An introduction to leadership for school governors (Wales)
An introduction to leadership for school governors (Wales)

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

An introduction to leadership for school governors (Wales)

3. Leadership and school improvement

Estyn’s extensive report Leadership and Primary School Improvement [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (2016) includes an important acknowledgment that all schools have room to improve, and that leadership is the most significant factor in influencing the pace, quality and sustainability of the school’s improvement.

The report states that schools at different developmental stages often need different styles of leadership, and that leaders – at all stages of a school’s developmental journey – play a crucial role in developing the professional skills of their staff and supporting them.

The evidence base for this report is taken from primary school inspections across Wales between 2010 and 2015. It also includes a four-stage model for primary improvement that offers generic elements of improvement that are transferable to secondary education.

Leadership and Primary School Improvement identifies common characteristics of improvement at all stages:

These are where leaders:

  • clearly define the vision and strategic direction of the school; this vision evolves as the school improves
  • establish professional values and behaviours among staff to support continuous improvement and effective teamwork
  • establish and maintain a culture where improving standards and wellbeing for all pupils is the main priority
  • make improving teaching the key process that contributes to improving standards
  • deliver a curriculum that fully meets the needs of all pupils
  • sustain a consistent focus on improving pupils’ literacy (in English and Welsh), ICT skills, and numeracy (including higher-order thinking and reasoning skills)
  • make sure that staff’s continuous professional development improves the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils
  • ensure that all staff (especially those in management roles) are accountable for their areas of work
  • ensure that self-evaluation outcomes derive from first-hand evidence, and are linked closely to school improvement priorities
  • provide governors with clear, understandable and honest analyses of how well the school is performing, and encourage them to challenge underperformance.

You should now use these leadership characteristics as you attempt Activity 3.

Activity 3: Estyn’s leadership characteristics

Timing: Allow approximately 30 minutes

Look carefully at each of Estyn’s commonly occurring leadership characteristics and identify what you think is the most and least commonly occurring characteristics in your school.

Record your thoughts in the box below.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Now consider whether any of the characteristics could be usefully addressed and improved within your organisation? If so, what leadership actions would need to take place to enable this to happen in an optimum manner?

Record your thoughts in the box below. You can download all the comments you capture in the course by using 'download answers' which appears when you first save a comment in the course.

To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

Answer

The initial question is designed to demonstrate how leadership covers many areas of school life and there are a range of factors that need regular consideration. It is to be hoped that as a Governor you will feel that you have a good level of insight into all ten bullet pointed characteristics and that these are reported to you in line with the final point which specifically refers to governors.

If you found any of the factors seemed to lack clear focus and any form of evidence base you might have some pertinent questions to ask in future meetings!

Complacency should never be allowed to manifest itself in any organisation, however successful it might appear to be. No school is perfect, and the ten characteristics identified by Estyn, provide a useful framework to consider aspects of school life that might be improved.

Schools will have specific priorities which may see certain aspects of leadership taking place, but it is important to ensure that the strategic direction is always evidence based and one which builds on sound, objective self-evaluation.

Within Wales there is a strong government commitment to schools ongoing development as learning organisations. This approach includes the continuous professional development for all staff. The Welsh government has more information about learning organisations in Schools in Wales as learning organisations.

You are invited to consider how these characteristics work against a real-life example. Take a look at the Parkland Primary School case study. Then you will need to create a two-column table in a document offline like the one below. Try and find an example of each characteristic from the Parkland example. The instructions on how to do this are included below the example table.

Activity 4: Estyn’s leadership characteristics and the Parkland case study

Timing: Allow approximately 60 minutes

The following examples are suggestions and are headline statements that indicate what has happened.

The actual leadership process would be more complicated and there would be many steps involved with the majority of these examples. Leadership is hard work!

Occasionally some examples have been included under more than one heading and there are clearly more potential personal interpretations of the case study. Leadership occurs on a continuum and will vary from school to school. What works in one situation will not just transfer to another situation, as there are many factors that will influence what can and cannot be achieved at any particular time. That is why leadership is often considered as a journey.

CharacteristicExample from study
Clearly define the vision and strategic direction of the school; this vision evolves as the school improves
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Establish professional values and behaviours among staff to support continuous improvement and effective teamwork
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Establish and maintain a culture where improving standards and wellbeing for all pupils is the main priority
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Make improving teaching the key process that contributes to improving standards
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Deliver a curriculum that fully meets the needs of all pupils
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Sustain a consistent focus on improving pupils’ literacy (in English and Welsh), ICT skills, and numeracy (including higher-order thinking and reasoning skills)
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Make sure that staff’s continuous professional development improves the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Ensure that all staff (especially those in management roles) are accountable for their areas of work
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Ensure that self-evaluation outcomes derive from first-hand evidence, and are linked closely to school improvement priorities
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Provide governors with clear, understandable and honest analyses of how well the school is performing, and encourage them to challenge underperformance
To use this interactive functionality a free OU account is required. Sign in or register.
Words: 0
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

(If you want to read more of Leadership and Primary School Improvement, it’s available on Estyn’s website.)

