Blinks: High quality reviews and training
Blinks: High quality reviews and training
Blinks: High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training
High quality reviews and training

Guest Column - January 2022
Samantha Smith
Lead as yourself

When I was starting as a headteacher, I was given the advice, Remember to lead as you.

This is a most valuable piece of advice and one I often return to. And it has never been more important than in the past two years, when we have all been asked to give more than we ever thought we would.

What does it mean to lead as yourself?

To me, this means to bring all of myself to the job of headship. To know that who I am matters as much as what I know or what I do. Education is a people business. Each moment of school leadership involves an interaction with another person.
  • A conversation with a Year 6 child who has had their school journey postponed because of a Covid outbreak in the school.

  • A few minutes with a parent who works for the ambulance service and feels like she is at breaking point.

  • A staff training event to remotivate and inspire your team to move forward towards excellence at the start of a new academic year.

  • The 'initial call' with an OFSTED inspector on the 10th day of the academic year.
How you are in each moment, during each interaction, creates the culture and ethos of the organisation. My personal experience is that this is more easeful if I remember to be me. This may sound obvious, but so often, as a school leader or a class teacher, we are asked to inhabit a persona. We compartmentalise and keep our teacher self separate.

The events of the past 24 months have shown me that this no longer works. Leading through Covid-19 has meant that I have had to make decisions that impact the health, safety and wellbeing of the community. The teachers in our school have taught virtually in the children's homes and been the person families turn to when life has become too difficult.

The idea of holistic leadership

Holistic is defined as 'relating to or concerned with complete systems rather than individual parts'.

In terms of school leadership, this could be seen as using the right tools and approach at the right time as opposed to sticking with one tried and tested solution which is seen to be right or the best.

In order to enact holistic leadership, you need to have access to a wide range of skills and knowledge so they can be used in the situation that arises. This is about continuing to read and learn about teaching and leadership. Visiting other schools which do things differently, either in the UK or internationally. Maintaining my professional curiosity through accessing networks and thinkers who make me question my own approach.

As important, is to be fully present at the moment when you need to act or make a decision.

What does this look like?

This is where the advice I was given at the start of my career comes into play. I have found that if I have kept balance in my life, which may be as simple as making time for family or a walk by the ocean, then when I need to lead, I am able to do so from a place of strength and integrity. If ever I am in a dilemma about which action is right, my check and balance is to decide whether I am truly comfortable with the action or decision. In effect, to make the decision as me. In so doing, it is not a decision I can 'blame' on my job or role.

This has led to my making better leadership decisions which lead to a stronger culture and ethos in the school.

The personal impact of this is that after 13 years of headship, I still love my job. I know that I have given my best and will continue to do so. I know that I have done the job as me!

Samantha Smith is headteacher, Stoke Damerel Primary, Plymouth; previously headteacher in London and working internationally.

Lead as yourself (January 2022)

Guest Column - December 2021
Jean Gross
Reaching The Unseen Children
This is an extract from Chapter Seven of Jean Gross's recently published 'Reaching The Unseen Children'
The seven secrets of self-efficacy
This is the most important chapter in this book. It is important because it introduces a concept which is relatively unfamiliar to educators, but profoundly important in improving outcomes for disadvantaged children.
Reaching The Unseen Children (December 2021)

Guest Column - November 2021
David Bartram OBE
Leading great SEND provision in schools
We appear to be making the leadership of SEND increasingly complicated. The danger of creating this overly complex approach is that it persuades teachers across the country that they may not be sufficiently expert enough to help children experiencing difficulty.
Leading great SEND provision in schools (November 2021)

Guest Column - October 2021
Cameron Mirza
The learning scientist
The critical success factor in the education system will always be the teacher. It is essential today that teachers are supported to develop the skills, subject knowledge, attitudes, behaviours, pedagogical content knowledge and digital skills required to thrive in the classroom environment. The recently published teaching report by the Economist Intelligence Unit, sponsored by Microsoft, laid stark some sobering data.
The learning scientist (October 2021)

Guest Column - September 2021
Harry Hudson
At the cutting edge
Teaching is moving at a pace, and there has never been a more exciting time to become a teacher. We know more now than we have ever known about how the brain works, and teachers can be more confident than at any time in history about the science of learning. What's more, there is still so much left to discover.
At the cutting edge (September 2021)

Guest Column - June 2021
By Old Cobbler
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish!
Ofsted blog: schools, early years, further education and skills
As the subject lead's blog on the Ofsted website explains, inspectors recently visited 24 primary schools, all rated excellent at their latest inspection, to assess the quality of their languages teaching.
Great news! Primary languages are rubbish! (June 2021)

Guest Column - May 2021
Dr Michael Lightfoot
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios
The long-term impact on education systems caused by the Great Pandemic of 2020/21 will take many years to play out. Emergency remote teaching became the mode through which education systems tried to overcome the impacts of school closures, and most schools turned to EdTech for solutions.
Rethinking assessment: in praise of ePortfolios (May 2021)

Guest Column - April 2021
David Ingram
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19
During a particularly difficult stretch of the lockdown, my professional coach invited me to engage my curiosity. This prompted me to consider the enormity of the pandemic from an entirely different perspective. I remain curious. Necessity may have been the mother of invention during lockdown but as the world returns to a semblance of normality, school leaders will need to ponder next steps.
Shaping the legacy of COVID-19 (April 2021)

Guest Column - March 2021
Harry Hudson
Changing the image of teaching
Education is in the spotlight in a way it hasn't been for decades, and much has been said about how teaching can 'build back better' after the pandemic. Yet step back from all the talk of 'catch up funding' and ways our classroom practice can be improved by having taught online, and there's an even bigger picture.
Changing the image of teaching (March 2021)

Guest Column - February 2021
Marc Rowland
The most effective strategies give teachers and other staff the capacity, expertise, knowledge and development to meet the needs of their pupils and improve them as learners. Teacher agency and buy-in are fundamental to success. They all complement one another, working together to support the development of a culture of inclusivity where pupils' needs are understood and assessment drives action.
Culture (February 2021)

Guest Column - January 2021
Malcolm Wheeler
Online passages from India
The pandemic will be remembered in the words of Dickens as "the worst of times" and, in the most unintended ways, also "the best of times". Before the lockdown, the challenge for our kind of schools was finding the sweet spot between theoretical and experiential learning. After the move to virtual learning, it has become about finding our collective 'ikigai', or finding our reason for being.
Online passages from India (January 2021)

Guest Column – December 2020
Keith Grainger, Principal, Garth Hill College
The case for the defence: online learning
In a week when the government has threatened councils with legal action over decisions to switch to online learning over coronavirus fears, I feel the urge to celebrate the considerable merits of online learning. Such threats almost cast a slur on the very concept of online learning and, given our positive experience as a state secondary school, I am compelled to make a case for the defence.
The case for the defence: online learning (December 2020)     © Blinks 2022

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