In 2004 I left my post of leading a ‘school within a school’ in order to advise other schools on the process I had used. I had created the ‘school’ within a large secondary school in the UK. The school was one of the first in the world to provide a student led, problem based learning curriculum using one laptop per child with permanent connection to the internet for all of their learning. The school as a whole began to win awards as it rose to within the top 20 performing schools in the UK and became one of the first e-confident schools.
Next I spent eight years of providing advice and support to schools and governments in countries all over the world. During my 42nd overseas flight in 2010 I made the decision that if I was going to spend so much time away from my family I really needed to provide advice that managed to support senior teams more effectively without suggesting cast iron solutions. My first decision was to back up the advice with detailed materials that schools could use to structure their development. I was fortunate that Microsoft provided me with the opportunity to write a set of such workshops for them and allowed me to add excess materials to these so that schools could customise their own approach. These materials have been well recieved by schools in over 60 countries and are still widely in use within the Microsoft Innovative Schools Programme.
Through all this work I have become increasingly aware that genuine change occurs in the classroom. Most of the teachers around the world don’t have access to the outstanding case study schools and innovative ideas from education systems that enrich children’s lives and so have the choice of either recreating amazing ideas within thier own sphere of influence (the classroom normally) or following the system they find themselves in. I concluded I was spending most of my time trying to influence education systems that continue to be incredibly resistant to change rather than in assisting school leaders and teachers who make up the majority of the education system.
One striking thing about the materials and ideas I have generated is that some sections are used extensively by the schools (and by other consultants ) and other parts, essential though the processes are, are almost entirely ignored. I focussed for a while on the areas that were ignored and had the opportunity to work directly with schools in fifteen countries who were using them. I realised that there were stages in the process of change that I had just pushed through myself in every school I ever worked in. It was these sections where I had always taken a ‘trial and error’ approach, had never documented fully and consequently these were the areas in which I had least expertise to share.
Now in 2012 I have made the rather unusual decision to return to the role of Deputy Head in a large secondary school in the UK and, rather than drive excessively rapid change in the school (as I have tended to do in each of my previous posts), observe the process and attempt to identify the key drivers to empower others to achieve change in line with the current direction of the school. The school I was fortunate enough to gain a position in was one which I had been acting as a coach for and so I already knew it had the ideal profile for such work and strong positive leadership already in place. It also has the huge advantage of being a 30 minute drive from my house and so allows me to actually live full time at home with my family for the first time in many years.
Over the pages of this section I intend to keep a regular diary of events so that I can firstly, document the process in more helpful detail for those considering taking similar steps and also so I can remember the vastly important details that often prevent more rapid change from occurring in schools. I had initially thought of weekly updates but after only 3 weeks in the post I have already remembered that life is much more hectic at the ‘chalk face’ when you don’t have regular long haul flights on which to read and consider everything more deeply. I now plan to do ‘as and when I can’ entries. Links to these are provided below.
End of week 3 (Initial thoughts and observations about the school using REORDER)
End of week 7 (Half term break in which to reflect)