Questions, challenges and statements
Leaders in schools are the most self-reflective people I have ever come across. Frequently challenging their own decisions, asking difficult questions of themselves and each other and always looking to find answers to challenging issues.
I have had the tremendous pleasure to work with school leaders across the country and learn from them about what they see to be critical issues, how they priorities those issues and how (or if in some cases) they work out how to resolve the challenge of reconciling their current state, their preferred state and how they move from the former to the latter.
I was delighted to speak at the London Grid for Learning (LGfL) Schools’ Conference held on 30th April 2012. My brief was to look at critical issues for leaders in the context of ICT. I shared some thinking about these issues and concentrated on real, tangible issues leaders should consider – things that are happening in school and under the control of the leadership team. Below are some of the issues I shared:
Where to focus?
In the context of ICT in schools, this is becoming increasingly difficult as policy, strategy and direction for ICT in schools has become fragmented and almost invisible. Add to that decisions being made by suppliers in the industry, funding restrictions in Local Government meaning that local authority ICT teams are reducing their services or in some cases disappearing altogether, the loss of central (Government supported) advice and support, and the current lack of clarity over ICT within the curriculum. Where do leaders focus?
First things first
Take 30 minutes out. Sit, lie, stand, slouch (as you wish) with a piece of paper and pencil, or post-its, or your favourite piece of kit and list the top 5 burning issues for you in school (in the context of ICT). Prioritise them 1-5 based on how things feel for you now. Add a further 3 issues and prioritise the 8 you have. Ask a colleague or two to do the same and just reflect on your list and your combined lists.
My guess is that (other than money and time) you may find similar things however, having done this with colleagues in schools around the country, at conferences, events and workshops I believe it is highly unlikely you will have exactly the same lists, the same priorities. If you repeat the exercise a week, month or half-term later, I doubt that you will have the same order of priorities.
Thinking about your list
So, now you have a list, think about the items on your list in three ways:
- As a question – How do I know? Where are we? Do we? Can we? are good questions
- As an action – we need to know, we will, we should find out more, we must ask our learners, we have to ask staff, we will ask parents…
- As a statement – we do, we are, we make sure (backed up by action and impact assessment)
An example list
In developing our work with leaders in schools, we have identified a common set of 9 critical leadership issues – these are used to form the core content and support resources of the excellent EXite programme. In question form they are:
- Are we really aware of new technologies and implications for learners?
- Have we considered the impact and potential of technology in teaching & learning … beyond motivation?
- Do we equip our young people to manage and exploit technology when they leave us?
- How much do we exploit technology to improve engagement beyond the school?
- Can we say we do enough to ensure our learners are e-safe and aware?
- Is our provision of technology well managed, planned, supported and appropriate?
- How well do we use data to support learning (and as an administrative tool)?
- Do we make sure we get best value, understand costs and are efficient?
The final critical issue is perhaps the one most overlooked and potentially most important:
- Do I have a clear strategy and approach to technology in my school and do we (as a leadership team) lead by our own actions and behaviours? …and what do I need to help me develop my thinking?
Equipping yourself and fellow leaders
Leading schools is a complex yet rewarding role; technology is complicated yet also offers tremendous potential. But what is available to help you take a leadership role and exploit the technology?I have no hesitation whatsoever in pointing you to the EXite programme endorsed by and made available to schools in association with ASCL, IAA and NAHT. Developed for leaders at all levels in schools, piloted through three programmes (Primary, Secondary and Academies), designed and driven by the national directors of the acclaimed SLICT programme, EXite will support you in developing your own strategy and approaches and helping you address these 9 critical leadership issues.
You can find out more about EXite here.