Meeting with Angela Constance MSP 2nd April 2015

Dr Judith McClure

Margaret Alcorn

Simon Macaulay

We three arrived early on a beautiful Spring afternoon for our meeting with AngelaConstance MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning. The meeting had been set up by Dr Judith McClure who has a CV rich in leadership experiences. Currently she is the Chair of the Advisory Board of SCSSA, and is the architect and convenor of SCEN (The Scotland China Education Network). Each of us had given notice of an area of leadership that we hoped to discuss with Ms Constance. Judith’s centred on the role of headteachers in relation to the local authorities, and how they can be empowered to be innovative and freed up from central control and bureaucracy. Our conversation strayed into a wider discussion of the difficulties that local authorities are currently facing, as budget cuts begin to really bite and the capacity for officers to support schools decreases. Judith argued that change was needed urgently and referred to the recommendations made in the By Diverse Means: Improving Scottish Education report. I was next up and had very cleverly (well I thought so) combined two related issues. I wanted to talk about our continuing failure to close the attainment gap, an issue which Sir John Jones suggested should be causing us “righteous indignation”. A recent report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation “Monitoring poverty and social exclusion in Scotland 2015” acknowledged that progress had been made, but that on current projections it will take a further 30 years before the gap is closed. This is a clear concern of the Scottish Government and we welcomed the setting up of “The Attainment Challenge” and the allocation of a £100 million fund to improve educational outcomes. I argued that innovative and committed leadership of this initiative was needed in order to ensure success from this investment. I suggested that we should seek a charismatic and inspirational leader to create a clear vision, and ensure coherence and consistency. There were some interesting international comparisons which could inform the project, and the leaders of these, such as Avis Glaze who led the transformation of the Ontario education system, or Sir Tim Brighouse who did so much to bring success to the schools involved in the London Challenge could act as consultants for us. I further suggested that the usual model of a central group of experts deciding what needed to be done, the production of “support materials” and a website, launched by a national event, with the implementation then monitored by the experts, was no longer viable and did not reflect research evidence of what makes for effective change management. We needed locally‐driven, bottom‐up, flexible developments which acknowledged local teachers, parents, community members and pupils as the experts.

My second (related) issue was the need to address support for schools in implementing Scotland’s Young Workforce. Again the theme of locally‐owned change seemed relevant. The third member of our group was Simon Macaulay who led the Scottish Government’s Working Group on Languages 2012, and is an honorary teaching fellow at the university of Aberdeen. Simon has become particularly concerned with the development of the teaching of Mandarin in our schools. He asked that the Scottish Government gave a message to secondary headteachers that Curriculum for Excellence does not aim to a narrowing of the curriculum in S4 and that languages, especially Chinese, should be an entitlement for all young people in the Senior Phase. Simon reflected on the good progress that was being made in the 1 + 2 Languages Plan, particularly in the primary sector, but argued he was concerned that the learning of languages in our high schools seemed to be in decline.

The Cabinet Secretary engaged positively with the points that we made, but said she believed that many of our suggestions were concerns for the local authorities rather than for Scottish Government. She was unwilling to become too engaged in pointing fingers or making judgements on local issues. She reiterated the absolute commitment of the Government to the 1+2 Plan, and acknowledged the importance of learning languages to the development of young people. However the balance between empowering headteachers to be more innovative, and offering central direction was a difficult one to maintain. She had been very impressed with the ambition, methodology and scope of the “Raising Attainment for All Programme”which had been launched in June of last year. Twelve local authorities and over 100 schools across Scotland have committed to becoming part of this learning community which will support the implementation of improvement methodology and enable shared learning across the country. The focus in this programme is very much on collaboration in the service of improvements for children.

Finally the Cabinet Secretary also reminded us that there were many positive developments, such as the launch of SCEL (the Scottish College for Education Leadership), the new and developing partnerships between local authorities and universities, and the allocation of significant funds through the Attainment Challenge. The progress made since the publication of Teaching Scotland’s Future in 2010 would be reviewed in a series of legacy events over the next few months.

More on Uplifting Leadership: Hazel Kinnear, DHT James Gillespies High School

Bowling Uphill in the Wind!

Uplifting Leadership – Andy Hargreaves and Alan Boyle

Tuesday 25th November 2014 saw The Scottish College for Leadership in partnership with the Virtual Staff College Scotland present Andy Hargreaves leading a workshop on Uplifting Leadership at Murrayfield Stadium. The event included Alan Boyle who co-authored the book (along with AlmaHarris) and each delegate received not only a copy of the book but also a workbook of activities.Born and raised in Accrington, Andy started his teaching and lecturing career in England, eventuallybecoming professor of education at Boston College. Ranked among the top 12 most influential educators in the United States, Andy has written over 25 books on leadership and change which have been translated into many different languages.

