These blogs are written by the authors in their own words to share their thoughts, insights and experiences on topics and are reflective of their own setting.
They are written as thought leadership articles to help colleagues to consider and reflect upon their own approach and not as guidance.
We would welcome blogs from colleagues wishing to share their own good practice and thank those colleagues already acting as system leaders through their professional generosity in sharing their experience.

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Leading the Teams. A Resolution.

19 Oct 2021 | by Claire Wheeler

I’ve never been one for New Year’s Resolutions. I’m not a subscriber to the whole ‘new year, new you’ ideal; I steadfastly resist the annual onslaught in the media, reluctant to jump on the lose weight, get fitter bandwagon just because it’s the 1st January!

And yet, as each new academic year dawns, I find myself with a sense of optimism and a fresh determination to make this year even better; a desire to bring about improvements, both in my own performance, and across the services for which I am responsible. This desire manifests itself in the setting of goals and the creation of action plans, and so becomes my professional version of a new year’s resolution. A contradiction? Perhaps, but the summer break, however brief, does provide an opportunity for reflection; combine this with the tangible sense of pressing the reset button, and an intrinsic drive for continuous improvement and I have a powerful reason to succeed.

As a generalist, it is my fundamental duty to provide the school with an exceptional support service that enables the teaching staff to focus on delivering the best possible education for all pupils. This will come as no surprise; after all leading support services is central to the ISBL Standards.  I believe that a successful support service requires a team effort and a new school year provides the ideal opportunity for the team to review, assess and forward plan.

To support this ongoing process, I have developed the following strategies:

Articulate the Vision: I have created a School Business Team by bringing together the various team leaders (admin, premises, catering, extended provision and ICT) with the aim of establishing a framework within which the team can work towards a shared purpose. The vision is the consistent achievement of efficiency and high standards across all aspects of the support service in a way that encapsulates the ethos of the school.  Working closely with the team, I seek to inspire and empower my colleagues to bring about continuous improvements in performance, not just in their own teams, but also as part of the wider school business function.

Understand Roles and Responsibilities: Whilst each of the support teams has a specific purpose, none of them can operate in isolation.  There is significant interdependence between them and so the team leaders are encouraged to share information about their own roles and responsibilities in order to promote a mutual understanding and explore ways in which the teams can support each other through improved collaboration.

Priorities for Improvement: Improvement Plans are not just for Teaching and Learning.  It is equally important that the support teams set targets which focus on raising standards across all of the school’s business functions.  At the beginning of each year, the Business Team members identify and present key priorities for their own area of responsibility. Through discussion and challenge the team are able to develop an Improvement Plan that sets out specific and achievable targets together with clearly defined success criteria which reflect the whole school vision and ethos.

Communicate: Regular meetings are crucial in bringing the team together. These meetings help to build relationships between the individual members as well as providing a platform for sharing ideas and good practice. They also facilitate regular reviews of the Improvement Plan. On an operational level, these meetings are invaluable when planning for school events and activities. In order to maximise the use of our time, an agenda is circulated in advance and the minutes of the meetings include a record of decisions made together with any required actions.  

Continuous Professional Development: It is the people that make the difference. Without them, there can be no shared vision, no mutual drive for improvement and ultimately no success. This democratic style of leadership encourages the team members to work together in a way that provides the opportunity for each of them to build their own knowledge and skills whilst at the same time gaining a greater understanding from a whole school perspective.

My role is to develop these leaders, through training and coaching, encouraging them to reflect upon and improve their performance and consequently, that of their team.  As for me – this journey ensures that I continue to grow as a leader, just as I resolve to do at the beginning of each new year!