Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Saddled with responsibility

Examples of the importance of distributed leadership are everywhere, says John Morgan, from the latest sporting awards to ASCL Council.

On yer bike,SPOTY! Don't worry. I've not lost all sensitivity after a term away from school. Nor have I lost the ability to spell. Although you will read these thoughts in January, deadlines require that they are composed at the beginning of December and the observation above is actually wishful thinking, having just seen the shortlist for BBC's Sports Personality of the Year.

I am hoping (in vain, I fear) that the prize will have gone to Mark Cavendish, the world's fastest cyclist, who achieved a remarkable six stage wins in the Tour de France, repeatedly outsprinting his rivals; a feat far surpassing those of the other contenders for the BBC award.

To win a stage of Le Tour, particularly one which ends in a mass sprint, requires teamwork not unlike that of leading a successful school or college. Without an equally outstanding team riding in support, the sprinter will find it impossible to win. If he punctures, a couple of the team will wait behind to lead him back to the bunch, whilst the rest try to keep the peleton under control.

As the final, lung-bursting sprint approaches, every member of the team has an individual and a collective responsibility to lead the sprinter to the perfect position from which to strike for the line.

I'm sure, whichever role you fulfil in your team, you can draw many a parallel with these situations, particularly the leader taking the public glory! I mean no insult to heads and principals here, who, I am sure, always follow Cavendish's example of attributing the success wholly to his team's brilliance.

You can probably sense a certain bias creeping in on the side of cyclists. This is due to having a father-in-law who still rides through the North Yorkshire Moors in his 80s. Of course, like any good teacher, I recognise the outstanding achievements of each of the shortlisted athletes and would undoubtedly have used them as an assembly theme - as I hope many of you have or will, as Sport Relief Day approaches.

With me away from school for the year, members of my own leadership team have each stepped up in responsibility and their success will be a far better measure of our leadership capacity than anything Ofsted might concoct. Confident in that success, I have been able to concentrate on leading another wonderful team, ASCL Council.

Not that long ago, the members of Council were predominantly headteachers. Yes, there are still plenty of heads, but now there are also college principals, deputy heads, assistant heads, business managers and executive heads.

They work in 11-14, 11-16, 11-18, 16-19, 16-adult schools and colleges; single sex, mixed, horizontal and verticallytutored schools and colleges; institutions that are academies, faith-based, community-based, foundations, federations, trusts and even links in a chain.

When they come together over two days, four times a year, their joint experience in committee and plenary debate sessions ensures that elected officers and our general secretary and the staff benefit from a collective wisdom second to none within education.

It is the strength of that collective wisdom, based in the reality of everyday experience, that gives ASCL its credibility with government, local authorities and, most important of all, our members. If I can help in any way, please contact me at john.morgan@ascl.org.uk

John Morgan

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