Leadership and collaboration

I’ve just completed the first day at the National College’s pre-conference programme for international delegates, being held at the National College‘s stunning learning and leadership centre in Nottingham. I’ve had several colleagues in New Zealand tell me about this place, but to be here is to fully appreciate what a wonderful facility it provides as a venue for strategic leadership development.

My mind is still processing all the stuff that’s been shared today, but an over-arching theme that has occurred in all of the presentations and in the discussions with other international delegates  is the issue of collaboration, and the fact that individual schools need to move beyond the paradigm of competition and autonomy, and into a far more collaborative working relationship. )My thoughts on collabetition surfaced a few times in discussions during the day 🙂

In his address to us, Ken Gill, Strategic Director at the National College, referred to several studies carried out by the College, and concluded that there is an increasing need for collaboration between schools – and that where this is the case, there is evidence of consistently higher achievement of students in these schools.

Dr Baldev Singh, director of Education Strategy with Imagine Education, also reiterated this point, with some compelling examples of how the use of various online technologies and environments is enabling this sort of collaborative effort and sharing in ways we haven’t been able to achieve before. I particularly liked the African proverb he quoted in his talk:

“If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go further, go together.”

This kind of summed up a lot of what I was hearing today – about collaboration, about leadership and about sustainability.

Several speakers referred to a recent publication of the National College titled, 10 Strong Claims about Successful School Leadership, a report report summarising the findings of a three-year national research project on the impact of leadership on pupil outcomes, with particular reference to the leadership of the headteacher. The ten claims identified are:

  1. Headteachers are the main source of leadership in their schools.
  2. There are eight key dimensions of successful leadership.
  3. Headteachers’ values are key components in their success.
  4. Successful heads use the same basic leadership practices, but there is no single model for achieving success.
  5. Differences in context affect the nature, direction and pace of leadership actions.
  6. Heads contribute to student learning and achievement through a combination and accumulation of strategies and actions.
  7. There are three broad phases of leadership success.
  8. Heads grow and secure success by layering leadership strategies and actions.
  9. Successful heads distribute leadership progressively.
  10. The successful distribution of leadership depends on the establishment of trust.

I won’t expand on these in this post as  you can download the report and read it yourself, apart from noting that the eight key dimensions identified in #2 above all flow from a central focus on student learning, and the personal commitment of the leader to defining the vision, values and direction of the school, along with the development of trust. Again, these key attributes – trust, vision and values (and collaboration) – were words that were repeated in many contexts of today’s sessions as defining successful leaders.

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