Networking to developing future leaders


As a profession, we must all play our part in nurturing and supporting the next generation of school leaders, says Sue Williamson.

Developing the next generation of school leaders is a crucial responsibility for headteachers as well as everyone working in education. We need to introduce the developing leaders to outstanding headteachers as well as some of the world’s most original and authoritative leaders of education thinking as early as possible in their careers.

When we work with developing leaders, we tell them that being a headteacher is the best job in the world. Is this really the case? Michael Gove’s drive for academisation and greater autonomy for schools is a strong indicator that he recognises the importance of headteachers taking the decisions that affect the lives and future of students and staff.

A headteacher has to be able to create the culture and environment to enable outstanding teaching and learning to take place every day. This is their area of expertise. However, they also need to run their schools as a business. Undoubtedly the head’s role is moving to that of a chief executive. This means a different relationship with the governing body and the need to ensure effective communication as the school delivers its strategic plan. It is essential that the vision is shared.

Partnerships will be crucial when determining the curriculum. The assessment system is bound to put pressure on schools and even academies to focus on EBacc subjects. It is easier to do that if you have a strong philosophy and belief in education that is supported by governors, the community, staff and students.

A headteacher’s educational principles should always be the guide as to what changes to accept and what to reject. These principles will give staff and students the confidence to innovate and be creative.

Support networks give the courage to challenge current thinking. This is why it is so important that young teachers are introduced to the most creative and innovative thinkers and leaders early in their careers. This enables the developing leaders to develop their own support networks, which are so essential in times of rapid and radical change. With such support, developing leaders can develop their own core educational principles. 

Developing leaders must have the opportunity to challenge current thinking (an essential skill for a headteacher). They need to take part in debate with leading academics and thought leaders. The developing leader then has the opportunity to discuss key issues and approaches with colleagues from schools. This is all part of developing the problem-solving skills that are so important for a successful headteacher.

The role of the headteacher is similar to that of a football manager. Both are in the results business. Both are often given little time to improve results. If results go badly their job is on the line. This makes it essential that a new headteacher has a detailed knowledge of research and development in teaching and learning, and the experience of implementing change. 

At every stage, from developing leader to headteacher, they need ready access to sources of help. In some ways that is now quicker and easier than it has ever been. Social networking means that answers can be obtained in minutes from colleagues and mentors that you have worked with over the years.

I still believe headship is the best job in the world. You have the opportunity to inspire thousands of students and ensure that they have the knowledge and skills to live and work in the 21st century. You develop your staff and have the pleasure of seeing them progress. Your school can be at the heart of your community and encourage lifelong learning. Yes it is challenging, but it will be your beliefs and your networks that will see you succeed.


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