Leadership: surely developing these essential skills must start young and in schools?
No, no – I am definitely not advocating more work for teachers and more additions to the curriculum (let alone assessment)! Schools have always helped develop leadership skills in their young people – it’s just that they may not have always called it that. This is simply a call to articulate more what leadership is and for us to recognise more leadership skills in our young people.
From nursery school to sixth form, there are so many chances to take the lead – on the sports field, in the arts, within classroom work, in enterprise activities, assemblies, charity fund raising projects, being a school prefect etc. All of these opportunities help our children and young people test and try out their own developing leadership skills, as well as to learn from the mistakes that they make along the way. But we don’t tend to talk about it much in this context.
What’s more the “adults” are often more than a bit hesitant about even acknowledging that leadership skills actually exist in the young!
Last year, Joy Ballard was our category winner of “Leadership in the Public Sector”. Many of you of course will know her and recognise her from watching Educating Cardiff, which was shown on Channel 4 in the autumn of last year.
Joy took up her role as Headteacher at Willows High in September 2011. At that point and following the closure of another school Willows High was the lowest performing school in Wales. As Headteacher, Joy was responsible for the wellbeing and achievement of every pupil and for ensuring that her team of staff offered a high quality learning experience for all pupils. Under her leadership Willows became the county’s highest performing school compared to any other in challenging circumstances.
Last year, I asked Joy how her life experience had made her the leader she is today: “My life experience taught me that without a decent education and good qualifications, very few people are able to achieve their full potential. I gained my very first qualification when I was 26 and prior to that my life was very difficult. I lived in poverty as a child and became a young parent to three children and my only means of supporting them was through various part time cleaning jobs. I wanted a better life for my children so engaged in an adult education course and my life really started from there. I learned that every child deserves a chance and needs a champion in their corner.” Hearing this it is easy to understand how someone like Joy was attracted to apply to be headteacher at Willows High.
Read more about what Joy explained in her Leadership Journey here.
Teach First is a now well-established charity which is on a mission to close the attainment gap in UK schools and to end educational inequality. Statistically, the stark reality is that 33% of pupils on free school meals achieved 5 A*- C at GCSE compared to 60.5% of all other pupils in the UK.
Each year Teach First trains and supports new teachers to work in primary and secondary schools serving low income communities across the UK. They know it takes time and persistence to change the story of a child’s lifetime. However, they firmly believe that this can start with the dedication and leadership of a great teacher who inspires a child to work towards the future they want. Clearly Joy Ballard has much in common with Teach First!
Dr Jennifer Owen Adams is the Director of Teach First Cymru. I asked her to explain exactly why Teach First puts “leadership” at the heart of what it does.
“Leadership is at the heart of good teaching. When you teach, you lead; you lead the learning of your pupils, you lead on your own learning and development and you lead by putting in place actions, strategies and behaviours which deliver transformative change for pupils. Leadership for us is about taking responsibility for your pupils’ learning and executing that responsibility within a values-based dimension: integrity, excellence, humility and partnership. Leadership is also about you taking responsibility for your own learning and having the self possession and self improving mind set to become an excellent practitioner and maintain that excellence. Finally, leadership for us is about leading change; being a progressive thinker and practitioner striving for improvements every day in your classroom, department, school and society.”
Last year, the Leading Wales Awards category winner for the Young Leader (14 -25 years) was Sam Lewis. Sam is the Operations Manager at Randomz and is responsible for all aspects of operations, systems and procedures cutting across all Randomz Enterprises. This includes ensuring provision of employability programmes, supervision of volunteers in specific areas of operation, waste management, budget monitoring and business development in association with the Facility Manager. You can read Sam’s Leadership Journey here.
Now we need you to help us find this year’s inspirational Young Leaders by telling us about the impact of their leadership. Nomination document can be downloaded from www.leadingwalesawards.co.uk/nominate and need to be submitted by Friday March 11th 2016.
Help us identify and celebrate outstanding and inspirational Young Leaders in Wales!