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Views & Opinion

Leaders’ corner: Leadership Comment by Chris Smith, head of education services at EES for Schools

By reviewing research on worldwide school improvement, we found that there are 25 characteristics that form the foundations of effective schools within six key dimensions. Leadership has an overarching impact on the effectiveness of a school, and powerful implications for the attainment of its pupils. School leadership is becoming an increasingly

complex and demanding role. Parameters for best practice are constantly

changing; significant changes to statutory assessment requirements, , new special educational needs’ (SEN) requirements and issues with teacher recruitment are but a few of the current issues faced by headteachers. Research commissioned by the Department for Education (DfE) found that 25 percent of headteachers are unable to find the time they would like to spend staying close to teaching and learning in the classroom. However, the most effective school leaders prioritise learning, enjoy teaching and spend time helping their teachers. Distributed leadership is a contemporary

approach to headship that creates a network, rather than a hierarchy, of leadership.

Distribution recognises leadership potential in every member of staff and all are empowered to take responsibility. Teachers are empowered to grow into middle and senior leadership roles, School leadership is second only to classroom teaching in its influence on pupil learning, Therefore having leaders that have the capacity to develop the quality of what happens in classrooms ensures that lesson are relevant, fulfilling and challenging for learners. School effectiveness can also be supported

through collaboration with other schools. Research has found that collaboration between schools is valuable for all involved, especially when stronger schools support weaker ones. Leaders are able to share professional knowledge, encouraging schools to develop their techniques and improve learning outcomes. High-performing leaders spend more time

developing an in depth understanding of the school’s needs, ensuring they have a comprehensive self-evaluation framework and pupil performance records in place that can be used in partnership with the governing body in order to assess and plan the development of the school.

In addition, it has been widely documented

that effective home-school communication positively correlates with pupil outcomes. Headteachers should ensure that the school has a well-managed internal and external communication system to build good relationships with parents, local agencies and the community. Transparency of communication improves accountability and engagement, in turn ensuring that everyone is involved in school life. Headteachers have complex roles within the

school environment, so it is imperative that they remain in touch with robust research about the most effective methods of delivering best practice. According to Ofsted, 75 per cent of heads are doing a “good”, “very good” or “excellent” job, compared to only 50 per cent in the mid-90s. This means that leaders have raised their performance standards greatly in the last two decades. We are starting from a very positive position, and there is already plenty of good practice in UK education, but there is more we can do to improve our standards and become world leaders in education.

Worried about sexting? Comment byMark Bentley, LGfL

Embarrassment, regret, horror? How else could anyone possibly respond to an incident of self- generated indecent imagery (that’s sexting to you and me)? Surely no self-respecting young person would simply shrug their shoulders, or even worse, revel in the attention… Or would they? How can we support the digital citizens we care for in 2016? Few issues illustrate the generational digital

divide better than sexting. “It didn’t happen in my day,” we are prone to declare. All the evidence would indicate that it did though – just not in such an easily sharable format. “That’s not the point – adults don’t do it.” Errrm… a 2015 study by Drexel University revealed 88 per cent of Americans admit to having sent sexually explicit images or messages. So if adults do it, and did it when they were

younger as well, does that mean the #justsayno message is totally wide of the mark? New Home Office guidance in February 2016

has finally addressed the legal anomaly whereby two consenting 17-year-olds sharing intimate photos with each other could end up with criminal records and on the Sex Offenders’ Register. But that doesn’t mean that the risks associated with sharing intimate pictures are mere scaremongering. There is plenty to worry about.

Even before you consider the many issues

related to child sexual exploitation, there are still many dangers and potential for upset relating to sexting between young people. But as we said in this column about geotagging last month, the important thing is to have open and honest conversations about the risks, and to ensure that everyone knows where to turn if problems arise. Rather than reinvent the wheel, teachers and

other professionals are well advised to turn to the many excellent materials that have been produced to facilitate non-confrontational sexting discussions. SWGfL’s ‘So You Got Naked Online… ’ and the NSPCC’s ‘I Saw Your Willy’ are ideal conversation starters; ChildNet and ChildLine are just two of the places to turn for help and advice. LGfL has collated and curated key sexting

resources (for teachers, parents and students) and made them available for teachers to browse within the open-access portal. Most online-safety experts agree that a

common-sense approach to sexting education is the best starting point. So for example, CEOP’s ThinkUknow site recommends teaching students to apply these seven simple tests: 1. Why am I doing it? 2. What if I don’t do it?


3. Would I do it face to face? 4. Am I under the influence? 5. Would I put it on a billboard?? 6. Could I send something else? 7.

Is this abuse? It is vital that young people are aware that a

change in prosecution advice does not make under-age sexting illegal. What’s more, you are just as likely to end up in a police station if you pressure others into sexting or if you share someone else’s intimate images. It is vital too that they understand a staggeringly high proportion of these pictures are shared between friends, and that the distress caused by naked images going viral has even led to young people taking their own lives. Top of the list and vitally important to say: any

sexual approach by an adult is totally illegal and should be reported immediately to CEOP. But at the same time, adults need to

communicate that nothing is too embarrassing to talk about, and thanks to the fabulous work of ChildLine, Safer Internet Centre, CEOP and the Internet Watch Foundation, it is sometimes possible to take action and have images removed from certain sites. So let’s keep those old- fashioned communication channels open!

April 2016

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