November 2013

The know zone

  • Pensions unpicked
    Thought about retirement yet? However far off it may be, start looking now at your options, says David Binnie. There may be unforeseen complications but also opportunities. More
  • Squeezed middle
    Schools may need to become lean and mean in order to adapt to new funding levels, says Sam Ellis, or they may find themselves facing a budget crisis. More
  • Raising the stakes
    Ofsted judgements look likely to be tougher in key areas under the revised guidance introduced in September, says Jan Webber. And the bar is being set higher for achieving ‘good’. More
  • Leading education
    ASCL exists to reflect and promote the views of its members, which is why ASCL Council is so important. ASCL Council is made up of 148 elected representatives and is the association’s policy-making body, meeting four times a year. Council members represent ASCL at meetings with government officials and other organisations. It is from Council that national officers, including the president, are elected. In each edition of Leader this year, we will spotlight the work of a particular committee of Council. This month, it is the turn of the Education Committee. More
  • Council focus
    What does it mean to be a Council rep? More
  • ASCL PD events
    New to the leadership team, Leadership for Outstanding Performance, and Homerun for Headship More
  • First term almost over
    ASCL Professional Development (PD) offers high-quality, relevant, up-to-date and competitively priced courses. Our training is delivered by a team of skilled trainers and consultants, almost all of whom have been headteachers or senior school leaders. More
  • How do you say?
    Focus on... 1,000-words challenge More
  • Adding value
    Time to protect your pension pot? More
  • Food for thought
    The government plans to spend £600 million on free school meals (FSM) for every child in a state-funded infant school and disadvantaged students in further education. Is this a good idea? Is this money well spent or should it be spent elsewhere? Here ASCL members share their views. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Choice language?
    Would you like IT with your G&T? Or, like Eric Hester, are you bemused by the proliferation of acronyms? More
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Leaders’ surgery

The antidote to common leadership conundrums...

Do I have the skills to do this? The most common calls to the ASCL hotline concern school leaders seeking advice on how to manage staff. They are often seeking new strategies to deal with tricky issues. However, it usually pays to look at such problems from a different view point, which then allows leaders to use strategies they usually have in abundance anyway. The questions asked below are typical of requests made to the hotline and the answers given are generic. ASCL’s hotline oddicers (0116 299 1122) can talk through the specific circumstance in which a member finds himself or herself.

The negotiator

Q I am a headteacher and two heads of department are just spatting all the time – how do I get a good working relationship between them?

A Look at it from the point of view of dealing with two ‘warring’ Year 11 or sixth-form students – or even a previous boyfriend/girlfriend who have fallen out. Here you would talk to them, identify what was causing the niggle with the other, attempt to be a ‘go between’, work out what can be agreed on, and work out strategies for allowing them to be in the same place at the same time without spatting. It helps to ensure that they are not seated together, not having cause to work together, or if they do, that boundaries are clearly established and that they have a professional language of communication (email as a dominant form helps).

We are often creative with strategies over relationship breakdown with older students. Frequently the same will work for relationship issues with staff – but (as with students) not always!

You should notice a common theme with these typical staffing issues and thought of in the ways suggested you will find that you do have all the skills you need to think and deal with staff effectively. It can also give you a ‘hypothetical situation’ to discuss ideas with fellow leaders without giving away the real situation that you are dealing with.

Underperformance causing concern

Q I am a deputy headteacher and I need some advice on how to deal with an underperforming member of staff – how do I go about it?

A Think of this from your own point of view if you were being challenged about your performance by the head. You would expect to be clearly told what was wrong, be able to discuss this and be given a clear picture of what was required. You would expect for the focus to be specific and not general. You would expect to be given time to be able to get it right! You will feel stressed about being challenged, and you would expect some leeway on other duties while you develop the skill set to meet the shortcoming brought to your notice. You would expect a clear and negotiated timescale – long enough to be able to show a difference, but short enough that it is not stressful for too long. You would expect to know the ‘end game’ of how progress is judged and what happens if it is and if it is not.

If you manage the situation as if you were in the ‘hot seat’, it will give you constructive positive language and it will bring the right level of support to a situation that you then have to manage.

Landing themselves in hot water...

Q I am an assistant headteacher and I’d like some advice on how I can deal with low-level misbehaviour from a member of staff who is ‘sailing close to the wind’ on many issues?

A The solution to this lies in how we would deal with such behaviour in a Year 8 student, which you will have done many times. Take the ‘student’ (member of staff) aside so as not to embarrass them with their peers; explain clearly the behaviour observed; explain clearly the behaviour expected; make reference to the code of behaviour (staff handbook); explain clearly the consequences for continuing with such behaviour and the sanctions that will follow; explain that a note of the advice will be put on file; explain you will be monitoring the behaviour; and then use praise to reinforce the behaviour you want.

All of these are good management approaches with a 13 year-old, and work equally well with a 30 year-old – however, make sure you carry through the sanctions if you need to!

Find out more...

ASCL PD: Performance Management: Challenging Underperformance Effectively (Wednesday 12 February 2014 in Leeds and Wednesday 7 May 2014 in London)

The new Ofsted framework is placing increased emphasis on the quality of leadership and management at all levels in schools. Underperformance needs to be relentlessly and rigorously addressed, making the role of line managers who conduct performance management/ appraisal particularly critical.

This course is intended to equip delegates with the skills to address underperformance positively and effectively and to find ways of motivating de-motivated colleagues. The techniques and confidence to hold ‘courageous conversations’, particularly with defensive colleagues, will be developed. It is a highly practical course, with practical exercises.