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Grit – Why trying harder is not enough

What is Grit?

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A while has passed since I heard Angela Duckworth present her now infamous research about ‘grit’ at the 2015 Times Education Festival. I rarely make an effort to wait, like a child at a pop concert for an autograph, but this time was different. I was as excited as anybody about this new psychological construct.

Her research identified a positive correlation between passion and perseverance for long-term goals (Grit) with success. In her most well-known research, Duckworth tested her hypothesis on cadets at West Point Military Academy. The most gritty cadets, she concluded, were the ones who made it through the Summer training camp. In self-evaluations taken prior to the summer training, the successful cadets had demonstrated that they had greater passion and perseverance than the cadets who dropped out.

One of the most surprising findings, Duckworth muses, is the lack of correlation between talent and grit. She argues that there is perhaps even an inverse correlation. Since then, many in education have saluted this as an indisputable silver bullet for disadvantaged and talentless children. Grit, it seems can get anybody (even those with little talent) anywhere.

One of the most surprising findings, Duckworth muses, is the lack of correlation between talent and grit.

This is hugely misleading but not complete nonsense. We know from Dweck’s work on mindsets that the brain is ‘plastic’ and most things, within reason, are achievable with considerable effort. Grit, it seems, does contribute to long-term success but is this so surprising?

How does grit contribute to long-term success?

Grit_Web1Within Duckworth’s construct of grit are concealed a host of virtues and traits that are ‘far more robust psychological constructs with a longstanding history of academic conceptualisations and research’ than grit, (Kristjánsson et al., No Date).

Of these ‘hidden gems’ the big five trait: conscientiousness, is certainly a more significant determinant of success than grit. Willingham points out that conscientious people: ‘tend to be orderly in their habits, are industrious and like to get things done, take responsibilities seriously, and are dependable’, (Willingham, 2016). This already sounds quite a lot like grit to me. Willingham goes on to review the virtue of self-control, or temperance, which is the ability to regulate actions. Another word used here is phronesis which Ian Morris describes as practical wisdom: the ability to make judgements and balance virtues for good.

Is ‘grit’ always a desirable virtue?

west-point-front.jpgSo if self-control and conscientiousness are reliable psychological constructs, what do passion and perseverance add? To answer this question, I asked Howard. J Curzer of the Texas University Philosophy Department for his views.

I learned from Howard that if either passion or perseverance are not reasonably tempered they can be counter productive or vice-like. Let’s return to Duckworth’s cadets to illustrate Howard’s point. Consider for a moment the cadet whose passion is so strong that he pushes his body harder than most would deem reasonable and perseveres for much longer than many would believe is necessary. Is this grit, or plain foolishness?

The cadets who decide that success at West Point is just not worth the considerable effort, for them, may be making wise choices. It doesn’t mean that they aren’t resilient, passionate or perseverant.

Although the self-control and determination of the successful cadets are hugely admirable and joining the forces is considered a courageous and noble decision, are we right to describe the drop-outs as failures? Personally, I don’t think so.

Traits and Virtues

For most of us, traits and virtues are indistinguishable from each other. However, virtues differ from traits mostly because virtues are simply describing good traits: traits that are morally and ethically good for society or the individual. It’s considerably more complicated than this but for the purpose of this post, it should serve as a useful distinction.

Traits are ‘U’ shaped and the best place to be is at the bottom of the ‘U’ bend – most of the time! Too little of a trait is a weakness (honesty for example) and too much of another can be considered to be a vice (passion being an obvious example).

Should we teach grit?

For the teaching of grit to be desirable it has to significantly add to the predictive validity of conscientiousness and self-control. At present, this is not the case. Whilst we hope to encourage our pupils to be passionate about learning and to build resilience, we need to do so alongside other virtues: empathy, compassion, courage, respect, resoluteness, creativity, benevolence, curiosity, devotion, cooperation, forgiveness, gratitude, humility, patience, kindness, loyalty, reliability, resourcefulness, openness, responsibility, selflessness, reverence, tact, trust, toughness, zeal to name quite a few.