The interactive workshop, based on research of 18 organisations and systems in business, sports and public education, allowed participants the opportunity to work individually and in small groups to connect the key ideas to their own practice.An auspicious occasion, the first event of its kind, we were told immediately that our views would be challenged, that we would be challenged to change and improve, because schools are not doing well enough;  well enough in closing the gap, supporting the most vulnerable or  reducing youth unemployment.

Next the secret goal of the book of the book was shared – a better understanding of leadership space so that we might understand how education fits in to the world of business because, ‘Losing is the new Winning!’ A chuckle from the audience led to Andy praising us for our ability as a nation in achieving a sense of who we are despite our loss. We were reassured that you need to know who you are to achieve and then asked to consider which of these challenges appealed to us most:

1. Taking opportunities others have missed.

2. Moving towards resistance.

3. Turning weaknesses into triumphs.

4. Changing something that is succeeding.

5. Disciplined innovation – getting left and right brainers together.

‘Only psychopaths are unafraid!’ Moving towards resistance despite the fear we all feel at a certain level was highlighted as an exciting path to follow, which underpinned the drive of many successful leaders.  At this point we were asked to consider our choices and then share with partners and then our group. Through sharing and the examples given we were challenged to think about our own styles of leadership as well as what we ultimately wanted to achieve, ‘the dream’ as Andy defined it.

The examples from industry and education brought to life the success of others. 5176 prototypes before Dyson produced their first vacuum cleaner and the removal of all standardised tests in Singapore to one at age 11 examples to make us think. But ultimately the questions we are all asking ourselves right now -How do we do better than we used to? How do we turn failure into success? How do we create something out of nothing? How do a lot with a little? The research of 15 organisations using data from 3 sectors, 8 countries, 4 continents and 200 interviews was distilled into the following:

6 Uplifting Forces

1. Dreaming with Determination.

2. Creativity and Counter-Flow.

3. Collaborating with Competition.

4. Pushing and Pulling.

5. Measuring with Meaning.

6. Sustainable Success.

But before we reached these we had to consider how we uplifted ourselves and others, as well as the ‘downers’ which faced us all and how we could avoid them. ‘Leading the right things, for the right reasons, in the right ways’, an inspirational call to us all. Asked to consider what gave us our ‘lift’ and what our ‘dream’ was;  staff  teams were able to engage in some really effective sharing of ideas and planning at some tables. ‘Bowling uphill in the wind!’ was used to help us consider the lift we felt in our own settings when moving towards resistance. ‘Co-opetition’ a concept some grappled with but exemplified in the investment in cricket in Pakistan and Dogfish Head beer, both examples which highlighted that competition was essential for success. Working for a higher purpose, increasing the profile of all involved and stimulating our own practice, a model which many embrace already, and which we were told could benefit us all.

The most challenging idea for me, Give away your best ideas so you will keep creating new ones?One to reflect on I think. However, use of data – positives and negatives- is something we are all grappling with. With the introduction of Insight we are now all engaged in data discussion whatever our thoughts. Andy asked to consider the use of data in our personal lives as well as in the workplace. The challenge for many in the audience may have been being told that data should not be used to set targets. But what did strike a chord were the statements that data would only improve performance if we measured what we valued, it was accurate and fair and just in time rather than after the fact. So, back to our discussions about Insight.Uplifting Leadership – leaving the event we had been challenged to think, challenged to work together and left to plan how this model could be utilised to help us to make our dreams for our schools come true. And that might be the crux for many of us, how we are able to take this back into our educational establishments, share with our teams and plan together how to be uplifting leaders. But as Andy highlighted,‘You don’t need to be the best. If your aim is to be the best you probably won’t be!’

But hopefully we can be better, better at closing the gap, supporting the most vulnerable and reducing youth unemployment.

Neil Craik-Collins: Uplifing Leadership 25/11/2014

photo “Leadership is about being afraid, but doing it anyway. Only psychopaths are unafraid”

Andy Hargreaves and Alan Boyle wanted to write a leadership book that would sit inauspiciously in an airport shop waiting for a passing businessman to pick it up. The twist would come when he read not only about outstanding business practice, but also about miraculous successes in education. Hargreaves challenged us to reflect upon times in our professional lives when we felt uplifted and what types of things had made us feel that way. ‘Uplifting Leadership’ by Andy Hargreaves, Alan Boyle and Alma Harris is the final product. He also asked us to consider low points and leaders who had left us feeling further from inspiration. The session was interactive, so delegates were asked to think, get up, pair and share. Although this took us immediately out of our comfort zones, the idea was a good one because we were able to meet and share with professionals from across the country.

