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

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An introduction to leadership for school governors (Wales)

6 Review of your learning

The final activity is an opportunity for you to revisit your learning and reflect on some of the main themes from this course on leadership. You might need to revisit some of your earlier reading in order to consolidate some of the leadership concepts that have been introduced.

Activity 9: Time to reflect

Timing: Allow approximately 45 minutes

Estyn’s report Leadership and Primary School Improvement [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] (2016) outlined ten common characteristics that were demonstrated by leaders. Consider each of these in turn, and from your understanding of transactional and transformational leadership, note down whether one of these stereotypical leadership styles has greater potential to address each characteristic, or whether you think elements of both styles are required. You should also return to Stoll and Temperley’s article ‘Creative leadership: a challenge of our times’ (2009) and note down which of the ‘emerging conditions for promoting and nurturing the creativity of colleagues’ could add to the likelihood of success.

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Your responses to this will be quite personal and for the purposes of this activity, an interpretation of all that you have read and learnt. It is important to remember that both transactional and transformational leadership should be seen as stereotyped constructs, and that much of what passes for leadership will be a compromise with elements of both styles.

It is important to consider how much available time an organisation has to address any development within a school. If there is a tight timeframe, such as a response to Estyn Inspection recommendations, with a returning monitoring visit scheduled, leadership may well appear to require a more transactional approach.

If there appears to be more time available, then a more transformational approach might be employed. However, this should not be assumed.

Below there are some suggestions that include some of Estyn’s characteristics and also some of the creative opportunities from Stoll and Temperley’s article. These are just examples.

  • Clearly define the vision and strategic direction of the school; this vision evolves as the school improves.

    Evolution will require some change and leaders need to be role models in this process to show that it is acceptable to experiment with new ideas. This approach can be facilitated by ‘exposing colleagues to new thinking and experiences.’ There is a need to challenge established routines and to push the boundaries of thinking. Without such an approach genuine evolution is unlikely. To achieve this, it is important for leadership to ‘provide time and space and facilitate the process.

    This will hopefully allow creative ideas to emerge that will enable a school to evolve and improve whilst ensuring that ‘core values’ remain an important reference point. Schools all have certain core values that are likely to have evolved over time. It is important to keep these in mind and show respect for the past, whilst trying to define new ways of thinking. In this way there is likely to be greater ‘buy-in’ and ‘ownership’ of the evolutionary journey defined in the vision. Evolution does not have to mean revolution!

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

    Alongside ‘providing time and space and facilitating the practicalities’ there is much to be gained by ‘promoting individual and collaborative creative thinking and design.’ Continuous improvement and effective teamwork takes time, and this is likely to be a combination of time spent alone and time spent with colleagues. Sharing and exploring ideas in groups can often lead to new or refined ideas emerging and this can be an important aspect of establishing professional values and behaviours.

    Leadership needs to ‘set high expectations about the degree of creativity’ and model this process wherever possible. This develops confidence and also helps build a sense of trust and ownership.

There are no ‘correct’ answers to this activity. The main aim is to help you to develop your appreciation that leadership is complex and continuously open to interpretation. Schools evolve, as do individuals within them; therefore, leadership needs to evolve as well. Just as Leadership and Primary School Improvement included four different categories to show schools’ differing positions – starting the journey, making progress, building momentum and sustaining high standards – there will also be differences when analysing and reflecting upon each of the different characteristics in every school.

A successful leader or leadership team needs, in Stoll and Temperley’s (2009) words, to ‘explore and develop their capacity to create the conditions, culture and structures in which learning-focused innovation and creativity best thrive.’ This includes relevant PLD and an improvement plan with success criteria that can be evaluated with objective evidence. Being a school governor was never going to be easy, but hopefully you now feel more confident to take a more informed and active role within your school’s developmental journey.


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