Ian Morris, in his 2016 presentation at the Telegraph Education Festival, distinguishes between four distinct areas of virtue: moral, civic, intellectual and performance. This is a useful distinction within The Jubilee Centre’s framework for character education and helps us to know what to do next with grit.

First, we need to stop telling pupils that they can achieve anything through just grit (passion and perseverance). It is difficult to flourish without the necessary resources, teaching or when hardship falls upon us.

Aristotle described the latter as being ‘broken at the wheel’. Grit is important but our disadvantaged children, especially, need far more besides.

Grit is not their magic bullet to a fruitful and successful life – although it may well play a significant part.

How can we teach grit?

jubilee1The Jubilee Centre is quite clear about teaching the virtues within character education. Virtues, they say, are both taught and caught. In other words, we can teach students the features of virtues and we can model virtuous behaviour for them.

An excellent example of teaching ‘grit’ in action is in the work of Andrew Carter and the ‘tougher minds‘ programme which has long-term goals, grit and self-control(temperance) at its centre. Students have abstained from mobile phones, computer games and television in prioritising hard work and study. The results have been impressive.

Conclusions

Passion and perseverance (grit) are clearly desirable virtues so long as they are reasonably tempered. Neither construct has a particularly long history in psychology or philosophy but to deny them their seat at the table may be premature. Grit is an important virtue to develop in our children, but taken too far could be at the detriment of their well-being and happiness.

In conclusion, Angela Duckworth’s research on grit is significant and it is a virtue worth teaching. We are well placed to teach ‘grit’ within the broader context of character education.

Grit is not a silver bullet (a direct and effortless solution to a problem) for disadvantaged children in education. If taken to be so, we might just as well be saying “just try harder.” We know that’s not right.

 

 

Pupil Premium – Let’s hear it for the boys!

Widening attainment gap for white British boys

poverty shoesWhite British boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are under-performing compared with disadvantaged children from all other groups. Consequently, the social well-being and economic success of communities across the United Kingdom is under threat.

In 2014, just 23.8% (of white British boys) attained the standard UK accountability measure of 5 GCSE (A*-C including English and Maths) in comparison to the national average for all pupils of 56.6%.

This represents the largest of the attainment gaps for disadvantaged children.

In a more recent publication, Perera et al., (2016, p.7) reached a similar conclusion, saying that”By the end of secondary school[…]white British pupils are overtaken by ten other ethnic groups to just below average.”

Misleadingly, the report is not split by gender. As a result, the outcomes for disadvantaged girls mask the even poorer outcomes for boys.

We know that poor children are 43 percent less likely to go to university, and three times as likely to claim unemployment-related benefits at age 19, and their earnings are estimated to be 28 percent lower at age 34. These figures are exacerbated when considering white British boys in isolation. Therefore, school leaders should take this into account in their pupil premium strategy planning.

Welcome recommendations

The recommendations made in the recent report by Hutchinson and Dunford, (2016) are a good starting point. Prioritising policies to increase the quality of age 3-4 child care and increasing the uptake of the 2-year-old offer will have a positive impact on reducing the disadvantage gap which is already appearing at the age of 5.  Across all age groups, we can build stronger communities by encouraging parents both to work and be engaged with their children’s learning. Schools should be pivotal in building these community relationships and identifying collaborative opportunities.

Some schools have used their pupil premium funding effectively to reduce inequality in their communities. As a result, boys from low-income families are leaving these schools with improved opportunity and life chances.  This must be the goal for our entire education system.

Programmes that begin by ensuring that disadvantaged children are able to read in accordance with their age-related expectations prove to be the most effective. More importantly, those that engage parents in literacy initiatives are even more so. In order to support children in our low-income families, we must take responsibility collectively in engaging parents with school-based reading programmes.

Reading Programmes

Recently, I witnessed the incredible impact of involving parents with reading at secondary level with a group of underachieving boys. The boys’ parents were required to attend school in the evening and listen to their children read. The parents were taught some active reading strategies to help them engage with their child’s reading. The boys’ progress accelerated at a rate of at least double that of their peers during the 3 month period and their attitude to learning scores improved.

