I’ve spent a bit of time this year chairing a national group called the Ethical Leadership Commission. It’s a set of people from all sorts of groupings in education, including Ofsted. We’ve ben thinking about the fundamentals of school leadership, to see if we could help hard pressed folks to see beyond the daily things-to-do, things-to-worry-about and things-to-try-to-forget-about-for-now lists. We wanted school leaders to think about what schools are for and how they should act. Governors, as well as Heads.
This seemed important not just because I like to get to the bottom of stuff. It’s important because the world has changed quickly in education. Now that different people and different organisations run schools, who is keeping an eye on the purpose of schooling, as well as its outcomes? Tallis is a straightforward case, still a community school run by the local authority. Other schools run themselves, are a part of an academy trust or a larger chain, some are church schools, some ‘Free’. I wonder if this confuses taxpaying citizens?
Despite differences in the system, we all have a one crucial thing in common: children. Tiny children, large children, noisy children, silent children, children who love school, aren’t so fussed, like big crowds, prefer to be alone, arty, music-y, scienc-y, mathematic-y, sporty, happy, thoughtful, angry and sanguine children. Parents send children to our schools – all sorts of schools – and trust teachers to do a good job with them. Largely we do. Sometimes there are blips.
Parents and society therefore trust us to do two things. First, to be diligent and trustworthy public servants. Second, to model the behaviour of a good society to children: to show them how to be good citizens. Both of those are huge responsibilities. The first is carried out at work: doing a good job with teaching and results, for example. The second is harder to pin down. We teach character and values, but do parents see that in the way our schools run?
The Ethical Leadership Commission has been working on three things. First, agreeing some key language that school leaders and teachers might use to talk about this. Second, to provide some training materials so that we can all think about this responsibility together. Third, to set up a structure so that there is a space to think about ethics and the pressures that sometimes constrain our decision-making. It’s interesting work, as you can imagine.
I’d be interested to know what you think of the draft words. The first seven are based very closely on the Seven Principles for Public Life. If you work in the public sector, you may know them.
The Framework for Ethical Educational Leadership
Ethical educational leadership is based upon the Seven Principles for Public Life.
Leaders should act solely in the interest of children and young people.
Leaders must avoid placing themselves under any obligation to people or organisations that might try inappropriately to influence them in their work. Before acting or taking decisions they must declare and resolve openly any perceived conflict of interest and relationships.
Leaders must act and take decisions impartially and fairly, using the best evidence and without discrimination or bias. Leaders should be dispassionate, exercising judgement and analysis for the good of children and young people.
Leaders are accountable to the public for their decisions and actions and must submit themselves to the scrutiny necessary to ensure this.
Leaders should act and take decisions in an open and transparent manner. Information should not be withheld from scrutiny unless there are clear and lawful reasons for so doing.
Leaders should be truthful.
Leaders should exhibit these principles in their own behaviour. They should actively promote and robustly support the principles and be willing to challenge poor behaviour wherever it occurs. Leaders include both those who are paid to lead schools and those who volunteer to govern them.
The second set of words try to explain what we think makes up good leadership.
Schools and colleges serve children and young people and help them grow into fulfilled and valued citizens. As role models for the young, how we behave as leaders is as important as what we do. Leaders should show leadership through the following personal characteristics or virtues.
Leaders should be trustworthy and reliable. They hold trust on behalf of children and should be beyond reproach. They are honest about their motivations.
Leaders should use experience, knowledge, insight understanding and good sense to make sound judgements. They should demonstrate restraint and self-awareness, act calmly and rationally, exercising moderation and propriety as they serve their schools wisely.
Leaders should demonstrate respect generosity of spirit and good temper. Where unavoidable conflict occurs, difficult messages should be given humanely.
Leaders should be fair and work for the good of all children from all backgrounds. They should seek to enable all young people to lead useful, happy and fulfilling lives.
Leaders should be conscientious and dutiful. They should demonstrate humility and self-control, supporting the structures and rules which safeguard quality. Their actions should protect high-quality education.
Leaders should work courageously in the best interests of children and young people. They protect their safety and their right to a broad, effective and creative education. They hold one another to account courageously.
Leaders should be positive and encouraging. Despite difficulties and pressures they are developing excellent education to change the world for the better.
None of us is claiming that we are perfect. All of us know that the responsibility is huge.
Are these the right principles? What do you think?