Comment

CharacteristicExample from study
Clearly define the vision and strategic direction of the school; this vision evolves as the school improves

On page 1, within the section entitled The school’s improvement journey the statement, ‘all stakeholders share the same vision’ implies that leadership has established a process where a vision has been successfully established and defined.

However, as important as this definition of vision is, on page 2 early analysis by the headteacher following her appointment showed that the staff had identified ‘pressing priorities’ including the need to address the lack of a planned curriculum. This example demonstrates the complexity of planning school improvement and also the importance of listening to staff, who often have good levels of insight on what needs to be done.

On page 2, at the beginning of Motivating staff through support and challenge, it is clear that ‘the headteacher and senior leadership outlined their expectations explicitly to all staff.’ Later within the same section it is clear that engaging staff in training ‘increased staff involvement in setting the school’s overall direction and strategy.’

Establish professional values and behaviours among staff to support continuous improvement and effective teamwork

On page 2 of The school’s improvement journey, there is a clear suggestion that teachers might well benefit from increased levels of collaboration to aid coherent planning that will extend pupils’ progression.

This collaboration was evident in staff engagement in regular target setting and moderation meetings, as explained on page 2, with respect to Motivating staff through support and challenge. Associated measures increased staff involvement in setting the school’s overall direction and nearly all staff were reportedly ‘enthused’ by these collaborative ventures.

The headteacher reinforced the status of learning at every opportunity including assemblies and frequent visits to all classrooms. This was accompanied by investment to improve the physical environment which had a reported positive impact with a sense of pride felt by both staff and pupils.

On page 3 of Developing a culture of monitoring and evaluation, as part of the process, teachers became actively involved in monitoring activities and the scrutiny of data to help them identify improvement actions.

Within Developing capacity, on page 3 it is stated that ‘all teachers are now an integral part of whole school improvement planning through developing, implementing, monitoring and reviewing action plans for their areas of responsibility.’ Staff feel supported by a school culture that encourages staff to take on additional responsibilities when they feel ready, for example by leading training sessions and team working to move forward on agreed priorities. Through this, they develop the skills and knowledge to lead others.

Within the section on page 4, Working with others, staff use joint reflection time to consider the outcomes of their practice collaboratively and to identify possible improvements.

Establish and maintain a culture where improving standards and wellbeing for all pupils is the main priority

The concluding sentence in The school’s improvement journey on page 2, provides clear evidence of the senior leadership team responding to a staff request for developing a more planned curriculum as an opportunity to bring about ‘a shared sense of purpose.’ This should help address the need to establish a culture to help improve standards.

On page 2, the opening paragraph of Motivating staff through support and challenge demonstrates how the headteacher and senior staff involve all staff in designing a new curriculum during staff meetings to give all staff ‘a sense of ownership.’

This cultural shift would be maintained through staff being engaged in regular target setting and moderation meetings as explained on page 2 of Motivating staff through support and challenge. This process helps to develop ‘a shared level of understanding’ intended to identify pupils’ individual needs and address these.’

Through related activities including training to deliver intervention techniques, there was an increased staff involvement in setting the school’s overall direction. This collaborative approach proved motivational and enthused the majority of staff. This was perceived to have a positive impact on standards.

Make improving teaching the key process that contributes to improving standards

On page 1 of The school’s improvement journey the statement, ‘a focus on developing school pedagogy’ explicitly demonstrates a firm commitment to improving teaching which in turn is hoped to make a significant contribution to improving standards.

It is clear from page 1, that the headteacher, following appointment, had analysed school performance data and children’s work as well as conducting lesson observations. This evidence-based analysis showed that there was clearly room for improvement in teaching, alongside some targeted support of groups of pupils. There is also an implication that teachers are working hard but there might well be much to be gained by collaboration of staff to share good practice.

The consideration and development of assessment for learning, evident in the majority of classes, as explained on page 2, needed to be completely understood and effectively utilised across all classes to improve teaching and raise standards.

There is also an appreciation, on page 2, that good quality resources need to be available and utilised appropriately as part of this strategy.

Deliver a curriculum that fully meets the needs of all pupils

On page 2, towards the end of The school’s improvement journey, it is clear that the staff see the need to prioritise a planned curriculum. This position is further evidenced in the opening paragraph of Motivating staff through support and challenge through the design of this new curriculum.