In order to improve outcomes for disadvantaged boys, I would advocate inviting boys of all ages with their parents to attend weekly reading sessions. You could use some of your Pupil Premium funding to provide books, refreshments and reading prizes. All of your staff should be directed to assist with the programme: supervising sessions, speaking with parents and listening to children of all ages read. What better opportunity for your teachers to get to know their pupils and parents?

The progress of your targeted boys must be closely tracked and monitored in line with the advice offered by Rowland (2015). You should evaluate and refine your strategy regularly.

References

Hutchinson, J & Dunford, J., (2016) Divergent Pathways: the disadvantage gap, accountability and the pupil premium. Education Policy Institute.

Perera, N., Treadaway, M., Johnes, B, Sellen., P., Hutchinson, J., & Mao, L., (2016) Education in England: Annual Report 2016Centre Forum

Rowland, M (2015) An Updated Practical Guide to the Pupil Premium. Edition. John Catt Educational Ltd.

The Lost Boys

Introduction

In this series of posts, I aim to outline how we can tackle these challenges, bring about real improvement for disadvantaged children, and close the attainment gap.

“Giving education to the labouring classes of the poor… would teach them to despise their lot in life, instead of making them good servants in agriculture and other laborious employments to which their rank in society had destined them.”

Whilst this quote from Davies Giddy(Gilbert) (MP) taken from 1807 may represent the morally abhorent views of a bygone era, perhaps we have not moved on as far as we would like to think that we have when it comes to socio-economic status, gender and schooling?

To begin with, let us consider the following:

  1. British disadvantaged boys are the lowest performing group in the UK;
  2. British boys from disadvantaged backgrounds are under-performing compared with disadvantaged children from all other groups;
  3. Consequently, the social well-being and economic success of communities across the United Kingdom is under threat. Suicide rates among young men from poor backgrounds are rising in comparison with other groups;
  4. The attainment gap of white British pupils is narrowed when girls are included in the measure which masks the extent of the attainment gap for boys;
  5. The attainment gap is holding steadfast at about 27% despite the introduction of the Pupil Premium;
  6. For disadvantaged boys the attainment gap is closer to 35%;
  7. 40% of the gapbetween disadvantaged pupils and their peers is already present by the age of five!

The Prologue

Since the Parochial Schools Bill was debated in the house of commons more than 200 years ago, a school system has developed which continues to discriminate on the basis of socio-economic status. Independent fee-paying schools exist for the children of the rich few, whilst the rest fight it out for places in the remaining schools.

Within this landscape, further ‘demographic’ discrimination exists. I have described this as the postcode lottery in a recent post on this site. The postcode lottery presents ‘lucky’ children living in affluent catchment areas the opportunity to secure cherished and limited places at the oversubscribed local good school/academy. These schools could already be considered to be grammar schools in all but name.

For the rest of the population, ‘the labouring classes of the poor’, there are the new and ‘rapidly improving’ spangly academies on the estate and perhaps a local authority run school, although admittedly a rarity these days.

Alongside these exist a range of ‘free’ schools, faith schools and technology schools which attempt to fill the void where schools have been unable to meet the needs of the community.

A New Hope

The national schools comissioner, Sir David Carter, is optimistic that he can increase the number of children going to ‘good’ schools and the evidence indicates that he may be right about that.

The Fair Education Alliance has successfully brought together key stakeholders with Teach First, Achievement for All and Save the Children all on board. The government has ploughed £2.5 million plus (annually since 2011) into the Pupil Premium funding and Teach First is recruiting more high quality graduates into the profession than ever before. On top of all that, £136 million has been invested into the Education Endowment Foundation.

However, regional variations indicate a deep rooted problem: a socio-economic chasm in outcomes and a stagnant achievement gap that remains the achilles heel for school leaders and policy makers alike.

In this series of posts, I aim to consider how we can tackle these challenges, bring about real improvement for disadvantaged children, and close the attainment gap. Together, we will explore a range of potential factors and solutions.

All children, irrespective of their ‘lot in life’ must not have their ‘rank in society’ predetermined by their postcode or their parents’ affluence.

In the meantime, here are six strategies for engaging boys in the classroom for you to review.

