Your Inside Guide to Looking at Our Schools – A support document for aspiring and existing school leaders

Picking up this document – whether to self-reflect or when applying for a new role in management is a good idea to allow you to align with your current teaching practices. Working on your career vs working in your career – there’s a difference! Looking at our schools is a great document to allow for self-reflection.

There are a number of elements outlined in this document that you should consider when working on your career.

1. Reflection

Reflection is key to teaching and this framework serves as a tool to facilitate teachers’ and leaders’ self-reflection and as a support in the development of teaching and leadership capabilities. From a coaching perspective, having the necessary skills and experience to ensure that you are ready and competent to take on a new role is crucial to your success and the success of the team.

There are clear examples given in the document of effective outcomes for self-assessment and growth. These examples are a great way to find out what you are doing well and areas in which you can improve as a leader for the benefit of your school and its community.

Task: Go to these examples in the guide and assess your skills and readiness against the examples outlined.

2. Leading teaching and learning

Setting the bar high. The leader should lead the school community to continuously strive for excellence by setting high standards for pupils and teachers. This may be in terms of pupil behaviour, school plans, academic attainment, levels of inclusion for all pupils, the opportunities offered to pupils or access to staff cpd etc.

To be an effective leader, you must foster a culture of continuous improvement within your school. Collaboration and innovation in the areas of teaching & learning and assessment are key to this progress.

Task: Reflect on how you personally manage the teaching and learning in your class or stream and how you make others aware of cpd opportunities that might be of interest to them. 

3. Seeing the bigger picture

Highly-effective leaders see the bigger picture and use SSE very effectively. They also actively promote innovation and creativity in their schools. A great leader will not be entirely self-focused but will welcome the achievements of staff members’ individual and collective achievements that enrich the school as a whole.

Task: Is there a learning point from your school SSE that has been overlooked? How can you shine a light onto it this term?

4. The management of your organisation

As leader, you are responsible for the establishment of an orderly, secure and healthy learning environment, and the maintenance of this environment through effective communication with all stakeholders. This point also refers to managing the school’s human, physical and financial resources. In this day and age, this is a lot of responsibility. As schools grow and develop with increased staffing levels, access to resources and ….. working with all members of the community this requires a high level of organisation and tact.

Task: Reflect on a recent challenging situation that you had and observe what skills did you use to resolve the situation? What steps did you take to achieve success?

5. Leading school development

As a leader, you are not only tasked with the effective running of your school day-to-day, but you should also have a mindset of continuous improvement of your school and also future-proofing against possible issues, in as far as possible. The principal and other leaders in the school will expect and encourage teachers to develop and extend their teaching, learning and assessment practices, and to share these practices that have proven successful at improving learning. This culture of improvement and collaboration between members of staff can create great opportunities for all to further develop the effectiveness of learning outcomes for pupils. 

Task: Record 10 opportunities for school and staff development and see if others have any interest in doing them.

6. Developing leadership capacity

Effective managers critique their own practice as leaders and develop their understanding of leadership amongst the staff and wider school community. Examples of developing staff voce is allowing teachers to attend relevant cpd courses and conferences and encouraging them to share what they have learned. Pupil voice is strengthened by establishing student councils and on the Green Schools Committee where pupils act as representatives for their classmates. It’s also important to build professional networks with other school leaders to expand on knowledge and skills through sharing.

Task: Write down 5 ways to strengthen staff and pupil voice in your school.

7. Statutory requirements

The principal and the board of management must be fully aware of the various statutory obligations, and also ensure timely compliance with all legislative and policy requirements. It is of utmost importance to fulfil the responsibility to create and maintain a climate of security and well-being in the school. With circulars and notes continuously coming from the Department of Education it is important that time be put aside to read these documents especially if they pertain to your school.

Examples of necessary policies include those relating to health and safety, wellbeing, enrolment, code of behaviour, substance abuse and child protection.

Task: Where are your school policies? Read over them to refresh your memory.

8. The board of management and the leader working together

A highly-effective leader works with the board of management to create and maintain a learning organisation that delivers high quality learning experiences for all pupils and staff, manages the organisational structures in the school and also works with the BOM to manage and monitor budgets, personnel and all other resources to ensure that learning priorities and the school’s strategic plan are adhered to.  The board of management maintains the school buildings and grounds to a very high standard and ensures the provision and maintenance of teaching aids and equipment to a very high standard to enable their optimal use thus creating an atmosphere conducive to learning for the good of all pupils and staff.

Task: Are there any support roles that you could undertake to help the work of your leadership team? Ask around how you might be of greater help.

Conclusion

I hope that you have found this overview of what a highly-effective leader should be as laid out in the ‘Looking at Our School 2016: A Quality Framework for Primary Schools’ document. Those with leadership skills and aspirations should find some of the suggested tasks above enjoyable and useful in furthering their career.

My passion is to help educators with their career progression and development.

Get in touch with me to increase your interview confidence, writing a winning CV&SAF, for psychometric testing and much more at hello@orladempseycoaching.ie or find out more here.

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