Further development of this curriculum for all pupils would be further developed through the regular target setting and moderation meetings. The use of pupil data and teacher assessment information would help ‘identify pupils in need of additional support and more able pupils, who needed greater challenge in their learning.’

Sustain a consistent focus on improving pupils’ literacy (in English and Welsh), ICT skills, and numeracy (including higher-order thinking and reasoning skills)

Within the section on motivating staff through support and challenge on page 2, it is made clear that the school purchased new and attractive resources to support literacy and numeracy.

During the ‘Meet the Teacher’ event in early September, the school shares with parents, information about the curriculum including approaches to teaching reading, writing and mathematics.

A specific example of improving the quality of writing occurs on page 3, where a piloted writers’ workshop approach in one year group, once evaluated as successful, was adopted across the school, leading to an improvement in the quality of writing across the school.

Make sure that staff’s continuous professional development improves the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils

The title of the Case Study, The role of staff development in raising standards and aspirations implies that Estyn have seen this aspect of the School’s approach as a strength. This is also explicit on page 1 within The School’s improvement journey where a strategic aim refers explicitly to ‘the effective continuous professional development for all staff.’ This approach was identified as an important factor, as explained on page 2, where previously there had been a lack of strategic direction to staff’s continuous professional development which had been considered to lessen the impact of training on improving standards of teaching and learning.

The planning of this whole school continuous professional development is made clear in Motivating staff through support and challenge, linking events to the outcomes of school self-evaluation. Monitoring the impact of this process was linked to the quality of provision and outcomes for pupils.

Training was provided to ensure that staff were able to deliver a variety of intervention programmes successfully as explained on page 2.

Further evidence of this process is contained within Developing Capacity section on page 3, where it is made clear that senior leaders evaluation of staff strengths and areas for development, inform effective personal and professional development for all staff. This helps to develop the skills and professional competencies required to fulfil their roles successfully.

Ensure that all staff (especially those in management roles) are accountable for their areas of work

Accountability is explicitly mentioned on page 2 considering the school’s performance management system with respect to the implementation of ‘specific, agreed approaches to teaching, such as effective assessment for learning techniques.’

By engaging staff in regular target setting and moderation meetings there is an open sense of accountability with teachers using pupil data and teacher information robustly. On page 3, it is made clear that senior leadership team used data consistently and effectively across the school to inform pupil progress meetings and to hold teachers to account for improved pupil outcomes. This has led to class teachers using data consistently to inform their planning for cohorts, classes, groups and for individuals.

As part of school’s open accountability to parents, all teachers follow a structure outlining the essential information and discussion points that must be included in consultation meetings as explained on page 3.

Ensure that self-evaluation outcomes derive from first-hand evidence, and are linked closely to school improvement priorities

Within the Context section on page 1, Estyn, following inspection, reported that there are effective links between self-evaluation and school improvement. This is an external verification of this process.

On page 1 of The School’s improvement journey, there is evidence of ‘a thorough cycle of monitoring and evaluating activities’ as well as ‘an understanding and use of pupil data to inform teaching and the composition of intervention groups for pupils requiring additional support.’

On page 2 of Motivating staff through support and challenge, it is clear that teachers were using pupil data and teacher assessment to identify pupils in need of additional support and more able pupils who required greater challenge in their learning.

Analysis of parental views gained from an online survey led to a ‘Meet the Teacher’ event, held in early September, where parents were provided with information about the curriculum and the intended learning for the academic year ahead.

Self-evaluation involves all staff as explained in Developing a culture of monitoring and evaluation on page 3. This includes teaching assistants who monitor the progress of pupils in receipt of interventions. In turn the additional learning needs co-ordinator monitors the teaching assistants reporting to the senior leadership team and governors.

Provide governors with clear, understandable and honest analyses of how well the school is performing, and encourage them to challenge underperformance

Within the Context section on page 1, Estyn, following inspection, reported that the governing body works strategically, and acts well as a critical friend to the school. A governor self-evaluation and data group ensures, that governors have the knowledge and understanding to challenge the headteacher effectively in relation to school performance.

Governors receive the outcomes of specific interventions from the additional learning needs co-ordinator as part of the school’s strategy.

Within Working with others on page 4 there is further evidence of the governing body challenging the headteacher consistently and effectively in relation to school performance. It is clear, that all governors take their roles seriously and focus on improving standards.

Governors, at the time of the report, were actively working on a new structure to maximise the impact of their strategic role in ensuring continuous improvement. This was being achieved through developing closer links with subject co-ordinators.

Having objectively considered the Parkland Primary School case study, you are advised to now conduct a similar reflective activity for your own school. You could create another table within your blog to complete this. This should be an interesting comparative exercise.

CYM_SGC_E1a

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371