Diary of a headteacher: Values-driven leadership

Written by: Diary of a headteacher | Published:
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It’s that time of year again – new year’s resolutions... Our headteacher diarist is clear on his priority for the coming months: values-driven leadership

The start of a new year is always a common time for setting targets, identifying goals and kicking bad habits.

The best of intentions are laid out in January as we feel slightly guilty following a period of over-indulging.

But how quickly are these good intentions eroded? How soon do we revert to type because we have not been as persistent and consistent with our new year’s resolutions as we had hoped to be?

How often do we find an excuse – perhaps because “we don’t have the time” – to genuinely make a change or sustain certain behaviours?

We do this in both our personal and professional lives and – for me – setting a new year’s resolution is a pointless exercise if you have not got the willpower or the motivation to see it through.

I can see so many similarities with school improvement strategies. At the start of an academic year the school development plan will feature many strategies that are identified as “essential” or “critical”.

How many of these fall by the wayside by the end of the autumn term? Lack of time, resource or capacity will often be cited for these failures, but there is a real danger in rationalising these shortcomings for headteachers.

A common mistake is identifying too many areas for change or development and as a result the resources of the school become stretched too thinly.

Experience has taught me that it is more prudent to really focus sharply on two or three core strategies and execute these with planning, precision and persistence. My advice for setting new year’s resolutions would be the same.

January is an interesting time in the school year. We are about half-way through with year 11 and things tend to gather pace and momentum with those examination year groups from this point onwards. It is also the time where we step back and take stock of the previous year, identifying how we want to become better teachers and better people.

So, what are my new year’s resolutions for 2019?

As a school leader my biggest personal goal for this year is to create a strong alignment within the leaders of the school, their own personal values, the values of the school, and how all of this becomes a visible consistency in the way each of them work.

We have spent a lot of time accessing coaching throughout this year and leaders across my school have found this hugely beneficial, myself included.

We have been focusing on creating this strong alignment so that our values are not just a set of words that reside in our prospectus or on a page of our website. We want our values to be a visible aspect of everything we do.

If we can achieve this then I believe we can genuinely proclaim to be a values-driven school – and this must start with the leaders.

In practical terms this means that every leader consistently models the school values in every interaction they have with their colleagues, students and parents.
It means that all the decisions that are made by leaders in school are taken with the school values acting as a guiding principle.

It will be very difficult to measure the success of such a goal, but it is a challenge I have laid down for my leadership teams since coming back to school after the Christmas break.

So, what new year’s resolution have you chosen to focus on for your leadership in 2019?

  • SecEd’s Diary of a Headteacher is written by two different headteachers. The author of this entry is a headteacher, in his fifth year of headship, at a secondary school in the Midlands.


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