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Leadership webinar: how great schools can stay great (video and webchat)

Discussion in 'Senior Leadership Team' started by AndrewFIS, Jun 26, 2017.

  1. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    For any school to improve, there are key areas and issues to address. But, once excellence has been achieved, what strategy should you set to stay at the top of your game?

    As part of the TES Leadership webinar series, I’ll be putting your questions to Mike Buchanan, head of Ashford School and chair of HMC.

    We will examine how school leaders can achieve excellence in their schools and give them the tools to maintain those high standards.

    Post your questions below now - and, if you can, join in our live webchat on July 5 at 4.30pm.

    Before that, you can watch a video we’ve made in which Mike and I discuss the issues, with key advice for school leaders.

    To access all the videos in the TES Leadership series, plus an exclusive database of grants available to schools, become a TES Leadership subscriber.
  2. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    The webinar video will be available for seven days in this thread after the webchat. If you wish to view the webinar after 12th July or to access all the videos in the TES Leadership series, plus an exclusive database of grants available to schools, become a TES Institutional subscriber. You can find out more information here.
  3. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member


    Don't forget to submit your questions below ahead of tomorrow's webchat.

    Thank you.
  4. TES_Rosaline

    TES_Rosaline Administrator Staff Member

    Good afternoon and welcome to today’s webchat.

    The TES Leadership webchats give you the opportunity to put your questions to industry experts about key school management and operational issues.

    In a few moments I will hand you over to Andrew, who is editor of FIS, who will be hosting this week's hour-long webchat.

    Andrew and this week's guest, leadership expert panel member Mike Buchanan, head of Ashford School and chair of HMC, who will be available for the next hour to answer your questions.

    If you have any questions please submit them below. Don't worry if we run out of time, any unanswered questions will be responded to and posted on this thread later this week.

    I'll now hand you over to Andrew.

    The content of, and information provided in, the TES Leadership webchats and their associated materials (including information posted in these forums in connection with the webchats) (the “Content”) is provided for general information purposes only. Any use you make of, or reliance you place on, the Content is entirely at your own risk. Professional or specialist advice, tailored to your specific circumstances, should always be obtained before taking (or refraining from) any action on the basis of the Content.

    Whilst TES Global and the panel of leadership experts make every effort to ensure the high quality and accuracy of the Content, TES Global and each leadership expert makes no representation or warranty (express or implied) concerning the Content. Neither TES Global nor any leadership expert will be responsible for any damage or loss related to any use of the Content.

    Neither TES Global, nor any leadership expert, seeks to restrict or exclude any liability they may have for death or personal injury arising through negligence, liability for fraud or fraudulent misrepresentation, or for any liability to the extent that, by law, it cannot be restricted or excluded.

    Please click here for full Terms and Conditions which apply to all TES Global’s websites.
  5. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Hello and welcome to this webchat on how great schools can stay great. Joining me is Mike Buchanan, head of Ashford School and HMC chair. For those of you following this thread, please feel free to post your query. Remember to refresh your page to see the updates as they appear.
    Thanks for joining us, Mike.

    Could we begin with your definition of what constitutes a "great" school?
  6. Mike_Buchanan

    Mike_Buchanan New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    It's good to be here, Andrew. Thank goodness for air conditioning!

    Well, as I said in my webinar, my definition of success is that the people in the school, students, staff and parents, flourish so that they are able to live fulfilled and joyous lives. This is a high bar to reach and, pleasingly, many schools reach it. The ingredients for a great or extraordinary school are simple. In my view, extraordinary schools concentrate on just two things to the exclusion of all else: maximising the achievements of the individual and developing their personal characteristics. The recipe is simple too.

    Step 1: Surround the students with inspiring, diverse, capable, positive and engaging people who provide examples of how to behave and the attitudes to adopt. We all know kids learn best from great examples. So if curiosity is important then show them what it means – scanning widely for info and opinions; asking questions; reading, participating in discussions; leading discussions etc.

    Step 2: Extraordinary teaching is the most important influence on a child’s learning and achievements. It seems obvious and it is; hundreds of years of experience and all the most recent research says so. Teachers are expert professionals. That means I have trust them, support them, listen to them, help them and guide them. Get obstacles out of their away. Protect them from overzealous people and systems.

    Step 3: Collide the students with as many, varied opportunities as possible inside and outside the classroom; both are equally important.

    Step 4: Start from where you are. Fortunately, I have never suffered from the burden of perfectionism; a burden which often paralyses and blinds. Take the first step to building an extraordinary school and the next will follow more easily until you find you have built up unstoppable momentum. Go on; do it now!

    In summary, what makes for an extraordinary school? It’s very simple. Ordinary people with an extraordinary focus on developing children though extraordinarily strong relationships and endless patience.
  7. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Should schools aim to achieve this through collaboration with other schools or do they need to achieve this on their own, building their own specific ethos?
  8. Mike_Buchanan

    Mike_Buchanan New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Very few people and even fewer organisations become great or extraordinary in isolation mainly because we all need help with understanding and recognising what extraordinary looks like. We see models of the extraordinary all the time in other spheres; e.g. sports, music, writing, tv, film etc. The most successful (school) leaders are constantly scanning the horizon to see what is out there that they can adopt and adapt. I spend time listening to podcasts (BBC Bottom Line); reading outside education (Kate Raworth – Doughnut Economics) attending lectures at the RSA and elsewhere. For school leaders, I think it’s particularly important to look beyond schools at how other organisations are successful. Otherwise, school leaders can be highly insular and assume that schools are “unique”. They are not!

