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Blog – Lord Holmes Review

I was very pleased to represent the National Academy of Educational Leadership (NAEL) Board of Directors at a workshop session held as part of the UK Government’s ‘Disability Action Plan’ review. The workshop was held in Cardiff as part of the evidence gathering process, looking into reasons why the proportion of those individuals who apply for public appointments who declare a disability is so low and what can be done to improve the applications process for disabled people.

As my tenure as a board member is still in its infancy I was initially apprehensive about meeting other board members of public bodies. However, through my conversations with board members of arms-length companies similar to the NAEL, I was able to increase my understanding of the valuable roles our organsiations play in public life. Speaking with these individuals enabled me to put my own role on the NAEL board into a broader context.

The workshop, hosted by Lord Holmes of Richmond MBE, involved current and former public appointees (both disabled and non-disabled), disabled people who have unsuccessfully applied for public appointments. Lord Holmes is Britain’s most successful Paralympic swimmer winning a total of nine gold medals, five silvers and one bronze in his career. He was also Director of Paralympic Integration, responsible for the organisation of the 2012 Paralympic Games in London. He was appointed to conduct the review on behalf of the UK Government, with a view to encouraging more disabled people to apply for public appointments.

Lord Holmes put the review in context in a letter to public chairs sent in August 2018:

“Public Appointees play a unique and vital role in shaping and ensuring delivery of public services. However, government departments hold disability data on just 65% of public appointees, and just 5% of those who provided data report a disability.

I want to understand what is preventing disabled people from coming forward for these important and influential roles and why so few are appointed. We must confront the reality that while talent us everywhere, opportunity is not.”

During the workshop Lord Holmes posed four key questions, prompting an interesting discussion within the group. A number of points emerged during the discussion which are particularly relevant to the NAEL should it need to recruit new board members in the future:

  • Opportunities to contribute to public life provided by taking up a public appointment frequently go un-noticed by the public and the opportunities to become involved are not widely recognised. Strong views were expressed that the ‘best’ candidate is not always the right candidate and that opportunities for people from under-represented groups including disability should be increased
  • The current application process does not encourage applications from disabled candidates. Issues such as websites timing out before applications are completed and the formal and daunting nature of public appointment interfaces were identified as possible deterrents. Some considered the formal interview process to be an unnecessary obstacle, due to inappropriate venues and lengthy journey and waiting times.
  • In many cases, the only opportunity to declare a disability is at the early stage of the application process. No data is collected at further stages of the process.

It was evident from the discussions at our workshop that there are many serving members of boards who have a disability that have not been declared, skewing the data that is currently informing policy and decision making.

I was fortunate to speak with Lord Holmes during the session and was very impressed by his sincerity and his commitment to ensuring that disabled people are encouraged to apply for public appointments. Outreach by public bodies is essential for the general public to understand their work and to encourage more diversity in applications for board membership. I am confident that, with the steer of Lord Holmes, this review can make a difference not just to disabled people but to the futures of public boards across the country.

Update

The NAEL welcomes the emphasis placed on developing the capacity of educational leadership in the agreement between the new First Minister and the Cabinet Secretary for Education and in particular the crucial role of the NAEL in this important and exciting work.

Blog – The Leadership of Learning

Leadership is all about learning – the learning of our children and young people, of course, but also the professional learning of our staff and not least, ourselves.  The National Academy of Educational Leadership (NAEL) puts learning at the centre of all things leadership.  If we don’t continue to learn as leaders, and continue to lead the learning of others, we will eventually lose our reason for becoming leaders in the first place.  To lead is to learn and to learn is to lead.

There is so much to be excited and hopeful about education in Wales.  We are in the middle of the most remarkable set of educational reforms for a generation.  We have the highest set of expectations for the Welsh language in many generations.  Consequently, the vision for a new curriculum for our learners is an exceptionally bold one and the tension between that vision for tomorrow and the reality of today needs to be seen as a positive tension and as a positive energy.  Without that tension between vision and reality there would be no need for change, and leaders at all levels must hold on to that vision in order to create a new reality in our schools.

Leaders need systems they can rely on. We should not have to expend valuable energy on reinventing those systems each time a different challenge confronts us.  Every school community should understand what is expected of all the members of that community, whoever they are.  In turn, that gives stability and reassurance as well as fairness and ensures we all have a common understanding of what is expected from us as professionals and what we can expect in return.

But the vision of the future is so much more than one of systems.  By using those systems and practices as a springboard we can do so much more.  Our new professional standards, made in Wales, for Wales, demand the centrality of pedagogy, supported by professional learning, collaboration and the need to innovate.  Innovation keeps us alive as professionals, it keeps us fresh.  Innovation enables us to try something new with a view to evaluating and assessing its impact on learners.  Innovation is not something we should run from but something we should embrace.  We need our children to innovate, to see us innovate, to see that taking calculated risks is good , so long as we learn, and they need to see that whole process modelled and lived in our schools.  Learning from good practice is a wonderful thing but learning from mistakes, learning from trying something that doesn’t work as we would expect is, in my view, even more powerful.