6-strategies-engaging-boys-in-the-classroom-1

New Standards for Teacher Development

The Standard for teachers’ professional development, (DFE, 2016) is a welcome document for those of us in education who truly value the significant impact that high quality CPD for teachers can have on pupil outcomes, collective institutional efficacy and professional pride.

In the absence of such guidance, I have witnessed pronounced variation in the value of teacher development opportunities between schools. A well-trained, motivated and self-improving school system is vital if we are to improve the quality of education and inspire social change. Therefore, a robust standard is needed, firstly to provide a framework for planning effective professional development and secondly, to hold school leaders to account for the quality of programmes that they offer.

Divided into five parts, the standard prioritises the findings from a review of evidence by Cordingley et al. (2015) into effective professional development. In summary, these are:

  • Maintaining a clear focus on improving and evaluating pupil outcomes;
  • Using evidence and expertise to underpin professional development;
  • Including collaboration and expert challenge;
  • Sustaining development programmes over time;
  • Ensuring that school leadership prioritises professional development.

Similarly, both Hattie (2015) and Wiliam (2014) have recognised the value of sustained and collaborative professional development which is measured for its impact on pupil outcomes and underpinned by robust research evidence and expertise.

The key implication of the standard (for school leaders) is an institutional commitment: academically, budgetary and strategically, to sustained and effective professional development. As school leaders begin to calibrate precisely what the standard means for them and how they can manipulate their resources, they may do well to consult with experienced leaders who have designed effective professional development programmes that already meet the standard.

Having successTDTfully established collaborative professional learning communities, lesson study and education conferences in a range of s
chools, I am well placed to offer such guidance and support. Alongside David Weston (CEO of The Teacher Development Trust) I have planned and facilitated highly regarded nationwide training for CPD leaders, exploring how the Standard for teachers’ professional development can be most effectively met. I can also show you how to use intelligent school improvement software to support collaboration and monitor the impact of your school improvement programmes on pupil outcomes.

Together, by meeting and perhaps exceeding the standard for teachers’ professional development, we can reduce within-school variation, inspire social change and contribute to a world class self-improving school system.

References

Cordingley, P., Higgins, S., Greany, T., Buckler, N., Coles-Jordan, D., Crisp, B., Saunders, L., Coe, R., (2015) Developing Great Teaching: Lessons from the international reviews into effective professional development. Teacher Development Trust.

DFE (2016) Standard for teachers’ professional development: Implementation guidance for school leaders, teachers, and organisations that offer professional development for teachers. Department for Education.

Hattie, J., (2015) ‘What works best in education: The Politics of Collaborative Expertise’, Open ideas at Pearson, Pearson, London.

Muijs, D., & A. Harris., (2007) ‘Teacher Leadership in (In)action: Three Case Studies of Contrasting Schools’, Educational Management Administration & Leadership, 35 (1) pp. 111-134

Poocharoen, O, & Wong, N., (2016) ‘Performance Management of Collaborative Projects: The Stronger the Collaboration, the Less Is Measured’, Public Performance & Management Review, 39, 3, pp. 607-629

Wiliam, D., (2014) ‘Sustaining Formative Assessment with Teacher Learning Communities’. Available at:http://www.dylanwiliamcenter.com/whitepapers/ (Accessed: 17/06/2016)

The Postcode Lottery

“Education in England is a postcode lottery for children from poorer families; where you are born determines how well you do at school and in life. A child on free school meals has only half the chance of getting good grades as their wealthier peers and Ofsted have revealed that in some areas of the country their chances of succeeding are significantly worse.” (Teach First, 2013)

Mismanagement of the Pupil Premium is failing white children from low income families in the United Kingdom. The Ridiculous claim from The Department for Education (2014) that a 3% increase in GCSE outcomes since 2011 and a 1% narrowing of the attainment gap since 2005 (between this group and their peers) represents success, verges on fraudulent.

That the gap is not closing sufficiently (nor quickly) is due for the most part to: poor decision making at local, regional and national level; a lack of central accountability; an over reliance on spurious research; within school variation; and the governmental support of impotent schemes such as Achievement for All.

