CAT – A Question of Leadership
This week I have spent some time thinking about leadership
Chulmleigh Academy Trust – A Question of Leadership
This week I have spent some time reflecting on leadership and the Trust. For me effective leadership is the critical factor and we must never underestimate the importance of leadership contribution in achieving high performing, outstanding schools.
Leadership roles are roles that demand a wide range of skills, qualities, emotional strength and stamina.
When I became involved with Chulmleigh Academy Trust in 2011 there were many challenges facing the Trust's leadership. Here are just some that set a context for the impact of leadership over the last five years.
- A new Trust bringing together different schools
- Small schools all in rural settings
- Changes in budget formula that reduced the financial ‘protection’ of small schools
- Two primary school judged by Ofsted as Requiring Improvement
- A primary school judged by Ofsted to be Outstanding
- Falling pupil numbers in three primary schools
- A secondary school while good with potential to achieve higher standards and improved outcomes
- A secondary school with accommodation and facilities in poor condition
Things had to change – the leadership challenge.
Vision – Knowing what the desired provision and outcomes look like are essential in effective leadership. This is not a woolly expression of hopes but a clear articulation of high expectations, ambitions and moral purpose. At Chulmleigh Academy Trust there has been a consistent vision that holds high standards in all aspects of learning the most important driver. This is vital if we at CAT are to ensure all the pupils in our care have the best starts and the most opportunities in life. We are committed to each pupil becoming effective learners with high self-esteem and the qualities and confidence to be ‘good’ citizens. Leadership at CAT have ensured the breadth of opportunity is maintained with high academic achievement, creative and cultural experience, and sport and outdoor pursuits are of the highest importance.
Achieving vision is the leadership role and it’s hard work.
As a famous Thomas Edison quote confirms success (achieving vision) is 10% inspiration and 90% perspiration. This in my view applies to Chulmleigh Academy Trust - given the vision has articulated the inspiration, much hard work and significant time has been a feature of our leadership team (and staff team as a whole) implementing the vision.
Achieving vision often requires change and it is not everyone that feels comfortable with change. Over the last five years the management of change has been a real feature of leadership impact in the Trust.
Values – Beliefs and values underpin our actions. At Chulmleigh Academy Trust there is a strong leadership focus on wanting the best possible education for all children. Implementing this requires an unfailing commitment to these values, and strong leadership qualities that minimise the detrimental impact of those who might criticise or resist such key values. This is evident at CAT through the relentless desire of leadership to have the high quality resources, (financial, staff, and facilities) that can deliver opportunities and outcomes for all pupils. Pupils deserve the best and we must invest in their education. Values that are fully supported by the Board of Directors.
Qualities of a School Leader – Well documented are those qualities found in effective leaders in school – Vision, Courage, Passion, Emotional intelligence, Judgement, Resilience, Persuasion, and Curiosity. Yes, school leaders have to be super-human! Yet when I think about school leaders at Chulmleigh Academy Trust I can recognise how these qualities are demonstrated depending of the context and situation. A real strength of the Trust’s leadership is distributed leadership where the broader leadership team contribute to the overall leadership effectiveness.
What is clear is these qualities are about leading our schools to achieve our vision. Not all qualities are appreciated by all people all the time. Therefore, our leaders have to be strong emotionally, have a strong belief and values system, be confident, well focused and supported. It is always a sense of satisfaction for me when pupils, staff, parents and the broader community make positive statements about leadership qualities and conversely a disappointment when criticisms are dominated by opinions based, often, about one issue or through misinformation and misunderstanding.
Succession Planning – Key to maintaining and sustaining high quality leadership at Chulmleigh Academy Trust is the ability to retain, develop and recruit the most effective leaders. It is my view this has been achieved across our schools, through the appointment of leaders and potential leaders, and a programme of ‘grow your own’ professional development and opportunity, that contribute to our overall distributed leadership effectiveness. Through this leadership capacity there is confidence about continuing to improve and to sustain high standards even when there are changes in the leadership team.
So where are we now?
- High standards across our schools
- We are a 2 to 16 Trust
- Pupils access a wide range of learning and development opportunities
- Parents making Chulmleigh Academy Trust schools their schools of choice
- Positive impact on school improvement as recognised by Ofsted through their inspection regime
- Outstanding GCSE result in 2016
- Superb facilities at Chulmleigh Community College and important improvements at other schools in the Trust
- Engagement and collaboration with other high performing schools through such national programmes as Teaching Schools.
- Ambition for growth as a Trust to share our vision and values
- The organisational ability to be agile and respond to the ever-changing education environment.
The Board of Directors fully support the leadership of the Trust and encourage it to continue to ensure all our pupils have the best educational starts in life.