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Evaluation article: Know your strengths Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Evaluation article: Getting personal  with CPD Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Evaluation article: Parent View — an update Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Evaluation article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling, gives a personal take on renewing a failing governing body having designed and built one from scratch.

Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance

Tony Powell looks at how the Framework for governance can be used to clarify the strategic direction of your school.

Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview

Tony Powell discusses how to prepare governors in advance for an inspection interview.

Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Evaluation article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Evaluation article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Published: Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Summary

  • Leaders should have a good knowledge of all areas of school operation, but must surround themselves with ‘experts’ who have superior knowledge in their specific areas of responsibility.
  • Good leaders avoid complacency and continually work at maintaining and improving standards. 
  • The best leaders aren’t frightened of being different and don’t succumb to pressure; they make decisions that they feel are in the best interests the school.
  • People with a clear direction and vision are usually able to make decisions quickly because they know exactly what fits with their goals.
  • Leaders need to accept responsibility when they make a mistake, rather than losing face by trying to deny it and appearing untrustworthy. 

Leadership is a much-talked-about commodity in education, thanks largely to the recent efforts of Sir Michael Wilshaw, who has rightly shone a light on its importance to the success of schools. Before discussing what good leadership looks like, let’s first be clear about what leaders do. True leaders devise new directions, communicate the message then get things done. Adhering to the status quo, following a rulebook or copying others is management, and the result is rarely better than the original. 

Articles about leadership normally follow a formula, with crucial but oft-repeated mantras such as ‘lead from the front’ offered up as advice. In the list below I have taken a more subtle view, concentrating on some of the overlooked yet essential personal characteristics needed to be an outstanding leader.

1 Know your school

Leaders must know how all areas of the school operate. It is no good, for example, saying ‘I’m not very good with data’ or, ‘I don’t do finance’ because leaving responsibility and oversight entirely to another member of staff creates the potential for things to go wrong. As a headteacher, you cannot afford any ‘dark corners’ where you do not know enough about a particular area of operation. If you do, you should aim to rectify the situation quickly, as incompetence or deceit (pretending you know more than you do) can be dangerous.

2 Surround yourself with people better than you

Having a good knowledge of all areas of school operation is vital, but is still not enough to ensure that your school can be the very best. Headteachers do not have enough time to know all these areas in sufficient depth to excel. The answer is to surround yourself with ‘experts’, other leaders who have a superior knowledge to you in their specific area of responsibility. You should provide leaders with knowledge and insight into the issues of other areas, so they can see the big picture, but I do not believe you should rotate responsibilities every year or two to give people experience. Being the best needs people with the very best knowledge, and ‘squad rotation’ works against this. 

3 Keep your ego in check

I have seen a good number of headteachers, and indeed senior leaders in general, who have a hard time when one of the people they lead has better knowledge than them. They seem to develop the idea that because they are in a more senior position they should know more than others with whom they work. This is clearly nonsense, but some leaders find good people a threat and recruit poorer quality people – whether consciously or subconsciously. I prefer to recruit the very best, because they ultimately will help me to do my job better and will improve the performance of the school. More than this, I openly acknowledge their superiority in meetings. It doesn’t make me look like I am ignorant of those areas, just that I appreciate and value their knowledge, which serves to improve their confidence as leaders and team cohesion as a whole.

4 Good leaders are servants

Don’t have the impression that because you have the ultimate say in things, people should be constantly running around trying to please you. A major part of your role as leader is to support the staff who report to you. See yourself akin to a farmer whose job is to set the fertile ground for good things to grow, then to tend these as they develop into the great outcomes you imagined. Make no mistake, as a headteacher you are a major part of the school’s support staff. 

5 Avoid complacency

Complacency is one of the fatal traps for headteachers. After many years of toil climbing the greasy pole, the temptation is to give yourself a great big pat on the back, fall in love with yourself and take your foot off the pedal. The rule here is to ‘keep on doing what got you there’, retaining the edge and remembering that you are only ever as good as your last set of results.

6 Be prepared to be different

Most decisions are relatively easy in that a consensus is often quickly reached, so it is easy to agree a course of action. In terms of senior team dynamics, the difficulties arise when there are clear differences of opinion, or when you as headteacher are left in a minority – even a minority of one. Group dynamics pile pressure on you in these circumstances to follow the majority view. The best leaders don’t succumb to that pressure, but make a decision that they feel is the best one for the school – despite dissenting voices. Although you may feel isolated at the time, if you have truly consulted with others and discussed a proposal, a decision to go it alone will generally be respected. When you are inevitably placed in that situation, remember that if you want to stand out from other schools you will have to do something innovative or different at some point.

7 Be decisive

If you struggle to make a decision you are unlikely to be an effective leader. People who have a clear direction and vision are usually able to make decisions quickly because they know exactly what fits with their goals. Conversely, people who take a long time to come to a decision appear either to have a poor grasp of where they want to go, or a lack courage, either of which gives a poor impression. Another factor to consider here is the fast-paced nature of the education sector today. Can your school be a successful organisation if every decision needs exhaustive meetings or to be thought about for a week? Of course, there are occasions when you need further information before making a decision, but don’t waste too much time over it. For those who do like to dither a bit, take comfort in the fact that your first thought is usually the correct one.

8 Take responsibility 

One of my favourite sayings is, ‘Success has a thousand fathers, failure is but an orphan’. This recognises the tendency for people to dissociate from failure, blaming others for mistakes. Don’t do this. If it is self-evident that you have made a mistake you need to put your hand up and admit this, rather than losing face by trying to deny it. People will respect you for this and see you as trustworthy. Denial makes you look weak, cowardly and untrustworthy – all fatal flaws which erode confidence.

Equally, if the school has a success that is mainly or partly down to you, shift the praise on to others. Again, you will be respected for your humility and gratitude towards staff rather than being seen as egotistical and vain.

9 Personal humility

You can have all the best ideas, plans and resources in the world, but good leadership is also about personalities and relationships. A great way to win people over is to show that you don’t take yourself too seriously, allowing people to pull your leg or making the occasional joke about you. Many are afraid of doing this as they think it might make them look weak. If staff can see how seriously you take the job of leading the school, then the occasional joke at your expense will actually promote confidence in you rather than eroding it. 

10 Take an interest in people 

Being able to complete technically difficult tasks, such as writing a timetable or understanding how complex performance data is put together, is not in itself enough to make you a good leader. Having an interest in people and understanding their motivation and needs is also essential. By doing so, you can anticipate how people will perceive situations, and thereby be able to create an environment that gets the very best from them. For example, when motivating a senior leader who is more ambitious for success, you might talk about how they can ‘really make their name’. To the person who is more motivated by financial reward, you might talk about ‘the Mercedes you will be able to buy’. 

In my view, this is a key reason why people who have only technical abilities and little empathy for others are rarely great leaders. So, if you are someone who is naturally interested in and attuned to others you have a natural advantage. If you aren’t, be aware of this and begin to develop an interest in them, as it is ultimately an interest in your career.

About the author

Adrian Kneeshaw was appointed as headteacher of Carlton Bolling in September 2013, which was the beginning of a very challenging, interesting and immensely rewarding experience. He has a passion for education, particularly in the enablement of disadvantaged young people, ensuring that they are able to achieve their very best. Adrian is very creative in his outlook and believes in taking education forward in innovative ways.

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