One bright spot on an otherwise sombre landscape is the foresight of Brett Wigdortz (CEO of Teach First) in enticing high quality graduates into the profession. This is beginning to have an impact on the quality of teaching in low income areas of London where gaps are narrowing quicker than in other regions of the UK. Clearly other factors are at play in ‘The City’ but this correlation should not be ignored.

The Teach First programme is not without its detractors. Denington (2013) describes Teach First as ‘a gamble for any school’ and describes her experience as one of anguish. She bemoans the lack of support given to Teach First Teachers and the high expectations placed upon them too early in their development. Furthermore, she raises concerns over the variability of experience between new teachers on the programme, across such a broad range of schools.

Wigdortz may be prove to be the catalyst for similar programmes aimed at increasing recruitment of teachers in the UK. School centred initial teacher training (SCITT), for example, is becoming more widespread although, once again, questions persist around the variation in quality of the programmes offered.

The question of what impact SCITT will have on the quality of education received by children from low income families is a complex one. If potential Teach First recruits are drawn to SCITT placements in ‘already good’ schools then the quality of trainees placed in schools with high levels of disadvantage may be reduced. The effect of this may be to make good schools even better whilst reducing the teaching capacitye available to weaker schools.

The low income attainment gap is exacerbated in our coastal towns and rural areas, as highlighted by National Schools Commissioner, Sir David Carter (2016), in his address at Wellington College. Carter sees this as a prominent challenge for his administration. Academisation (by 2022) and stronger leadership are his main solutions and there is emerging evidence that they may indeed have a positive impact on the rapid improvement of schools in those regions.

Source: Department for Education
Source: Department for Education

However, with the attainment gap holding steadfast at about 27% since the introduction of the Pupil Premium in 2011 (Ofsted, 2014), we must assume that generally speaking, disadvantaged children are not catching up with their peers and this needs re-appraisal. Attainment data suggests that disadvantaged children become more disadvantaged as they progress from Key Stage 2 to Key Stage 4.

Professional practitioners must be catalysts for positive social change. Social injustice takes many forms and it falls to us to educate, collaborate and change behaviours in order to  reduce inequalities and promote peace. Our relationship with the communities that we serve and our appreciation of local, national and global contexts make us excellent prospective agents of social change. As independent critical thinkers, we are perhaps more likely to question the status quo and fight for social justice than others.

To level the playing field, we must advantage disadvantaged children – from the day that they are born, and increasingly so as they get older and the gap traditionally widens. The strategies that I have developed are effective, proven and sustainable. “Over the past two years in particular, we have made particularly significant progress with our disadvantaged students. This has been achieved by creative thinking about initiatives to “advantage” disadvantaged learners.”

If you would like to meet to discuss how I can help you to make the most of your Pupil Premium funding and close the attainment gap in your school or district – I would be very happy to speak with you. I’ll leave the final word to a former colleague.

“I would recommend anyone who is fortunate to have the opportunity to seek advice from Paul to listen very carefully and implement his suggestions in your practice and thinking.”

References:

Achievement for All (2014) https://afaeducation.org/downloads/Achievement-for-All-3As-Impact-Report-2013-14.pdf

Carter, D., (2016) https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s2kpg-ZEzuY (accessed:22/07/2016)

Denington, H., (2013Why I quit Teach First, Available at: http://www.managementtoday.co.uk/why-i-quit-teach-first/reputation-matters/article/1190350#GY2Q4PDVlljDmqQ8.99 (accessed: 30/07/2016)

Department for Education (2014) https://www.gov.uk/government/news/pupil-premium-reform-is-benefiting-children-from-all-backgrounds

Ofsted (2014) https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-pupil-premium-an-update

Teach First (2013) Thttps://www.teachfirst.org.uk/news/teach-first-statement-following-ofsteds-report-unseen-children-access-and-achievement-20-years

Wigdortz, B., (2012) Success Against the Odds. Short Books. London

Book Review – Leadership Matters by Andy Buck

Leadership Matters – Highly Recommended

leadership mattersAlthough Leadership Matters offers little to the field of leadership studies, it works superbly well as a handbook for school leadership. The chapters are short, focused and rooted in the writer’s experience of a broad range of schools, much of which can be attributed to the writer’s time leading the London challenge Good to Great programme. Buck offers sound advice on operational and tactical leadership which may be of greater benefit to middle and aspiring senior leaders than experienced and current senior leaders.

