Sunday, 6 November 2011

What makes federation work? Features of effective leadership

Models of leadership in Federations

The majority of federations surveyed were led by a single headteacher or executive headteacher. This was the case in 23 of the federations visited and 98 that responded to the questionnaire. In addition, all but one of the federations using the executive headship model had senior leaders within each federated school. The reasons given for this by governors and headteachers were: to ensure that parents recognised the school leader; to maintain the individual school characteristics; or because of the distance between schools.
The leadership structure of one federation included the headteacher who spent 50% of his time at each school. Federation enabled the appointment of an additional senior leader; previously at one school there had been no deputy headteacher for three years because of a budget deficit. The deputy headteacher and assistant headteacher both had senior leadership roles, one at each school. This structure was adopted to achieve greater clarity about roles of senior leaders and to give a visible presence of senior leaders even if the headteacher was located at the other school. This had helped to resolve an initially negative perception by some parents who believed they had lost their headteacher to the other school.
In nearly all the federations visited, leadership structures were evolving to capitalise on the opportunity to make better use of expertise and resources. This opportunity was often taken when leaders at various levels left the schools and, increasingly, new appointments were made to the federation rather than to individual schools. The headteachers spoken to reported that this enabled them to achieve greater flexibility in the use of resources. Below are two examples that illustrate how differing leadership structures had been tailored to meet the needs of the particular schools in the federations.
One federation was formed so that a successful school could support one that was causing concern. The leadership structure was changed to ensure a mirror image in each school with the weaker school adopting the structure of the stronger school. There was a single headteacher who divided his time equally between both schools. A deputy headteacher in each school, supported by a third band of leaders known as ‘senior developers’, managed major aspects of each school such as pupils’ progress and teaching and learning. This model was adopted to ensure that there was strong leadership in both schools in the absence of the headteacher.

Another federation consisted of a secondary and primary school. Its purpose was to create a single learning community and improve educational outcomes for the local community. At the start of the second year, the federation leadership group was reshaped by the joint headteachers, following evaluation of the first year of federation.

The group now comprised a number of teams of leaders who were cross-phase and took responsibility for one of the following:

n  raising attainment, particularly in English and mathematics and for the more able

n  quality of teaching and learning

n  cross-phase curriculum development

n  personal development and well-being

n  developing community cohesion.

Federation leaders believed that the current model of leadership was much better than the former structure of two separate schools as they could already demonstrate the benefits for pupils particularly at, or approaching, transition between Key Stages 2 and 3.
In the federations visited, Osfted inspectors found no evidence to suggest that any particular leadership structure was more effective than any other. More important to success were the effectiveness and the strength of leaders and how well the structure was tailored to meet the individual circumstances of the school in each federation. In the best examples, careful attention had been paid to ensuring that the leadership structure met the requirements of the purpose of federation and also reflected the individual circumstances of the community within which the schools were located. Comments made by 28 leaders of federations in their questionnaire responses made it very clear that strategic planning and vision for leadership were crucial to their reported success. Where insufficient attention had been paid to the purpose of the leadership of the federation, then the impact in terms of benefits to pupils was less apparent. The following example illustrates this point.

A federation between a primary school, a nursery and children’s centre was preparing to move to amalgamation. At the time of the survey visit, the federation was led by one headteacher and an acting headteacher. Before this, the federation had been led by the two headteachers. This approach was to some extent designed to allay concerns of parents. The headteachers only collaborated over the Early Years Foundation Stage, but worked separately on school improvement. Consequently, federation developed slowly and had little impact on improvement. With hindsight, school leaders thought that one leader from the start would have been a better solution, insofar as, it may have led to faster improvement of the schools, provided greater clarity about federation and smoothed and speeded the path to amalgamation. The new arrangements had brought about a greater level of teamwork.

More on Federations

No comments:

Post a Comment