None of this can be done without leadership.  As our new professional standards say – leadership helps pedagogy to grow.  We all know that the only alternative to growth is stagnation and a stagnating pedagogy will not deliver the learning our children need and deserve.  We must deliver on our vision for a new accountability system that encourages innovation and prevents that stagnation.  We must continue to focus on the needs of all our learners equally and not on those few who may be useful for threshold crossing.  As leaders we do need to act as champions for the disadvantaged and disaffected – ours is not a vision for some, it is a vision for all.

The NAEL is in its infancy and needs to make a difference to earn its place.  It needs to be a learning organisation and it must be innovative in its approach.  The NAEL has endorsed its first leadership development programme – the New and Acting Headteacher Programme designed and delivered by the four regional consortia in partnership with the 22 local authorities and two of universities.  I congratulate their partnership and look forward to meeting all of you who are about to embark on this programme in early November and trust that your experiences will support you in becoming the Headteacher you want to be.

We are all leaders, be that in a formal leadership role or not. The NAEL wants to hear from you if you have any ideas about leadership development of any kind in Wales – the more innovative, the better.  Leadership is all about learning and learning makes us better leaders.

(Huw Foster Evans – Chief Executive of NAEL)

Launch of the New and Acting Headteachers Programme

This week saw the launch of the new and acting headteachers programme, developed in partnership by the Regional Consortia, University of Wales Trinity St David, University of Bangor and the Local Authorities.

This is the first programme to meet the endorsement criteria set out by the academy. We will be working closely with the partnership to ensure that the provision continues to meet the high standards of the academy and the needs of educational leaders in Wales. We are confident that this new programme will offer inspiration and support for a new generation of Headteachers who play such a key role in leading the learning for our children and young people.

The NAEL looks forward to seeing an ever-expanding range of endorsed provision available to leaders at all levels across Wales. The next step in this journey is our current call for endorsement which extends the call to include provision for Experienced Headteachers.

Endorsement – Next Call

Following the original call for endorsement for provision for New and Acting Headteachers in the summer of 2018, the NAEL has reviewed the process and is now seeking to extend the call for endorsement to include provision for Experienced Headteachers.  This is in addition to our on-going call for provision for New and Acting Headteachers.

This endorsement round will close on 7th December and the outcome will be communicated to providers by 8th February 2019.

The application form, along with a guide to endorsement including the detailed criteria, are available at here

Please contact post@agaa.cymru with any further enquiries.

Stakeholder Group

The National Academy for Educational Leadership is seeking members for its Stakeholder Group to support, inform and challenge its work. The closing date for applications is 13 September.

The stakeholder group will:

  • Provide the Academy with the informed voice of the education system
  • Influence thinking at regional and national level
  • Support and challenge the work of the Academy – improving endorsement process, suggestions of research/commissioning
  • Ensure that leaders from across the education sector feel that it is ‘their’ Academy and that they are represented
  • Ensure the Academy listens carefully and collaborates closely with stakeholders

For more information click here

Blog – an associate’s view

John Kendall, May 2018

This really is a great time to be working in education in Wales. The task of creating a new curriculum following Professor Donaldson’s “Successful Futures” report is exciting, and made more so by the fact that it is practicing teachers themselves who are leading the work. These are the people who know best what needs to be done, and under the guidance of others from both within and beyond Wales, things are beginning to take shape. But we need to be patient. Some of us are old enough to remember the arrival in school of the National Curriculum folders in the late 80s. Then, the curriculum was presented to us as a finished product. This time we are co-constructing it. This brings many challenges, but opportunities too. I am certain we are going to arrive at something special for our young people, something that will be a model for others to look at. And something which is right for Wales.

It is important at this time of change that we are also turning our attention to educational leadership. The launch of the National Academy for Educational Leadership NAEL on May 16th was an important landmark, but this was not day one of the process! A huge amount of work had already gone in to getting things started. Anne Keane was given the responsibility of gathering views and opinions from teachers within Wales, and of looking at other models. A shadow board was established to support and advise. And towards the end of last year, applications were sought from headteachers to be the first cohort of leaders to go through a programme as associates. In the spirit of co-construction, the associates are not only undergoing the training, but are advising on its development and playing a major part in making sure the Academy provides the right opportunities for school leaders in Wales, and furnishes them with the necessary skills and experiences to lead our schools well into the C21.