Missing from the book are a range of contemporary leadership theories and new directions for leadership in education but Buck is clear at the outset that it is his not his goal to “over-complicate the issue.” Instead, the writer has for the most part re-packaged well established and widely accepted approaches to leadership, simply and to good effect.

Preference has been given to a limited range of leadership theories. Buck elevates transformational leadership, team leadership, leadership styles and trait theory whilst at the same time marginalising servant leadership, authentic leadership, leadership ethics, and women in leadership (see Northouse 2013).

Great stock is placed in Radcliffe’s (2012) future-engage-deliver model which, to me, simply mirrors a strategic-tactical-operational model and adds little of value to it. However, as far as path-goal leadership theories go, both models would serve the leader well and should, intuitively, lead to stronger institutional outcomes. The six key areas for leadership action are developed impressively using contemporary evidence and literature. What makes good CPD (Teacher Development Trust, 2015) and Leverage Leadership (Bambrick-Sontoyo, 2012) are cited in Chapter 11, for example.

Chapter 10 on enabling and managing teams provides the reader with excellent resources for effective delegation and leading 1:1 meetings. The section on leading successful meetings could have explored a wider range of  meeting structures, perhaps citing some examples from The Adaptive School (Garmston and Wellman, 1999), otherwise, the reader is left to discover what the precise protocols for successful meetings are, for themselves.

Buck scatters some engaging animal metaphors across the piste, illustrating his thinking. The giraffe concept helps the reader to understand issues of school context whilst the hedgehog principal describes the importance of maintaining a focus on the things that work: rolling up in a ball if you are being attacked by a fox (if you are a hedgehog). The metaphors reach a crescendo with the well known “Weighing the pig” analogy in relation to assessment and data analysis; it’s a point well made.

That the writer has prioritised situational leadership and context in his leadership model is to be admired. Perhaps a more developed discussion of school types, associated challenges and phases of school development (Carter, 2016) would have added value to this chapter. The National Schools Commissioner is well attuned to the extent of the leadership challenges ahead for schools, particularly those in coastal towns and rural areas. Perhaps Buck would do well to recognise these situational factors in his commentary on educational leadership moving forward?

Given the title of this book, one might have expected a broader range of evidence into the extent to which school leadership affects pupil outcomes and follower satisfaction. That both are absent is disappointing but no great surprise; very little of this type of evidence currently exists. Buck offers Robinson (2009) as proof of leadership impact but this analysis of best evidence is both methodologically flawed and limited in scope. The writers’ use of forward and backward mapping to arrive at “inferences drawn about the role played by leadership in creating the conditions that produced those outcomes” is hardly satisfactory in research terms.

From the outset, Buck compels the reader to “know thyself,’ referring them to a range of personality tools and the Johari Window. Wisely, he cautions the reader against using this knowledge as justification for the way they behave. Instead, he insists that they use it to identify strengths and areas for development. The latter section of Part 1 is biased in its selection of preferred virtues (courage and humility). Exploring virtues and leadership is probably best left to philosophers and those interested in leadership ethics. Regrettably, this section is a weakness in an otherwise useful opening to the book, although the writer’s call for leaders to understand that “What sets the leaders in the best schools apart is that the ambition is for the school itself, not for them as an individual” is worthy of attention.

Of particular note is the space devoted in these pages to challenging conversations and capability procedures. Buck tackles these difficult subjects head on, providing the reader with useful strategies for managing both situations effectively.

Andy Buck has achieved most of what he set out to achieve in his introduction. He has presented the reader with a range of research informed models of Leadership practice for the reader to apply in their own contexts. The extent to which each model is effective may yet to be fully researched but readers should be assured by the writer’s own extensive experiences of what works and what doesn’t in educational leadership.

I highly recommend Leadership Matters to education leaders operating in a range of contexts.

