Looking back over the last 12 months, I have regularly taken time to reflect on the situation, recognising the extreme pressure on school, families, communities and our partners, whilst in the midst of a global pandemic. It has been a period when schools took responsibility for their communities, cared for each other and kept each young person visible and at the centre. Much has been said about recovery over the last few months, but as the spring break approaches, school leaders, teachers and support staff also need recovery as much as their students, and should take this time to reflect and rest over the Easter-your collective contribution has been heroic and I would like to thank you all.

The School Leadership Supply Crisis report published on Friday reveals that the three words most used by leaders to describe their experience during the pandemic are challenging, exhausting and stressful, but yet I would also add that school staff have been resourceful, resilient and compassionate. The report describes the toll this last 12 months has had on leaders and also summarises that leaders are thinking twice about whether running a school is really what they want to do. However, figures also reveal that headteacher turnover this year could be lighter than usual and Teachvac report a 28% decline in adverts for headship, compared to the normal annual pattern. Our Education Strategy is promoting the consideration of alternative models around school leadership, challenging the one head, one school model. As locally we are contending with, reducing pupil numbers, the subsequent impact on school budgets and the number of small schools that we have in Camden. It is not just about the concept of Executive Headship, but the wider benefits of schools’ successions planning, the sharing and distribution of resources along with personnel and expertise. 46% of assistant and deputy heads do not aspire to headship (it was 40% in 2016), so the role of head of school provides an alternative route to developing school leaders across our local system. Clearly, this is a topic for all chairs of governors and governing bodies to consider and discuss openly, whilst also being mindful of safeguarding and nurturing the well-being of our leaders in school.

I have really enjoyed the spring series of Camden Conversations that have been part of the learning and provocation of the Education Strategy work; this week, listening to Bill Lucas and Louise Stoll was no exception. Having been a headteacher who designed and introduced a creative curriculum back in the day, it was fascinating to hear and scrutinise the progress made and learning applied to models and approaches across the world. Getting the balance right is always key and I really liked the point Bill Lucas raised around fostering students’ creativity, where he suggested that creativity and critical thinking can be learnt and assessed in all subjects. I always thought that the use of the word creative could be interpreted and applied as a flaky alternative, but again Bill asserted the need to be intentional and clear about what we want to achieve using rubrics to help clarify. Plenty of food for thought for sure.

Please take time to reflect over the Easter break on what your school has achieved and learned, there will be plenty more challenges ahead on this road to recovery.

Jon Abbey

Managing Director of Camden Learning


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