A leader worth following

As the new school term begins, education remains a topic at the forefront of the political agenda. The recent riots raised questions about the role that schools play in ensuring that students not only get a good academic education, but are also taught about civic responsibility and their role in society as a whole. Schools’ positions on league tables are also becoming increasingly important, and teachers are struggling to achieve high standards in challenging circumstances.

In order to achieve such aims during these turbulent times, it is imperative that the education sector contains strong leaders and managers who are able to raise their game to unprecedented levels. Leaders in the education sector are being asked to take on a wider variety of tasks and to achieve more stretching targets with less and less support and resources. Ensuring they are supported with professional leadership training delivered at a consistently high level will be vital if they are to play the role that is demanded of them. Perhaps most importantly, by demonstrating these high standards of leadership, students will ultimately benefit.

Why IT’S important
The UK is already in the midst of a skills crisis in the area of leadership, with only one in five managers professionally qualified. As a country we spend far less on management skills development than many of our European competitors.

The image of managers in the education sector can be especially negative, with the stereotype being that they make decisions that are too business-focused and fail to prioritise the growth and development of their students. However, they are much more than bureaucrats there to tick boxes; they are essential to drive change, identify opportunities and set a vision of where their school is going. What’s more, if it is done well, strong and effective school leaders will ultimately benefit the students in their care.

But leadership isn’t something that just head teachers must master. Every teacher has a responsibility and the capability to lead well and to build their skill base so they can do so. There will be a real benefit to the pupils they teach if they do this.

Leadership Development
An example of how this is working in practice is the Teach First scheme. The charity recruits graduates who want to make an impact in the classrooms of schools facing challenging circumstances. Once they have secured a place on the scheme, they become participants of a two-year Leadership Development Programme, which places them in a challenging school to raise levels of achievement, improve access and raise aspirations of the students they teach.

The Leadership Development Programme allows them to become outstanding classroom leaders in schools in challenging circumstances, committed to leading in their classrooms and tackling educational disadvantage. Teach First believes that doing this will help students to achieve high academic standards and also broaden their perception of what they are capable of achieving.

The scheme is a great example of how teachers can not only personally benefit from developing management and leadership skills, but how this can also make a real difference in the classroom.

Setting a positive example
The other reason why it is important that teachers demonstrate strong leadership skills is that young people are sponges that soak up the atmosphere and skills around them. By seeing good examples of how leadership can be done well, they are more likely to develop skills in this area themselves.

There are increasing calls for young people to develop these abilities, not least because it will help to set them apart in an increasingly competitive job market. Earlier this year, CMI released the ‘Tomorrow’s Leaders’ report which revealed that nine out of ten managers feel that young people often need training in basic skills when entering the world of work.

What’s more, the research found that 77 per cent of managers felt school leavers’ management skills were either poor or very poor.

If new recruits are already starting on the back foot, UK plc is destined to lag behind in this fundamental area. It’s therefore imperative that businesses and the education system work together if they are to break this cycle, an aim that is in both of their interests.

To help address this issue, the Chartered Management Institute has recently launched a programme called Campus CMI, which has delivered 1,500 qualifications to date in team leading and line management in schools and FE colleges across the UK to young people aged 14-21. Campus CMI is led by a board of employers including Centrica, Waitrose and The National Grid, which builds an essential dialogue between schools, colleges and employers to ensure that relevant and useful skills are developed that will benefit students in their future careers. The qualifications also sit alongside the academic curriculum, aiding, rather than replacing, core studies.

An example of how teachers can help to encourage their students to recognise the benefits of this management and leadership training can be found at Abbeyfield School in Chippenham. The school saw four students undertake Campus CMI qualifications last year. One of these four plucky students was Abbeyfield’s own deputy head, Mark Fuller, who came across the course whilst researching possible enrichment options for the school’s Sixth Form offering. Mark was so impressed by the scope of the programme, he decided to get involved himself.

The impact which the Campus CMI programme has made on Mark and his students is also something he hopes to extend to his fellow teaching staff in the near future. Mark believes that good management and leadership skills are essential to the strong running of all organisations, and would like to see what he has learnt extended to the wider teaching staff in the form of a training course mentored by students who have already taken the Campus CMI programme. It’s really encouraging to see the way he hopes to turn the teacher/student relationship on its head as they set about developing leadership skills.

Becoming a Chartered Manager

There are a number of ways that teachers can improve their management skills. For example, reading relevant books and seeking guidance from a trusted mentor can both be beneficial. However, if teachers are particularly interested in professional development that is more structured, a recognised professional qualification is a good option. Teachers can also focus on their leadership development and have the great work they are doing acknowledged by becoming a Chartered Manager.

Chartered Manager is the hallmark of a professional manager and proves that you are using theory on the job to achieve results. To become a Chartered Manager, hopefuls undergo vigorous assessment in areas of practice such as managing change. Achieving Chartered Manager status is a sign that candidates are at the leading edge of today’s management community. It demonstrates a high level of leadership capability and the fact that individuals are clearly committed to delivering impact for their employers.

Inspirational Leaders

Two managers who school teachers can look to for inspiration have achieved Chartered Manager status and have gone on to be named as finalists in the Chartered Management Institute’s Charted Manager of the Year competition. This year, Graeme Pyle CMgr FCMI, principal at Beaumont College in Lancaster, and Robert Halton CMgr FCMI, board member at the College of Law, who is based in Birmingham, have already been crowned the best managers in the North West and West Midlands regions respectively and are now in the running to win the national Chartered Manager of the Year title.

This title is given to the manager who can best show how they have made a significant positive impact on their organisation. The award highlights how the individuals on the shortlist have demonstrated that their excellent management and leadership skills are among the best in their sector, region and nation.

When short-listing the candidates, the judging panel singled Graeme out for his outstanding leadership abilities and Robert for successfully instigating cultural change within The College of Law.

Graeme turned Beaumont College, which specialises in delivering courses to young adults with physical and learning disabilities, from a rating of poor for leadership and management to outstanding in just four years. As principal, he made major changes to the way the college operates, including building better relationships with key stakeholders, which have proved hugely successful.

Robert has led The College of Law across its eight centres nationally into new ground, enabling it to fight against competitors who had introduced price-cutting strategies. Despite the prevailing negative conditions, Robert showed impressive management skills by implementing significant cultural change, with tangible bottom-line results.

Not only are Graeme and Robert fantastic examples of how strong leadership can be of real benefit to schools, they also show that their achievements can be acknowledged in a way that sets them apart from the crowd.

In summary, effective leadership in schools is imperative if the education sector is to thrive and every member of staff, whether teacher or head teacher, has a role to play. Taking a professional qualification can provide staff with the skills and confidence they need to succeed in this area. Not only will this help them in their own career, but it will assist the young people that they teach by setting an example to follow that will be of benefit to them as they prepare to embark on their own career.