We broke down the ‘us and them’ feeling between middle and senior leaders
Headteacher Sharon enrolled her team onto Leading Together, which helped turn their struggling school into one with high aspirations for every pupil.
Broadlea Primary on the Isle of Wight has undergone huge changes since its entire local authority was put into special measures eight years ago.
When Headteacher Sharon Freeley joined the school in 2016, she was faced with a community that had lost faith in education.
The Isle of Wight is a safe, peaceful haven in people’s minds, but I don’t think they appreciate the level of deprivation that exists there.
In 2016, Deputy Head Lizzie Chambers and I joined a school where parents had high expectations for pastoral and personal development of their children, but didn’t have high expectations for teaching and learning. Together, we set plans to turn that around. By 2018, we were rated ‘requires improvement’ by Ofsted, so we knew we were heading in the right direction.
But our tight senior management team was also working against us. The middle leadership team didn’t feel part of decision-making and resisted some of the changes they felt were being imposed.
We knew Leading Together was the right step for us
Before I came to the school, I’d participated in an NPQH (National Professional Qualification for Headship) programme. I’d gone through all of the different elements that create an effective leadership team. I knew I had to develop our middle leaders, I just didn’t quite know how.
Leading Together was almost like going through NPQH again, but in the real context of our school.
Our Achievement Partner, Jane, gave us confidence to make real change
The reason Leading Together has been so successful for us is the part Jane played. She’s delivered CPD (continuing professional development) and helped us make decisions together as a leadership team. She’s also worked one-to-one both with senior leaders and middle leaders.
She’s helped strengthen and develop communication and the understanding of our roles, because it’s been quite hard to break that ‘us and them’ feeling between senior leaders and the rest of the extended leadership team.
That’s why we went into Leading Together, because we needed to readjust our focus. We’d done the tightening down, we’d done the firefighting, we’d got things kind of stable, we now needed to start developing and looking at succession planning.
Planning a strategy enabled us to put more energy into development
Jane helped us focus on important, strategic parts of school improvement. Previously we would be interrupted in most of our leadership meetings with something that had happened - a child was misbehaving, a teacher was having difficulties, an angry parent had come onto the school site, all sorts of things that others wanted SLT to sort immediately – so we never actually stopped and had quality time together for strategic decision making.
Working with Jane has meant we’ll put in our diary that we’re meeting her at a certain time and we’re going to look at Pupil Premium, or we’re meeting her at a certain time and we’re looking at the curriculum.
Being put together with other schools to have sessions on curriculum development has meant we’ve had time to talk to others about what they are doing and the approaches they use. Regular meetings with others are so valuable because it helps you feel that it isn’t just a journey for one school, we’re all in it together. Everything has obviously been a bit harder due to COVID-19, but to our delight, the school was rated ‘Good’ in all areas by Ofsted last month. There’s more work to be done but we are so proud of where we’ve got to.
Everyone who participates in Leading Together has to buy in
You also have to be very aware that you’re buying in for your own professional development, not just because you’re being told to do so to drive the school forward.
You need to know the school is investing in you, but you need to invest in yourself as well.
If you’re looking to build stronger leadership across your entire senior team, find out how your school can benefit from the Leading Together programme.