21st C Leadership: Vision, Trust and Strategy. My #LFE15 Contribution


Photo via Kenny Temowo

At the London Festival of Education LFE15, I took part in this panel discussion:

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 18.29.20

It’s hard to capture the full extent of what was said – and I hadn’t prepared anything in advance – but, thanks to twitter, the main bits of what I had to say were captured in my timeline.  So, here is a flavour, with many thanks to everyone who tweeted – you have largely written this post for me!

On Leadership. 

The three most important needs for leadership in summary:  VISION, TRUST and STRATEGY.

Have a clear vision with audacious goals for success and the explicit determination to build a trust culture

It’s important to recognise : It’s not my school – it belongs to the parents & community. We serve them, so don’t be deaf to their voices’

On developing leaders:  It helps to give emerging leaders a clear remit; create a vacuum for them to fill and the space to make mistakes.

You will not develop great leaders through micro management, more a trust, coaching culture.

No, not anyone can be developed into a Head or school leader. Let’s not be too fluffy about it; some people would be better doing something else!

Often in applications and line management, there’s a tendency for leaders talking about what they’ve done rather than what they’ve enabled others to do.


 On Accountability Culture

“We do the things that we believe in; Ofsted can come and go and take us as they find us”

“What we want to do is build a school that we believe in.  No lesson grades. No data targets. Family friendly school.”

The way to improve teaching & learning is through a professional review process with teachers.

If you’re still grading lessons in your school, you don’t know what you’re doing  (Yup – I really said that and I mean it.)

“If you’re grading lessons, you’re not listening”


On Teacher Workload, Development and Retention

Marking has to be sustainable for teachers to have impact.

I say to staff you decide what a sensible sustainable marking workload is & you stick to that.

Strip away bureaucratic accountability measures and ask ‘Why do we need that piece of paper?’ (- in reference to asking Heads of Department for yet another report detailing their interventions after a mid-year assessment point. )

We need to strip away bureaucratic accountability measures which detract from actual interactions with the child

 My priority ‘is to make my school the place every teacher wants to come and work‘.

I want to develop a culture of trust where teachers can grow, develop and stay within the school.

Making my school a great place to work is a hard-headed way to keep and develop great teachers

Strip away bureaucratic accountability measures, and stop grading lessons. PRP is toxic – don’t do it.

If you’re at a school with PRP and strong data approach and people love working there, it’s despite those systems,

Stop grading lessons, take the PRP and the data targets away, and your school will go further.

I was delighted to see how strongly this resonated – via Katie Ashford’s tweet:

Screen shot 2015-03-01 at 21.01.47

On thinking long-term:  Think beyond Ofsted: for example, our plans for implementing the Trivium is going to take my school five years. 

On Executive Headship “Is it possible for Heads to run more than one school? asks audience member. @headguruteacher says ‘yes, but it’s not the same job’:  Schools still need Heads on the ground.

Thanks to my fellow panelists for an interesting exchange – we were just getting warmed up! And thanks to everyone in the audience and for all the messages I received afterwards.



  1. I’ve come away from full time teaching and am engaged in a new venture that I hope will have a positive impact on many children. http://www.bright-stream.org But, I’m hoping that by the time I am ready return there our many more schools with your enlightened attitude. It sounds like there won’t be any room at yours! 🙂


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