The tantalising promise of new beginnings, fresh as the crisp first page of your recently purchased notebook in the first CPD session of the year, are irresistible, particularly if you have ambitions to make this year count in your journey to school leadership.
The start of a new school year, or even a new school term is the perfect time to broach starting a new intervention or project to demonstrate your impact as an aspiring leader. My previous post in this series was focused on finding why you want to be an aspiring leader. Remember this ‘why’ as you implement your passion project, and find my tips below for how to go about this:
Choose your project
- Find something you’re passionate about – your willingness to work hard sometimes outside of school hours will need you to be interested and enthused. It may be an aspect of teaching and learning within your own classroom/department, or you might want to choose a whole school pastoral issue such as behaviour or attendance.
- Consider the school improvement plan – choosing to focus on something that is a school priority will make it more likely that you’ll be given the go-ahead to progress with your idea, and most importantly, that you’ll have scope to have a greater impact on students’ outcomes.
- Consider your experience in this subject – you may already have some experience in your chosen project, equally, it may be an area that you know little about. Both work well for you as an aspiring leader to gain more knowledge and experience of whole school matters.
Find out more!
- Firstly, find out what interventions are already in place in your school for this project. Speak to the people involved in these to find out if they are working, and what else could be done. If necessary, this step may involve you changing the focus of your project, but will ensure that you can propose something new whilst being fully informed.
- Read. Read any research you can find, read about how others have gone about making this change, and of course, read any legal legislation or guidance around it. Being well informed and knowledgeable about the nuts and bolts of your chosen project, as well as current trends and thinking in education generally will ensure that your strategy is likely to work.
Create a strategy
- Choose your group of students carefully. You may want to focus on a smaller group of students at first to check that your strategy works, before hopefully being able to roll out your strategy on a wider scale.
- Think about what you are trying to achieve – a broad goal, for example ‘improve attendance in disadvantaged students in my form’ or ‘raise the reading age of low prior attaining boys in my year 7 English class’.
- Consider exactly what you want or expect to happen, citing a measurable target, such as ‘closing the gap between disadvantaged and non disadvantaged students’ to the National average of 2.5%’. This can absolutely be optimistic, but also try to be realistic.
- Think about the time frame you will need to achieve the above target in – would this be within a term, or a whole school year? How might this fit into the school improvement plan?
- Write out the strategies you expect will achieve this, and for each one, break them down further to give really concise actions you will take.
- Include what you need – will you need some budget, for example for rewards? Do you need other staff to be involved?
- State points at which you will measure impact and review – make it clear that you will review and tweak your strategy as necessary at meaningful points in time.
Pitch your idea
- You are now ready with the fleshed-out structure of an idea to support school improvement to pitch your project to a member of SLT! In the majority of cases, the best person to speak to would be the SLT member who has responsibility for the area you are planning on making an impact in.
- You may wish to take your idea straight to the Head, so booking in a meeting, and sending your materials such as your strategy, references to research you’ve read ahead of time will ensure that the meeting is used productively to discuss your proposal and needs, as well as demonstrating professionalism.
- Continue to teach, mark, and meet deadlines whilst balancing your enthusiasm for your new project. A school leader has to be able to juggle different responsibilities and priorities during a working day and being able to demonstrate this puts you in good stead to be ready for this step.
- Do! ‘Do’ your idea – persevere with it, push it, chase it up, and make sure that your planned actions are done.
- Communicate. Keep your HOD/SLT updated regularly, both with what is working and what isn’t. Seek out their advice, and know that in doing so you are continually demonstrating readiness for a leadership role, and crucially, impacting positively on the lives of your students.
Measure your impact
- Where have you made improvements and achieved successes? How do you know that this data is rigorous and reliable?
- Where have you not made headway? What might be the reasons for this?
- As a result of the above, what needs tweaking or changing?
- If you were to roll out your strategy to larger groups, how would you amend your plan to do this?
- Share! Share the answers to the questions above with SLT – and propose to take it further. Don’t be afraid of being reflective of where things didn’t go as well, and be ready with suggestions of how to alter this.