What will this look like? Although much has been done, it is still early days. The twelve associates have already been working together with a delivery team, and it has been a really positive and refreshing experience for us. Taken from across the four consortia (there are two primary headteachers and one secondary from each), everyone brings a great deal of experience. Though we have different backgrounds, skills and knowledge, it is clear we share a vision for education in Wales which is firmly rooted in a spirit of collaboration and a passion for making our schools the best they can be. We recognise we are in a position of privilege and responsibility, we know we do not have all the answers, but we are all keen to work together, to do the necessary research, to listen to each other, and to others too.

We are lucky to be able to be working not just with each other, but to have the opportunity to engage with a number of people who have extensive knowledge in different areas of education. These include Graham Donaldson, Mick Waters and Lucy Crehan, author of “Cleverlands”, a fascinating book on successful educational systems across the world. Others will be involved as the programme develops.

We will be working on projects in “Communities of Practice”, and we’ll be sharing this work through blogs and reports. This is a great opportunity to develop themes that are important to school leaders across Wales, and to take some quality time to reflect and develop these themes, and share our findings

We will have the opportunity to learn from other educational systems, not to mirror their practice, but rather to see how we can adapt the best parts to our system here in Wales. This is very much part of the ethos which is already established in our new curriculum design work.

We will be looking at leadership outside education, in business, in industry, in sport. We recognise there is a need to look beyond our own comfort zones and experiences if we are to grow as leaders and to develop the best programme for the next cohort of associates to engage with.

We will also be part of a team of system leaders who will help facilitate future programmes in the Academy. In many ways this is the most exciting part of our role, as we seek to build sustainable educational leadership in Wales. Our children need our schools to be the best they can be; this will only be achieved by having the best teachers, working with the best leaders.

As advocates for the Academy, we as associates will be sharing our work as widely as possible through our established networks as well as specific events. Do talk to us about what we’ve been doing, challenge us, and support us. If you have views on how the Academy should develop, let us know. Finally, the next opportunity to apply to be an associate is not far off. Do consider getting involved!

(John Kendall is headteacher of Risca Community Comprehensive School in Caerphilly and one of the NAEL associates.)

New support for education leaders

A new body tasked with inspiring educational leaders of the future is to be launched today (Wednesday, 16 May). The National Academy for Educational Leadership will work with partners across the system to provide strategic support for those in current leadership roles as well as providing encouragement and inspiration for those who wish to pursue a leadership career in education.

Building on the good practice already delivered by inspirational, experienced and effective leaders working within the Welsh system, across the UK and internationally, the new organisation will be led by an independent team and accountable to a Board consisting of people with a range of skills that will support the Academy as it develops. A stakeholder group, representative of all sectors in education, will also be on hand to influence the continuous work of the Academy and ensure its relevance to the day to day work of school leaders.

In making the announcement today, Cabinet Secretary for Education, Kirsty Williams AM, emphasised the importance of strong leadership,

“It is crucial that we develop leaders who can inspire, not only our young people, but also their colleagues so we can work collaboratively to raise standards.

“The academy will play a vital role in developing the current and future leadership talent for Wales and ensure all schools can deliver our new curriculum.

“The launch today is an important step in our national mission in delivering an education system that is a source of national pride and public confidence.”

A Shadow Board, led by former Chief Inspector of Schools Ann Keane, has been in place to oversee the instigation of the Academy co-ordinating workshops and consultation events all over Wales to ensure that the voice of practitioners has been a major influencing factor in the Academy’s on-going development.

Newly appointed Academy Chair Sue Davies expressed her delight at today’s launch,

“I believe this is a hugely important step for education in Wales as we recognise the crucial role leaders play in delivering the reform we want within the educational sector. While appreciating the need to nurture future leaders it is also vital that we provide appropriate support for those delivering leadership roles at present, in what can only be described as very challenging times.

“That is why we have ensured that key stakeholders, including school leaders, have been closely involved in developing this Academy and will continue to be involved for the foreseeable future as the work programme is rolled out.”

To further support the organisation and provide practical input for school leaders already in place, a group of 12 associates, made up of head teachers from across Wales, has been established. Gwyn Tudur is head of Ysgol Tryfan in Bangor and explains the role of the associates,

“We see our role as ensuring the National Academy responds to the very real needs of those working in the Welsh educational system and especially those undertaking leadership responsibilities or looking to step up to leadership. We are looking to ensure that there will be very practical and relevant work programmes to help our colleagues feel they are part of a wider support structure, and that avenues of assistance will be on hand at all times.

“As school leaders, we can at times feel isolated, and the establishment of the National Academy for Educational Leadership and its core aims have been greatly appreciated.”

To begin to take forward the work of the Academy, the Cabinet Secretary made a call for the first programmes to come forward for Endorsement. These initial programmes will be aimed at Acting Headteachers and those new to headship to come forward to seek endorsement from the Academy.  Endorsement will ensure that the provision available to our education professionals is high quality and accessible to all.