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Education Round Up by David Porritt, September 2019

We hope that you have all enjoyed a summer of rest and relaxation and are now gearing up for another wonderfully exciting year in your school with your students and colleagues. Many schools that we work in Internationally have been proudly – and rightly – sharing their recent investments in technology and facilities that continue to demonstrate the commitment to investing in the experience of students all over the world. Schools are returning to begin the new Academic year; staff have moved countries and many thousands of young people are excitedly awaiting the first day in their ‘new school’ – for many in a new part of the World. The A level and GCSE results have been published here in the UK, a recent ‘leaked a document’ from the DFE set out a number of ambitions for the Education Profession and KAA continue to work with schools and school leaders to effect real positive change for the betterment of the students and staff.

In the ‘A’ levels there seems to have been a small fall in the percentage of students getting A* grades and a fall in the number of actual students getting above an A. Even though the new way of determining grades was expected to benefit boys, that doesn’t seem to have been the case this time around. It seems that more girls have taken – and done well in – scientific subjects, and in languages, for the first time ever, there were more students taking Spanish –now the largest taught foreign language. Interestingly there was a drop in the number of students taking Chinese at A level, despite growth at GCSE. It seems a bit counterintuitive in relation to the continued expansion of China’s impact on the World stage. It is also notable that even though the reformed ‘A’ levels have increased teacher workload, teachers have coped amazingly well with that challenge, finding effective ways to increase the amount of subject knowledge being taught and learnt within the same amount of time as they previously used. We’re so impressed that despite this challenge, there is evidence to show that there are increases in student attainment. Well done once again to teachers and students.

The GCSE’s presented another interesting picture. The top stories were that examination boards have noted how teachers and students have worked well together to handle the revised GCSE’s. And despite 25 new ‘9 to 1’ examinations, coupled to continued work to embed existing examination courses, there was a four year high at the ‘7’ or ‘A’ grade and the ‘4’ or ‘C’ grades. The gender gap has narrowed again after last year’s similar progress – with boys doing a bit better than previously at the ‘4’ level. However, in the higher grades – girls are continuing to get better results and the gap continues to be a concern. There has been an increase in the number of students doing well in studying languages – which was a bit of a surprise given last year’s disappointing results and DFE rhetoric in 2018-2019, but which once again illustrates that given an opportunity when they work together, teachers and students can do exceptionally well and achieve strong outcomes.

Looking past the histrionics, one of the biggest stories related to a recently leaked document from the DFE that hit the press. First, it seems that there is a response to schools who have been crying out for funding, with an additional 2.8 billion in investments as well as increases in teacher pay – although it was not clear if that was part of the 2.8 Billion. There was a notable comment about Heads having greater powers for use of force, exclusions and confiscation of phones, a big heading about giving MAT’s 24K each to take on struggling schools and re-booting of the Free Schools programme – making it more aligned with its original ideas of innovation. There was also more of a push for Local Authority Schools to become Academies. A key thing to remember however is that all of these ambitions are exactly that – they are not ‘done deals’. Along with abolishing the exemption for outstanding schools to not have an inspection, all of the previous ideas clearly increase the cost of providing a quality education service to the young people in the UK. While there is clearly a commitment from the corridors of power in Westminster to increase funding by almost 5 Billion by 2022, the question remains how that will be handled, and what the timeline for any increases looks like.

Leadership is a big topic right now and there are many commentaries about ‘what’s happening in our world’. We noted that the Institute of Leadership and Management identified five issues that negatively affect colleagues in the workplace.

