Friday, 12 June 2009

Closing address from Tim Brighouse

Tim Brighouse gave the closing address, summarising what he had seen and sharing eight key 'lessons' for successful school leadership

Tim echoed points raised by Ed Balls, David Bell and others - namely that we have made substantial progress over the last decade but that the biggest issue facing us is that too many children are failing to learn and learning to fail.

He argued that we need to have a broad national debate on how we manage transition from primary to secondary. He argued that the time spent outside school is much more powerful than the time spent inside school, both for the better off and the less well off, and that therefore the summer months are key. He cites research from the US which showed that in July and August the gap between those who achieve and those who do not widens. It is a gap that stays static in the months when children are in school. So therefore, he argued, let's get that transition right. He asks: why couldn't every secondary have a week in July when they take in their next intake from primary, for example?

He finished with his 'eight things that you need to know'.

1. Your job is to live and extend the vision
  • Tell stories and be a historian for the organisation, always reminding people where we have come from.
  • Be a weather forecaster - have an eye to what's coming ahead of us.
  • As a leader of learning ensure you practise listening, speaking, reading and writing.
  • Use data to chart progress, but not get so obsessed with counting petals that you fail to count the roses.
2. Create an environment that is fit for learning
  • Think of how to make your place as visually appealing as possible.
  • Invest as much as you can in ICT (and Brighouse recommends the resources from i-nfer).
  • Collect as many examples as you can of high impact - low effort interventions.
  • For example, why haven't we got a wall of achievements by past pupils in every primary and secondary school?
3. Focus on learning, teaching and assessment
  • Work to gain conssistency across the school.
  • You must set a personal example - mark children's work, teach someone's class and then have conversations with the class teachers.
  • Have your own annual learning plan.
  • Create a culture where staff talk, observe, plan and learn about teaching and learning together.
Repeatedly, Brighouse said that though we may have tough financial times ahead, we should always make funding CPD a real priority. Intellectual curiosity needs to be persistently nurtured across our organisations.

4. Look for for children at risk and lacking resilience

Systematically look out for children at risk of learning to fail or who lack real resilience and plan individual interventions for each of them.

5. Keep it simple and keep it safe
  • Don't mess around with existing structures too much.
  • Make meetings different - make them about your practice and not admin.
  • Try something innovative from within, take the blame if it fails but above all, have fun.
6. Find some allies - allies and networks will sustain you

7. Think about additionality
  • Focus on what you can do for children in addition to your daily teaching and learning.
  • Try wherever you can to connect your classrooms to other classrooms internationally.
8. You are important

Tim claimed that school leaders are absolutely crucial to transforming opportunities for children. He finished by saying that school leaders are the bedrock of social justice and political freedom, the bedrock of citizenship. "Hold on to your values," he said, because we have a difficult few years ahead and it's our vision and our values that will ensure continued success through those times.

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