Conversation with a purpose – my take on our first Leadership Dialogues 

Meetings can be a drag, a real bore. Let’s face it, in the world of education and schools we have lots of meetings. The higher up the leadership ladder you go, the more meetings you attend, the more time they take up and the less time you have to spend on doing the work! Although meetings are a necessary evil they can be tiresome, irrelevant and a waste of time. We can all be guilty of having wasteful meetings, the ones which chip away at the minutes where we arrive home cursing the lost hours that we’ll never get back. This is why purposeful collaboration is so important. We’re all busy people so if there’s no purpose to a meeting or there isn’t going to be a useful outcome then we should be brave and have the bottle to knock it on its head. I work in an environment where purposeful collaboration is paramount and impact versus effort drives everything we do so I wanted to make sure I put together something special before I approached our Headteacher with the idea.

Senior leaders regularly attend network meetings which are influenced by their school’s geography, often schools with little in common are put together like one big dysfunctional family and as the analogy suggests, the relationships can add little value to any of the schools involved. This isn’t always the case but often the minimal impact is overshadowed by the time consumed. 

I decided to do something a little differently and with the backing of our Headteacher and some other great leaders we have set the wheels in motion. Increasingly, more teachers are creating opportunities to share practice through events like #TeachMeet and various other school-led collaborations. What is sometimes missing is the opportunity for senior leadership teams to share in an open environment. Where conversations about strengths and areas for development are honest and which result in enhanced understanding, reassurance and purposeful support. At the back end of Summer Term I approached our Headteacher with this idea. And so Leadership Dialogues was born.

On 29th September colleagues from a number of schools across the North West came together to discuss issues in their schools and share ideas to support one another as we moved through our foci for the year ahead. What was different about this gathering was the transparency and openness with which people spoke. The tone had been set with words of welcome and the philosophy behind how we lead our school. Progress 8 had just been securely released to schools so the discussion that had been planned went a little off track, another variation from the norm of meetings with extensive and rigid agendas. For many schools, the Progress 8 score they were expecting and the one that they actually achieved were quite different so the opportunity to share thoughts and feelings around this was reassuring at a time when it was needed the most. The vulnerability that all of us felt could be shared because it felt safe to do so, it also meant that other areas that we were working on could be discussed in earnest. David Jones of Meols Cop High School shared his experience, his reassuring and humble approach helped add to an already uplifted room, kindly offering the expertise of his school along the way. The leadership team from Marple Hall gave their insight into using data effectively, we were able to add our own approaches to data into the mix as well. This meant that everyone left with lots of ideas to consider, things that we may not have thought about in our own setting or in the isolation of our local authorities.

At the end of the discussions everyone left with a collective feeling of we can do this along with some concrete ideas of how. A welcome refrain from the that’s another three hours of my life I’ll never get back feeling that meetings can sometimes leave you with. There were visits booked, expertise offered and further collaborations planned before our next gathering sometime in December. There was a point to our collective and there has been action as a result of it. 

We’re planning to hold another session nearer to Christmas which Lisa Edwards at the Maharishi School in Lancashire has very kindly offered to host. It’s not too late to join in and share support with other senior leadership teams who are passionate about education. If you’d like to know more then follow the link to our previous bolg here and if you’d like to be part then get in touch through the contact pages and we’ll add you to the list. We’re hoping that together we can grow a strong network of purposeful collaboration and support. 

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