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Russell Hobby

Russell Hobby

Russell Hobby, general secretary of NAHT blogs about his thoughts and passions and the work of the National Association of Head Teachers.

New spirit of initiative

The NAHT is taking ownership of standards and setting out bold plans for the future.

I was reading a Guardian editorial recently that discussed some of the ideas put forward at the NAHT's annual conference in May. It struck me that, for the first time in a long while, we had a story about -education reform triggered by the -profession, rather than by politicians imposing it upon us. I like that. 

The most effective way to crowd out political interference is through professional leadership: by having an open and honest dialogue with the public about what we would prefer our education system to be like. Also, by demonstrating that the most ambitious people for our schools are the people who work in them. 

At conference, I outlined the two aims that underpin our vision as an association: to take ownership of standards and to take responsibility for each other. This is what it means to lead and what it means to be in a union. We are, after all, a union of leaders. This gives us different opportunities and challenges to other associations. 

We have already begun this journey. Projects like -Assure (traded services, see page 16) and Aspire (school improvement) are obvious examples. Even something as simple as -taking on the Seizing Success conference after it was -cancelled shows a new spirit of initiative. 

The NAHT's commission on assessment also showed both leadership and responsibility. We stepped into the breach created by the end of levels to set out the principles for a shared approach to assessment. I'm also pleased to say that we have commissioned further work on translating the new curriculum into assessment criteria, which we will make freely available to members. This should be ready in July. We are also exploring connections with subject associations. 

Our NAHT Edge project is the next step in this direction (see pull-out, centre pages). We will take responsibility for developing and mentoring the next generation of school leaders through an affiliated section of the association. NAHT Edge will be open to all middle leaders in education, providing trade union protection and high quality professional development
for leaders who want to make a difference to the education system.

A shared voice between senior and middle leaders in schools will be a powerful force indeed. NAHT Edge also enables us to test out and design the latest technology without disrupting core NAHT services. Once they are established, everyone will benefit. 

Beyond NAHT Edge, our vision for the future is captured in a -radical new education manifesto called Owning what is ours (see news, page 7). It sets out some bold plans ± although perhaps not as bold as some of the press coverage might have implied ± and some exciting projects for the profession.

It contains healthy criticism of the current state of affairs,  but it is more than a list of demands: it is something for the profession to lead on, without necessarily waiting for permission. Look out for a copy soon. 

This is all very positive, but we mustn't forget the need to be critical when we see things we don't like and to fight hard where members are being unfairly threatened. We continue with both.

In reality, there is no conflict between the demands of
a trade union and the demands of a professional association. Our unionism gives teeth to our professionalism; while our professionalism makes our unionism proactive and constructive. This is a healthy niche to fill.


Russell Hobby is NAHT general secretary

20 June 2014