There is no shortage of passion and commitment in the education system. In some people these qualities may be hidden, beaten down from years of stress and long hours, but they are always there, hiding, waiting to be unearthed again. As a school leader, you need to create the environment in your school where these hidden qualities can flourish. The best part is that you get to choose when you start your school’s development. It may take some work if you’re stuck in the trenches at war with paperwork and administration, but it can be done. It’s one of the reasons why you became a headteacher: to make a difference and lead your school. I’m yet to meet a school leader who took on the role because they just loved filling out forms and looking at spreadsheets!
Think of every technology fad, intervention and ‘pioneering’ strategy to improve standards you have come across in your time in education (think computer suites, interactive whiteboards, and iPads) and ask yourself how effective they have been. As the list grows in your mind, take note of any memories that spring to the fore of how you or others felt about these interventions. Were you hopeful, full of expectation, or feeling vaguely cautious? Try writing them down, and include side notes about the measurable impact they had.
Committing this to paper will allow you to visualise just how many technologies gain traction in education in the name of improving student outcomes, and how little they have achieved. There are three principles that you must focus on if you do want to accelerate your school’s performance through the use of technology. You will need to improve the capability of your staff, improve the productivity of your school, and improve consistency across lessons. If you choose to action these three principles, it will be important to keep your list of technology initiatives and their meagre impact in mind, because you will be doing so in a market in which schools are constantly being tempted to invest in the latest ‘big idea’ in technology.
It is important to note that on your journey towards improvement you will come up against many distractions. you’ll go to educational conferences, speak with fellow heads and see articles in the publications you read, all shouting about the new big breakthrough in learning. It might be a new classroom technique, a new assessment strategy or a new piece of technology on the market. Schools will flock to embrace it and this will leave you with your first big challenge: staying on the path. The temptation to follow the latest trend may be strong, but you need to ask yourself if it is really for you. The people championing the trend are often the ones who’ve pioneered it, who’ve spent years preparing and working with it until it fits their need. you don’t see how they got to where they are, only the success it comes with, and that is not the whole story.
This may be unnerving but it is the reality of success. The schools that lead the way are those that solve their own needs. They spend years crafting and developing themselves unnoticed, and then one day they are thrust into the spotlight as an exemplar for all others to follow. With commitment and determination, that can be your school. In the next chapters you will find out how to get there.
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