The research criteria was quite specific. Their research focused upon businesses, sports teams and educational institutes who had risen from the depths of despair and experienced almost miraculous transformational changes. They all created a lot from a little. Most ideas came from back rooms and were scribbled on battered napkins from people who cared passionately about something. All of these establishments had the following in common:

  1. Not one of them wanted to be the top or the best within their profession
  2. Not one of them wanted to race to the top as fast as they could
  3. Not one of them wanted to copy exact replicas of models used in other schools (imprudent transfer)
  4. Not one of them was driven by data above contextual decision making and people
  5. Not one of them wanted to kill the competition
  6. Not one of them implemented a ‘no excuses’ policy. The life needs outside of work were recognised and people were valued for what they could give.

Every leader who introduced an inspirational and challenging vision of future success was laughed at. Every idea was deemed improbable. Every vision came true. In all cases great leadership connected the future with community and the past. However, there were a few words of warning given for when one is considering a significant change project. :

” You need to get enough fuel before you start. Build capacity within the organisation and take the appropriate

level of resources onboard that are going to see you to the final destination. Load up. Don’t burn your people or

your resources out. Take care of them. You think you want the find at your back, but you don’t- you’re like a big 747

with the wind in your face. You can’t fly it by yourself and you need a navigation system to hold you to your course’

Andy Hargreaves suggested that ‘all meaningful change started with discontent’. As leaders we are encouraged to harness and understand resistance. Examples of leaders who sat in the darkest recesses of the staffroom with the most belligerent resistance, just to prove that there was no space where discussion would be unheard, were given. Diverse teams are seen to be the strongest. In one example, the Canadian Government gave £25 million to a Union that were resisting them with the only proviso being that it was used for staff, Learning and leadership development. Essentially they gave money to the enemy and as a result created one of the strongest most impactful initiatives they had ever seen. We heard about how Dyson made dirt visible as a marketing tool and how Singapore totally changed their education system to give teachers more development time, less teaching time and barely any standardised tests- at a time when they had just been praised for running a system that was the polar opposite. We were encouraged to consider our greatest weakness and turn it into our greatest strength. This came under the banner of ‘creativity and counterflow’ where there were five guiding principles:

  1. Taking opportunities that others have missed
  2. Moving towards resistance
  3. Turning the greatest weakness into the greatest triumph
  4. Changing something that is succeeding
  5. Disciplined innovation- trying new things with a few rather than all and at different times. ‘Don’t experiment with ipads with every pupil for the entire year- because that is a wasted year”

An example from Martin Fogarty (The Head Coach of Kilkenny Hurling) was given:

“You can shout and roar from the sidelines if you want to, but it won’t matter if the players aren’t buying in

The players demand that of each other. If there is a new player and he’s not supporting or working, the others

will tell him so’

Hargreaves suggested that excellent organisations are ones where all levels of the hierarchy from the cleaner to the CEO and the classroom to the HT have the same expectations and standards that will enable them to see a future vision of success be achieved. Challenge between colleagues, when required, is what keeps them on track towards their goals. The ‘Holy Grail’ is for colleagues to be pulling and pushing each other and for the relationships and trust within the organisation to be strong enough to withstand the critique. Everything to do with raising attainment and achievement comes back to the notions of collaboration, community and Identity:

“Identity is the path to achievement- If you don’t know who you are as an organisation, you won’t know what to do.

Leadership is the cigarette that is smoke when the change has been consummated”

There was discussion around monitoring and evaluation. It was suggested that in sport organisations use real time data to improve performance. There was a recognition that comes after the fact can’t help pupils to improve outcomes and results or help them to change direction before the iceberg hits. It would be easy therefore to conclude that real time feedback needs to come before assessment.

We were then asked to consider our single most important dream for our home organisation. We were asked how we were going to get better and what the future would feel like when we had achieved what we had set out to do.

The notion of ‘coopetition’ was also introduced. Successful organisations share with their competitors. Nobody wants to watch one team destroy another team week after week. Examples were given in baseball, education and football of situations where teams helped their competition to improve for mutual advantage, a higher purpose, to increase profile and common share in an attempt to stimulate discussion and better practice.

We finished with a discussion around whether we were measuring the correct things. Should  we be measuring wellbeing, innovation, entrepreneurship?

Lots to think about.