Lead from the Centre

A couple of weeks ago I attended the #SSATNC14 in Manchester, here is my 3rd reflection about the keynote from David McQueen @DavidMcQueen.

David mcqueen 2

It was fantastic to finally meet David and hear him speak, his talk was inspirational and it was also brilliant that he attended the Teachmeet in the evening to do a follow up presentation.

His message was all about student leadership but there were key messages for all leaders within schools.

He started by asking the audience to write down the three most important values to you and then to write down the three most important values to your school. David then said that there shouldn’t be a mismatch between them and if there is then some searching questions are needed. I agree with this because you need to hold close your own values because they define you and the contribution that you make to your school, every day you can be tested but it is vital to promote the values and vision of the school wherever you can.

It was reminiscent of a blog post that I did a couple of years ago and also one of the best TED talks I have seen.

The TED talk by Simon Sinek which is about how great leaders inspire action. If you haven’t seen it then you really must it is a great clip on leadership.

It is a really interesting talk relating to leadership in essence what puts others, (individuals), organisations apart from the rest – ‘they think, act and communicate differently’

David talked passionately about how important student leadership is and in the context of the previous keynote speakers it reinforced that we need to be ensuring that young people are empowered to develop their leadership potential. This is a real strength of our school and something that we are continuing to strive to improve because it is valued by the community.

As David said ‘Give students leadership opportunities because responsibility empowers’

What opportunities are you providing for student leadership?


Are we doing enough to make students think about jobs?

Last week I attended the #SSATNC14 in Manchester, here is my 2nd reflection about the keynote from Sherry Coutu @scoutu

scale up devon


It was interesting to hear Sherry Coutu talk about the information, advice and guidance that is given to young people about their future careers and where it comes from? On a wider level are schools developing the knowledge, skills and attributes to nurture future entrepreneurs? Are you doing this in your school?

She started off by saying that 100% of the new jobs today are created from companies less than 5 years old and therefore as a result was stressing the importance of start-up companies on our economy and on our future.

She spoke about the Scale up Report which you can download here and was asking the question how was the education system preparing young people for this?

“The UK might not have its own Silicon Valley to speak of just quite yet. However, according to a report released today, some homegrown tech giants akin to Google and Facebook might just be in the forecast if the government supports the emergence of more “scale-up” companies on the business scene.

Launching the Scale-up Report on UK Economic Growth, which bases its findings on an analysis of 50 Scale-up programmes piloted in 20 different countries, Sherry Coutu CBE, non-executive director of the London Stock Exchange, predicts that “scale-up” companies could “contribute a million new jobs and an additional £1 trillion to UK Economic Growth by 2034”


There was also an interactive map where you can look at the specific data on your area (see the image at the top of the post)

What lessons could be learnt in this report for schools?

How do we inspire young people to do this?

One way is to bring in real life local entrepreneurs into school and how you can do this is by using Founders4schools. I searched the website and found 26 very close to my school.

Founders4Schools is a free service for teachers in secondary schools across the UK. It uses technology to make it easier and more time efficient for teachers to arrange events at their schools.

Through the Founders4Schoools website teachers can:

  • search for successful founders near to their school (search also encompasses founders willing to travel at their own expense)
  • invite speakers and have responses tracked by the platform (a huge time saving from email and phone calls)
  • arrange their own events directly with speakers


Pilot programmes run in 2011-2 reached over 2450 students and measured results.

  • 96% of students felt inspired by the speakers and debate with 94.6% saying they would be interested in attending an event like this again
  • 54% of students want to find out more about Business planning or technology skills after one of our events, compared with a national average of only 24% of students who hope to study STEM


Learning to make a difference: Creativity, Community & Character

Last week I attended the #SSATNC14 in Manchester, here is my 1st reflection about the keynote from Charles Leadbeater @leadbeaterch.

Charles started off by setting the scene of the current context and the future challenges for education, to be honest after the high octane start from the SSAT playing loud ‘school disco’ music as we entered the room followed by a fantastic student street dancing group playing all my old favourites I was feeling on a high but then hit the ground with a thump.

Charles said when talking about education ‘The future holds extremely tight constraints for us, the learners we are and will be working with will have more and more economic pressure on them. If you add to this a surge of rising aspirations, what this gives you is a recipe for deep frustration on institutions.’

Is this true? To be honest I don’t think I disagree with this, do you?

So how do we address this? Charles discussed that the potential answer is what we have in abundance which is the potential for collaboration and technology.

This is good to hear because I believe this is what successful schools are already doing or beginning to do, these schools are being incredibly brave that despite a unstable and rapidly changing educational landscape and despite the ‘system’ some are trying to collaborate more and trying to engage with technology in creative and ‘risky’ ways.

I agree with what Charles said (although I may add some others) that for an institution to be successful at the moment and in the future they need to be:

  1. Open
  2. Adaptive
  3. Innovative
  4. Purposeful

However how many schools out there can do this? I would say that most schools are ‘adaptive’ they have to be especially with so many changes happening at every level and I don’t think I ever visited or worked in a school that hasn’t been purposeful so these surely are a given. However how many schools these days despite greater autonomy and apparently ‘less bureaucracy’ are more open? Are schools collaborating more than ever before or has it become more competitive? Finally how many schools out there feel that they can afford to be innovative?

I know from my experience of what we are doing and the blogs and articles I read that there are brilliant examples out there but please leave a comment to share if you think you are more open and innovative or if you simply feel you can’t be.

Finally Charles left us with what I can only describe as almost a manifesto and to be honest I don’t think I disagree with any of it, I wonder if any of the political parties would be interested in using it for the next general election?

The measures of success for young people when they leave school should be:

Knowing: how to search, test, reassemble and reapply

Questioning: how to prose and question

Communicating: how to present, show and persuade people

Collaborating & making how to create tangible products with others and to bring into the real world

Persisting: how to stick at it, overcome obstacles & a sense of well-deserved achievement

After what was a low start to the keynote (nothing to do with his performance) but I guess the realisation of just how things are, as it progressed I came away feeling optimistic and also reassured about how we approach things at DHSB. We are tackling these tough times with creativity, community and character.

What do you think?


The Learner – ‘Learn, Live, Love, Grow’


I will be writing several posts over the next week feeding back on what overall was a great experience at the 2014 SSAT National Conference. It was packed full of inspiring keynote speakers, student voice and the opportunity to meet, share and enter into some exciting and engaging conversations around education. For now please take the opportunity to have a look at the Twitter feed through #SSATNC14

However a great short summary of the event can be seen from the T-shirt of one of the fantastic student performances. This is from a student from Swindon High School and it epitomises what the conference was about.