By Lynn Jones, MBE
27 February, 2020
Effective Continuing Professional Development (CPD) is at the heart of OAT’s work to engage, develop and retain talented staff in the schools in each of our regions. Our CPD is built around need and subject-specific content. It involves explicit discussion, reflection and research.
The OAT Leadership Development Programme supports aspiring leaders through all stages of their career and levels of leadership and in a variety of paths. More information on the programme will be available soon.
Click here to view our CPD booklet of staff development pathways for OAT staff, and those looking to join the Trust. For more information contact Tuesday Humby, National Director of Teaching and Training.
Here, Lynn Jones, teaching and learning consultant at Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy, discusses OAT’s Aspiring Middle Leaders programme.
I first heard the term ‘Aspiring Middle Leader’ at an OAT conference. It was used by Tuesday Humby, then principal of Ormiston Chadwick Academy and now OAT’s National Director for Teaching and Training, who explained that as principal, she led an aspiring middle leaders’ course on a Friday evening to develop and motivate staff in their first years of teaching.
I was hooked on this idea and Tuesday helped me to start a course at my academy, Ormiston Sir Stanley Matthews Academy (OSSMA), where I was Vice Principal in charge of Continual Professional Development (CPD). Tuesday advised that the aspiring middle leaders should pursue a ‘passion project’ to help ignite their leadership skills but also to deliver a practical impact on the priorities of the academy in their capacity as leaders. The idea developed further when Tuesday suggested expanding the project across OAT’s North and West regions, with guidance from an external coach – that coach being me! My retirement plans were happily abandoned and my aim to give staff across OAT their first taste of leadership began.
The first cohort of aspiring middle leaders began their course in 2018 and they are due to complete their projects in April 2020. The projects have been varied, including setting up extracurricular programmes, raising achievement of specific groups, developing the role of the form tutor and whole-school projects to develop teaching and learning strategies to help students to recall and retain knowledge. Regardless of the focus, each project is centred on practical leadership to develop the participant and build their skills and experience, whilst also contributing to the achievement of the academy’s wider priorities.
The first cohort have certainly enjoyed their first taste of leadership, with many having now successfully applied for middle leader roles within their academies. In fact, 75% of the first cohort have been promoted during the 18 months that they have been completing the course. These new roles include Second in Maths, SENCo, Second in Performing Arts, KS3 Lead in English, KS3 Lead in Geography, Lead Teacher of SEND students and Boys’ Achievement Lead, as well as various other teaching and learning responsibilities for their individual projects.
To give participants a positive first taste of leadership, the course needs to contain certain components, or should I say ingredients? We need to identify the right person and the right project in an academy, with the right support in place for participants. The whole concept is about looking after our staff, making them feel supported, helping them to excel and celebrating their achievements. After all, if our staff feel valued and motivated, this creates a positive and exciting culture which permeates our academies and more broadly promotes success of our students who thrive in such an environment. The course has also encouraged a huge amount of best practice sharing and collaboration amongst our aspiring middle leaders who established a WhatsApp group, where they routinely share strategies, successes and ask each other for advice or input – which is fantastic to see.
The cohort begins the course with a two-day residential to motivate them and to develop leadership behaviours. They then decide on the focus of their project with moral purpose being a major factor in deciding which project to pursue. Throughout the following 18 months, participants develop passion projects guided by an external coach. They are encouraged to reflect on milestones and the development of their leadership skills. This culminates in a convincing explanation of how they made an impact with clear evidence which proves extremely useful at future interviews!
The course is still growing with a second cohort of enthusiastic participants now devising their diverse and innovative projects. Not only is it expanding in terms of the number of participants, but also in terms of geography with OAT’s East and South regions about to launch their first cohort in June 2020. OAT has always sought to develop new leaders from within, with nearly a third of OAT academy leaders home grown. This course is just one of the ways that we are in investing in the next generation of leaders and giving our existing staff opportunities to progress and succeed within the Trust.
Here are just a few of the success stories:
Head of Modern Foreign Languages, Ormiston Sandwell Community Academy
“Being part of the aspiring middle leaders’ course taught me to carry my moral compass with me at all times and to be proud of the smallest of achievements as there will always be students who benefit. I am now a confident leader of MFL and am using everything I learned during this project in my new role.”
KS3 Lead in Geography, Ormiston Shelfield Community Academy
“Since beginning the course I have been promoted to KS3 lead in Geography, discussed my project at Ormiston Shelfield Community Academy progress board and have been asked to speak at an OAT West training conference. I have enjoyed being a part of the middle leaders’ project and I hope to continue and grow my project in the future.”
Assistant Faculty Lead in Expressive Arts, Norton College (An OAT Associate School)
“This project has helped me to secure a new position as Assistant Faculty Lead and has taught me about my leadership style for my new role. The course has taught me that I can do what I aspire to do as long as I believe in myself. The achievements that have come from this project include positive staff and student relationships and it has reminded me why I am in the profession.”