When we turn them around to positives, we can see that it’s important for leaders to:

  • Treat all colleagues equally – without favouritism
  • Give credit to colleagues for their achievements
  • Avoid micromanagement
  • Be clear about what we are asking people to do
  • Thank people for doing a good job

Here at KAA, we believe that it’s important to be positive and optimistic wherever we can. Our flagship Middle Leader programme includes various sections on positivity because it is something that we understand to be a key driver in promoting teacher and leader wellbeing. Recently, the German Socio-Economic Panel, the US Health and Retirement Study, and work from the University of Cologne and Tilburg analysed data from 40,000 people finding that people who are pessimistic and cynical were more likely to develop health problems and that these health problems can then increase the levels of cynicism and negativity. It’s dangerous because of the downward spiralling that can take place. The European Journal of Personality – were the study is reported, noted that stable and supportive social-networks and well-functioning institutional support might be the things that help to promote positivity, which in turn, contributes to wellbeing and which can be linked to investments in people’s professional learning, development and growth.

We’re excited to be working in a number of schools in the coming year and are delighted with the feedback from across the world in relation to our leadership development programmes in the recent past. We remain committed to being an organisation that seeks to avoid a ‘copy and paste’ approach to leadership development, rather finding ways to help people become leaders of distinction.

It was interesting, perhaps even a bit ironic, to read a recent interview with Charles Handy who argues that leaders and managers need to focus more of their effort on being teachers than they have ever done previously! Helping people develop is so much a part of the KAA DNA. When David joined us, one of the first things we discussed was the KAA strapline of developing leaders who develop people. We believe that the best leaders are people who help others to uncover talents and passions that didn’t know were there in the first place. Leadership then becomes a mechanism that is about helping people to think differently about themselves, about the things that they do and about where their organisation or school is heading. Leadership helps people to see their world with fresh perspectives and explore their unique capacities and capabilities.

David, our new Director has been ramping up his time with KAA since January 2019. “Joining KAA was a great thing to do. It came at a time in my life – after 23 years of school principalship – when I wanted and needed the opportunity to make sense of my experiences and my learning. I’m in the final lap of an EdD in leadership and coaching in schools through UCL IOE and I needed some more scope (as well as a bit more time) to get on with the fieldwork analysis and the writing. It should be done by the end of December. Mostly, the time has come to me through not commuting, which has saved about 15 hours each week and from having a bit more flexibility about planning my own workflows at home.

One of the best things about the KAA experience has been meeting a wide range of professionals across the international and UK school community. I have been amazed at the passion, determination, open-mindedness and sheer skill of so many emerging, middle and very senior leaders. It has been a privilege to work with them. I have really enjoyed facilitating the Middle Leaders Programme, working with individuals as their coach, teaching people how to coach and seeing the benefits of coaching for promoting stronger levels of self-confidence, resilience and well-being.

Although for the most part, our consultancy is clearly there to help others grow and develop, I have found that I am learning so much from the example of others. This is actually the crux of my Doctoral Thesis. It seems from the evidence so far that one of the best things leaders who work in schools at all levels can do, is adopting a coaching style of work with their teams and their colleagues – not only because it helps their people and their organisation, but also because it seems to have significant positive benefits for them and their leadership efficacy too.

I’d be delighted if anyone who has done a KAA programme before and who has used or uses coaching skills in their work could complete an online survey about leadership and coaching. It will be open for the next two weeks and can be accessed at this link. Please note that when you complete the first page, click the START tab at the bottom so that the survey can take you to the questions about coaching. The first page is just the demographic stuff. I think it seems to take people about 10-12 minutes to complete and it is all GDPR compliant and secure. Thanks in advance.

It’s also great to be working with Karen. I know she doesn’t like it when people tell her how excellent she is as a colleague or how inspired they have been as a result of her work. But, let me tell you, having regular meetings, discussions and futures thinking conversations has been and continues to be a truly exciting aspect of my professional life. Not having my own school, not seeing children every takes some getting used to of course, but visiting a range of schools, getting to know the staff and chatting with students acts as a counterbalance.

So – the year ahead looks exciting. We’ve numerous plans to develop some new KAA services and support you and your school with continued high impact professional learning.”

The Leadership & Coaching Survey accessed at this link

Kate Beetlestone
Kate Beetlestone

Kate Beetlestone is an experienced and highly successful business manager and external business project leader.