there was a very clear pattern of improved teaching because leaders had focused on continuous bespoke professional development. (Annual Report 2015/16: Secondary school improvement.)

In the schools that were found to have improved, there was a very clear pattern of improved teaching because leaders had focused on continuous bespoke professional development.

Leaving Headteachers with a Scylla and Charybdis dilemma, deficit or stagnation. Teachers (in which I include leaders) up and down the country have been feeding these monsters, now the cupboards are bare. CPD saturdays (#TLT – saturday, Pedagoo Hull, Hampshire, Fife, Perth, Worc all Saturday, SLTCamps – weekend, #teacher5aday events – saturdays, Teachmeets – various evenings) Complexity in Leadership, are not the healthy work-life-balance  answer. In what other profession do you see self-organised professional development on Saturdays?

The final input was this Henry Ford quote.

It left me reflecting. Schools are being contrained from investing in professional development, investing in the single most significant expenditure (typically 78% Primary and 79% Secondary DfE 2013) to which Ofsted unthoughtfully reminded us, underpins school improvement.

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First impressions

After the quality of education, the school’s academic curriculum, teaching, the effectiveness and use of assessment and the impact of all these factors on pupils’ learning and achievement and personal development, I have been giving our schools “first impression,” some consideration. From the main drive-way / signage, parking, entrance, reception, staffroom, corridors and classrooms.

With many competiting priorities, time to dress the corridors and classrooms is hard to prioritise. Here are three observations and two gift wrapped examples for a big empty corridor space in maths block and how you could create your own.


Not all display spaces need to be filled but the anticipation that work will be displayed is important. Empty frames and labelled unused noticeboards that later become “wonder walls.” Or clothes pegs that make for live or changeable displays, you can replace the work with student names to show progress within a lesson or over time, moving student names up or down the learning line.

Word walls made from the keywords from the GCSE contents page make for quick, useable practical displays.

Use display spaces to gether feedback from the learning, share success criteria, or “What a Good One Looks Like”.

Lastly, if you want add a splash of inspiration. Try an oversized image. Here is an image adapted in Adobe Spark Post. Posterizer then allows you to create posters larger than a standard page, using the tiled printing method. It will rasterize any image and output files that can be printed at home and reassemble to the original image.

For you, two gift wrapped examples, “There is beauty in maths.”




Making the leap (part 3)

This is the last post reviewing the considered and encouraging “Making the leap. Moving from deputy to head.”

The early months in post

Before I offer my takeaway messages, I think I should start with my final reflection. In mocking fighting fantasy – I wonder whether the book should start with a message.

If you are about to begin your headship go straight to p115. If you’re planning wisely with plenty of time on your side turn to p1.

Jill seemed to appreciate the reality to that reflection,

Good point.

From here on in, I’ll stick to a chronological review.

The tension between inheriting and inhabiting relates to the concept of reciprocal socialisation.

I am confident that this predicament is a common one for new heads. Jill goes on to warn incoming heads that they need to be “sensitive enough to the norms, perceptions and the insecurities of others.

Given the potential isolation of headship and the potential consequences of getting this too wrong in the early days, I would like to read more on this potential blindspot.

Despontin (2007) may state ‘There is only one way to be a Head, and that is your way.’ That is all well and good however, I recognise that my way is worthy of some refinement.

p118 provided the encouragement and insight I needed. Leadership, headship is, itself a unique, evolving process.

This perfectly leader may in fact, never emerge, and you may find that your perceptions of what this leaders is like changes over time. There is the leader you want to be. There is the leader this particular school requires you to be at this stage in its development – and, of course, the later stages, as time passes and your experience, confidence and competence grow alongside the school’s changing needs. And there is also the leader the school will allow you to be, and you may be acutely aware of this, especially in the early months.

There are useful reminders about getting to know the school; lesson visits, pupil pursuits for example, and the perennial favourite, “doing things right and doing right things.” Reminders to give all staff the opportunity to prove themselves, to exercise your own judgement, look outward (although I can attest that is not as straightforward as it reads), to visit other heads and avoid the urge to micromanage. To model positivity, receptivity and openness to feedback and confidence. p139 “the importance of being a head, not just doing the job.”

p143 One last point, heads may not arrive with the intention of changing things, heads may not even change anything. But remind yourself, “just your very nature” means school will be difference.

If I had read this page, you now, skipped fighting fantasy style to the final chapter, I may had proceeded at an even slower pace. And I thought I was attempting to slow down. New teaching staff, front office team combine with an under develop contextual awareness and school knowledge was harming and I had not yet spotted it in my rear view mirror.

On p144 Jill gently touches on the moment we realise we have missed the mark. Well, it is picked up by one of Jill’s PhD participants.

The key issue here is what the new head decides to do when they realise that their actions have been misunderstood or misinterpreted: they recognise they need to communicate their intentions and expectations more clearly.

I informed Jill that I thought this was worthy advice for all leaders, experienced or inexperienced. Should we be primed to expect our actions may be misinterpreted. The chances are – they will be somewhere in the school? After all, “the transition involves a process of transformation is for both the new school leader and the led.”

Established headship, beyond headship… that is a committed leap and a lot of bridge building and I plan to make the most of my 3-7 years worth of effectiveness – Mortimore (1998).

It is that this point, I would like to thank Jill for sharing her experience and expertise.

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