References

Bambrick-Santoyo, P (2012) Leverage Leadership: a practical guide to building exceptional schools. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Carter, D., (2016) https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=s2kpg-ZEzuY (accessed:22/07/2016)

Northouse, P. G. (2013). Leadership: Theory and practice (6th ed.). Thousand Oaks: SAGE.

GARMSTON, R. J., & WELLMAN, B. M. (1999). The adaptive school: a sourcebook for developing collaborative groups. Norwood, Mass, Christopher-Gordon Publishers.

Radcliffe, S (2012) (2nd ed). Leadership: plain and simple. Edinburgh: Pearson

Just Visiting – Leadership Training & Development

conferenceHaving been recruited to facilitate a leadership and development training event for a new team of senior leaders, I can’t wait for this week to get started.

The school board have booked a great venue and I am pleased when the ‘Sat Nav’ guides me uneventfully to the hotel car park. The conference room is at a plush golf hotel and I half expect Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy to pop out from behind a golf buggy on their way to the first tee. My clubs are in the back of the car but I have a feeling that I will be too busy for them to see the light of day.

The conference room is in a great position overlooking the golf course and the staff are very helpful as I figure out the audio visuals. I ask for a second flip-chart and the conference suite manager, Aisher, obliges. I help myself to coffee and settle down to read through my notes.

I half expect Tiger Woods or Rory McIlroy to pop out from behind a golf buggy on their way to the first tee!

I begin the training by introducing the Head Teacher who sets the scene beautifully. He talks about the vision, the values and the key priorities for the year ahead. It’s an inspiring start and I can see that the team are all on board.

I show a couple of tacky video clips and make a couple of tenuous points before we get stuck into the task at hand. I’ve split the two days into three sections: ‘leading the vision’; ‘leading together’ and ‘managing performance’. It’s a simple structure but we have a lot of ground to cover.

We explore each of the key priorities in depth and I make sure that the school values remain uppermost in the minds of the group as we work. The Head Teacher has made it clear that all of our work should be framed around the five school values and I have built this into the activities throughout.

The team work really hard and they are suitably rewarded with some sweet pastries and a stunning lunch.

The delegates complete some peer action planning and hold the team’s first proper meeting, which I observe in preparation for Day 2. We finish at about 6pm and retire to our rooms before dinner.

Kindly, I have been invited to join the team for dinner and I accept. I make the decision pretty early on in the evening that I will take myself off to bed at the first opportunity. This is their evening to bond and develop as a team and I don’t want to get in the way of that.

Representatives from the school board arrive early on Day 2 to address the team and to welcome the new staff. We re-cap all that we have covered on Day 1 and then turn our attention to ‘leading collaboratively’. We discuss effective meetings and collaboration and I present some ideas from the texts that I have read.

I feedback my observations from the meeting on Day 1 and put them through their paces with a strict one hour meeting which has one very clear goal. I nominate one of the group to lead this meeting and coach them as the hour progresses. They are surprised when they complete the task, well within the allocated time, and I reward them by letting them break early for coffee.

The final session is a tough grind. The team are tired and there is still some vital work to do. We discuss leading staff and holding challenging conversations. I role-play typical scenarios with the Head Teacher and the team are surprised by the level of attention to detail and planning that goes into these types of conversations. We briefly touch on coaching and co-acting styles before breaking for the final time for afternoon tea.

We end the day by uploading the action plans from Day 1 onto the school development plan before saying our farewells.

I receive some e-mails later that evening and again the following morning saying how valuable and productive the two days had been, which is extremely rewarding. I send a brief message to the board, leaving them in no doubt that they have a thoroughly professional and capable team of people leading their school.

Later in the week, I visit a boys’ school in Salisbury, Hampshire. The Head Teacher is a friend of an ex-colleague and he welcomes me warmly. After a brief conversation in his office, he takes me on a tour of the site and we visit a few classrooms. We make some plans to work together in September and I head off with a copy of the development plan to read and some proposals to make.

I look forward to the weekend and ‘just visiting’ some more schools next week.

Hopefully, I’ll be invited to come and visit yours. #justvisiting