Leading Learning: privilege and responsibility

The opportunity to lead learning is a great privilege and responsibility. In recent years too many school and classroom leaders have got caught up in looking for quick fixes under the dual pressures of our accountability system and a genuine desire to do the best for the children in our care.

A simple touch stone I used throughout headship was “good enough for my children”. It helps guide our decision making if we see every child in front us as important as our own. As De La Salle would say, imagine they “are the children of kings”.

This is most important for those children from disadvantaged backgrounds. It is our collective ability to champion and impact on their progress and attainment which will move our current system from good, but stuck, to the great system we all want.

The opportunity created for us as leaders of learning in a post-level world should not be underestimated. Our assessment systems have been focused on producing data for leaders and closing the gap, with end of key stage intervention systems in overdrive in many schools.

As leaders of learning we can seize this opportunity to create assessment systems designed around the interface between teachers and learners that seek to prevent the gaps in knowledge, which undermine future learning, from developing.

“It is time to start removing some of the noise from our schools”

Assessment needs to focus on finding out what children don’t know and teaching them it. The impact of high-quality teaching on the children from disadvantaged backgrounds is significant and is a key lever in moving towards greater equity for all children as part of our contribution towards a fairer society.

A move towards greater collaboration, whether through formal structures of multi-academy trusts, looser teaching school alliances or a more general agreement between schools to work together, need to go deep. It is the strengthening of the relationships between teachers, willing to learn from each other and together, that will have the greatest impact on learning in the classroom.

As leaders of learning let’s not simply focus on the structural changes as a governance level but bring about a cultural shift within our system “that sees the classroom as the key structure within the system”. Quality needs to be system wide, not isolated or geographical.

In leading learning, the professional development of teachers is the primary area we should seek to influence. In completing the sentence “Great professional development …” we need to have a shared, clear, considered and explicit schema of what constitutes great teaching otherwise transitory silver bullets and a lack of constancy in purpose will come to confound our efforts to improve teaching and learning.

Great professional development in all its forms leads to improved outcomes for our children and young people. The development of a culture of teaching focused on high quality develops around data and feedback to, and for, teachers, the hard-earned experiences of our staff and the use of research to inform and challenge our ways of working. Without these we become impact blind, lacking in pedagogical mastery knowledge and practical experiences developed over years or too limited in perspective.

Establishing, over time, a culture in which teachers seek to discern what is going well and what is not, in order to focus on an area of their practice over time, as a fundamental way of working within our schools is critical to our future success as organisations, collaboratives and as a system. As leaders of learning it is time to start removing some of the destructive and unproductive noise from our schools and focus on those things that will impact on the life chances of our young people.

We must seek to develop an extended moral purpose which sees all young people’s futures as important by building greater professional capital, holding ourselves and each other to account within a respectful professional environment in which we now seek to do less but do it very well.

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