Leadership Matters Part 1

In the first part of this post, I will address the first four of seven key features of leadership in a 21st Century school, based on Google's Transformation Center Framework (Spelling 'Center' this way really hurts my heart. Americans, what have you done to our beautiful language?!). I think these seven priorities will go a long way to securing effective, sustainable and meaningful practice in the classroom. Here at The EduTech Project, we have a commitment to helping organisations (primarily schools but not-for-profits and other educational establishments too) navigate the changing educational landscape with three core promises:

Improve Outcomes - all stakeholders want children and young people to succeed. How this is measured, however, depends on who is asking. Performance measures are still at the crux of the conversation - Progress-8, ALPS VA, Attainment-8, mastery - the list goes on. But they aren’t the only measures - attendance & behaviour of students, parent satisfaction, staff and student welfare, provision for those with additional needs or from certain demographics, as well as health & safety and financial regulations. Throw in the cliched ‘broad and balanced curriculum’ (when 20% of schools have reduced their curriculum 'significantly' in the last two years) and most of all, the landscape is still (and will continue to be) in the process of evolution. We want to help you define your intended outcomes and showcase how digital tools might support you in this, whilst avoiding the common pitfalls of technology gimmicks.

Reduce Workload - OfSTED made asking headteachers about reducing staff workload a priority of their inspection in 2017. A 2016 report suggests teachers spend at least 11 hours per week just marking. According to the Teacher Network survey, 75% of teachers find their workload unmanageable and the Fair Workload Charter suggests that no more than two additional hours per day on top of directed time is the benchmark. Added to this, 36% of schools are cutting their supply budget and almost 20% have reduced support staffing (and we think this is conservative). We cannot ask staff to work more; we must provide tools to help them work smarter and restore some sense of balance to their lives or the epidemic of teachers leaving the profession will never heal.

Maximise Budgets - although education budgets are supposed to be ring-fenced, higher contributions to national insurance and teachers’ pensions, the introduction of the national living wage, pay rises and the apprenticeship levy, and additionally, per-pupil funding is not rising in line with inflation, is leading to actual budget reduction. The National Audit Office estimates that this equates to cuts of 8% in real terms by 2019-20. In living memory, money has never been as tight in education. Free or affordable resources and not having to replace burnt-out staff are the order of the day!

There is increasing pressure to ensure that schools are led well. OfSTED, MATs, LEAs, funding providers, governors, parents, the wider community, the media - they all place demands on our time and money. Going digital at a leadership level makes sense. Whether you want to explore creative provision for curriculum pathways or want whole school homework initiatives to take off, there are digital tools that can support you. At The EduTech Project, we walk schools through the whole process of an educational technology leadership plan - from audit and conception, through transition and implementation, to review and recalibration. We look at immovable constraints and flexible obstacles, determining the key performance indicators for your individual context and then help you achieve your goals. We have even worked with staff and leadership teams to look at 10X Thinking - reimagining schools and their impact on the world.

Google's Transformation Center homepage states:

"Every school is different. But as we've spoken to educators we've also heard a lot of common themes: that change is hard, that change is about a whole lot more than just technology, and that many obstacles are shared. But school leaders don't have many ways to share what's worked with each other. That's why we created the Google for Education Transformation Center. We've started to collect ideas, stories, templates, and guides from schools so that leaders can learn from each other. We've categorised these into seven elements of transformation: vision, learning, culture, technology, professional development, funding & sustainability, and community engagement."

The 7 key principles are summed up briefly below:

1. Vision - without an overarching vision for the future, schools become swayed by every wind of change. The latest fads, the contemporary research and the next top (pedagogical) model quickly lead to an unsustainable list of 27 priorities (I kid you not, this is how many I counted during a September staff training day in one school I worked with) and wasted time, effort and resource. Google offer five strategies for success here too:

  • Refine

  • Collaborate

  • Share

  • Use

  • Monitor

With a brilliant overview resource that asks the questions that schools need to consider, you can find really important and useful guidelines to navigate the process (make your own copy here).

2. Learning - effective leaders empower their staff to create classroom practices, curriculum pathways, assessments, and learning experiences that address student needs and are pitched effectively to engage learners and inspire in them a love of learning. Whatever the pedagogical model you have adopted, the need to incorporate the 4Cs is an universally agreed strategy. Again, Google offer strategies; this time, four of them:

  • Define your Aims

  • Choose your Learning Model

  • Measure the Outcomes

  • Align the Content, Tools & Outcomes to your Model

The presentation below is a great case study of how one US district attempted to focus technology implementation rather than use a scatter-gun approach and then show measurable impact on student learning.

The learning overview resource helps you develop a blueprint for embedding sound learning in your school (make your own copy here).

3. Culture - the stories, rituals, agreed values, language, mindset, customs - often the unspoken elements of an organisation. I think this is the most underrated element in most leadership teams. Yes, we have a vision and a mission statement. Yes, we have measurable KPIs and accountability measures. Yes, we ensure we cross-reference self-evaluation plans to improvement plans. But rarely is it evident of the ethos of a school setting. Can you feel the fabric of the foundations? Do staff and students exude the core values and the commitments we have agreed upon? Do all stakeholders know the fundamental non-negotiables?

For many schools in this Conceptual Age, there is a shift towards innovation. In this great speech, Astro Teller, captain of Alphabet's (Google's umbrella company name) moonshot factory, X, describes how a culture that rewards teams for failure can support world-changing innovation. X is home to the self-driving car and balloon-powered internet, and according to Teller, failure is the way to those moonshot projects. Encouraging teams to take on only the most audacious projects and to fail at them is what leads to profoundly amazing things. If an organisation makes failure acceptable, people can stop the bad, and even the good (not great), projects sooner. Saying it and doing it are two different things, which is why creating a culture that encourages taking measured risks is key.

Google's strategy for success in terms of culture lies in 4 areas:

  • Foster teacher and student agency

  • Encourage risk-taking

  • Create an environment where collaboration is normal

  • Encourage innovation and inspire curiosity

The culture overview resource asks big-picture questions about the fabric of an organisation - what do you stand for? (Make your own copy here).

4. Professional Development - effective and ongoing support and coaching is crucial to any field. Athletes, musicians, business owners, astronauts - they all, despite perhaps being the best in their field, need someone to sharpen them up and help them to become their best. Listen to these winners discussing coaching:

"To excel at the highest level - or any level, really - you need to believe in yourself, and hands down, one of the biggest contributors to my self-confidence has been private coaching." (Stephen Curry, NBA superstar)

"I absolutely believe that people, unless coached, never reach their maximum capabilities.” (Bob Nardelli, former CEO, Home Depot)

If the best need coaches and tweaks to transform their practice, we MUST encourage this in schools. Google's mantra in this perspective is:

  • Coach

  • Plan

  • Differentiate

  • Support

Of these, the most poignant for me is 'Differentiate'. Too many INSET days are spend delivering material en masse to teachers who would be better served by reflecting on their own practice (and perhaps engage in some coaching if there is a discrepancy between peer- and self-perception!). This means that the development can be bespoke. True, this will require more work from leaders initially to set up a variety of pathways and 'classes' but in the long-run the impact will undoubtedly be worth it.

Part 2, coming soon, will focus on the final 3 elements of the framework: technology, community engagement and funding & sustainability.


#leadership #learning #budgets #workload #outcomes #tranformation #change #edtech #technology #educator #edutech


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