    Have a look at how people such as Richard Branson or Jack Welch from the business world or how the Huffington Post has developed or school leaders such as John Tomsett in York.

    I’ve never had an original idea in my life and I steal other ideas with pride (and acknowledgement). So, ideas should come from everywhere but ethos or culture is entirely personal and is based on your values, personal and professional. The most successful leaders are expert at communicating those values and putting them at the heart of what they do day by day irrespective of personal cost or pressure from external accountability systems such as inspection or other accountability measures.

    Geoff Barton and many others talk about “bold” leadership and I think we would both encourage more of this.
  9. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    For schools struggling with a funding deficit and are, perhaps, having to make redundancies, is the notion of becoming a great school a pipedream?
  10. Mike_Buchanan

    Mike_Buchanan New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    I know of well-resourced schools that are mediocre and poorly-funded schools that are extraordinary. While no one welcomes it and the end does not justify the means, the most creative and innovative behaviour can come in times of great fiscal pressure. Why? Because it means leaders have to distil what is most important and focus scarce resources on that. What is most important will depend on your context.

    Whenever we are forced into a financial corner we have a clear priority list: health & safety; the pupil experience (remember my two areas of pupils’ achievements and personal development); investment now that will save money in the future (e.g. painting windows which means that do not rot and need replacement), and “nice to haves” (pretty rare these days).
  11. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    New school leaders invariably wish to put their own stamp on a school. Is it possible for a school to change part of its ethos and still be "great"?
  12. Mike_Buchanan

    Mike_Buchanan New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Absolutely! Extraordinary schools reinvent themselves regularly by building on what has happened in the past. When I started as a Head, I had the opportunity, with others, to craft a new school out of the merger of two schools of very different cultures. This meant deciding on what to keep from the predecessor schools and what to consign to the archives. The same opportunity arises every time a change of leadership happens (Governors, Head, Head of Faculty etc). This is why it’s also a time of heightened risk as not everyone is successful in making these fine judgements or is not provided with the support to do so.
  13. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Can a school still be considered great even if it is not high-achieving in exam results?
  14. Mike_Buchanan

    Mike_Buchanan New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Yes, yes and yes! High achievement in exams is largely (but not completely) a function of the prior ability of the students. Extraordinary schools add value to what already exists and this is much broader than exams.

    For example, in the independent school world, it is explicitly stated in the inspection framework that excellence does not need to be based on exam results. Exam results are part of the picture and certainly not all of it. Many independent junior schools do not require their children to take any exams and yet provide an extraordinary education (perhaps precisely because they do not need to use time preparing them for exams).

    Exams are a central part of education but education does not equal exam grades; it's much, much more.
  15. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Can pupils contribute unilaterally to elevating their school?
  16. Mike_Buchanan

    Mike_Buchanan New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    Really good question!

    In other words, can pupils flourish despite the school? I think they can for short periods (e.g. when the school leadership shows uncertainty) because the culture of the school will sustain them for a while. In the long term, I don’t think this is possible precisely because they need a constantly refreshed and sustained culture to respond to and this is provided by the behaviours and attitudes of the adults around them. If there is chaos of leadership or inconsistent that will be reflected in how pupils behave and perform. School is a haven for many and they flourish in a positive culture but they cannot sustain that culture on their own.
  17. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    To what degree do each of the following contribute: senior leaders, teachers, non-teachers, governors and parents?
  18. Mike_Buchanan

    Mike_Buchanan New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    As Andy Buck (have a look at leadershipmatters.org.uk) says and I concur; the culture (how we do things around here) and climate (how it feels around here) is set by the senior leaders, notably the Head, through the way they look, act and speak. The key to extraordinary schools is the strength of relationships as sustained by these key people and as supported or not by everyone employee and parent. The challenge in many schools is making sure all of the school community are actively adding to the culture in a positive way. Oli Tomlinson at Paddington Academy has done this superbly well as have many other Heads.

    Get the culture and climate right and all else follows.
  19. AndrewFIS

    AndrewFIS Occasional commenter TES Leadership Expert

    Could you give examples of great schools, with a brief overview of the qualities that justify their inclusion?
  20. Mike_Buchanan

    Mike_Buchanan New commenter TES Leadership Panel Expert

    I think I’d rather point you towards some great leaders I know who, as a result of their leadership, run or have run great schools and more. Many of them write regularly in the TES or elsewhere. If your reaction to any of them is immediately negative because of what you think you know of them or the schools they run/ran, then I suggest you might like to work on being open minded and prepared to consider different views.

    All of them have established a culture of high aspirations and a sense of the possible.

    Geoff Barton; now in charge at ASCL
    Bernard Trafford; recently retired from RGS, Newcastle
    Dame Sally Coates*; former Head of Burlington Danes & Director at United Learning
    Andy Buck*; various school leadership and system roles
    John Tomsett*; Head in York
    Barnaby Lenon*; former Head of Harrow
    Philip Britton; Head of Bolton School
    Oli Tomlison*; former Principal of Paddington Academy
    Jill Berry*; former Head and leadership coach
    Sir Anthony Seldon*; former Head and now VC of Buckingham University
    Dame Alison Peacock*; former Head and now CEO of the College of Teaching
    Ian Bauckham; Head in Kent
    Julian Thomas; Head of Wellington College
    Ann Haydon; Head of Surbiton High School

    *author I have read and worth checking out (doesn’t mean the other are not!)
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2017

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