Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Growing potential

Members can do their part to develop the next generation of leaders by helping ASCL grow its network of emerging leaders, says Brian Lightman.

One of the most worrying statistics in education is the percentage of teachers who drop out of teaching within three years of qualifying. Some 40 per cent are no longer in post.

This is an incredible waste of talent and of the investment in their training. Motivating and supporting them more effectively so that they remain in post is a crucially important leadership challenge.

Some of the solutions might be found in a recent publication Lessons from the front - 1,000 new teachers speak up published by a group of graduates who entered the teaching profession via the Teach First scheme.

The chapter that immediately caught my attention was on leadership. What might such a young and inexperienced group of teachers have to offer in this area, some might ask? The answer is simple - a highly refreshing perspective without the slightest hint of arrogance or precociousness.

The authors argue that leadership should pervade all levels of a school's operation. They distinguish between 'formal' and 'behavioural' leadership. Whilst recognising that the former will be the responsibility of postholders within a formal structure, they argue that the latter should be a characteristic of all teachers, however inexperienced.

We should be developing leadership capability in all members of our organisations, they say, and we should encourage and support all of those teachers who display it by being appropriate role models.

To these enthusiastic young teachers, behavioural leadership means:

  • a can-do / will-do mentality

  • enthusiasm for taking ownership, even without a mandate to do so

  • embracing innovation and empowering others at every level to do the same

  • strong soft skills, especially interpersonal and creative skills

  • a focus on pupil outcomes

In practice this set of behaviours involves:

  • demonstrating by example the importance of teamwork

  • emphasising the values and ethos to ensure that they are embedded in all aspects

  • having a presence in the corridors and out on the yard

  • taking part in working groups on all aspects of the school's operation and turning their hands to anything that needs to be done

Other chapters explain their absolute commitment to working proactively within the wider community and their wish to be freed of constraints that hinder innovation.

Reading this publication gave me grounds for considerable optimism about the future of our profession. As we enter the period in which we expect unprecedented numbers of senior leaders in England and Wales to retire, the requirement to develop the next generation of leaders has never been more pressing.

ASCL recognises that it has an important part to play in this process. We have recently established a network of emerging leaders and we are encouraging members to put forward colleagues' names for it, with their permission. You can do so at www.ascl.org.uk

With your support we will contact them directly to assess what they feel they need in order to become leaders of the future. They will be invited to special conferences and given opportunities to engage with us about the future of school and college leadership and become a strong network of future leaders.

Experience in those schools lucky enough to recruit recent graduates shows that there are numerous entrants to our profession who have the commitment and potential to succeed the current generation. It is incumbent upon us to support them and encourage them to stay. Let us see how many we can retain in 2008.

Brian Lightman

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