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An introduction to NAHT’s conference on empowering leaders in challenging times

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I began working in education in 2003, which in some ways feels like a very long time ago, and in others, just the blink of an eye. Many, many things have changed since then, but some have not changed enough.
School funding scheme ‘incompetent’ – BBC headline from April 2003.

There have been few times in the last 30 years as challenging as today for school leaders. At the heart of this testing time is the lack of funding available for schools and the demands put on schools to fund things they haven’t had to in the past.

On top of this, we have extremely high expectations of ourselves and those put on us by government. These expectations are appropriate, but they’re demanding. That is why this year’s school business leaders’ conference (Tuesday 19 June 2018 in Birmingham) is entitled ‘empowering leaders in challenging times.’ Strong and confident leadership is more important than ever before to give our children the best education and, as a result, chance in life.   

Thirty years ago, a child growing up in an average provincial town would, most likely, work their way through school with limited ambition and no great drive to work beyond the outskirts of their town. Their working life would probably take the shape of the job their parents did, and they would most likely stay in that job for the majority of their lives.

In today’s world, quite rightly, we believe all children can achieve. We know that children from disadvantaged backgrounds (whose parents were often told as children that they wouldn’t amount to much) can rise from their disadvantage and become who and what they want to become - often in a series of jobs well beyond their town or even country.

We would all subscribe to today’s vision for young people, but we can’t underestimate the challenge to the education system that this brings. As established and entrenched stereotypes are unpicked, the time and resource investment needed to help children with disadvantage achieve their true potential has been increased.

To lead a school in these circumstances takes vision and a sense of social imperative as well as a well-thought through and focused approach to teaching and learning. School business leaders have a critical role to play, not only in focusing their expertise to allow the school to become more efficient in all areas but also to contribute to the strategy and direction of the school in tandem with other senior leaders. Together they make a formidable team in creating the dynamism to empower all staff to raise standards in areas previously thought impossible.

Our conference this year will allow delegates to plan a way forward for their schools, so they are best placed to empower all staff to lead in challenging times! It will also allow them to evaluate the current effectiveness of their teams and how they can position their school best to meet the challenges that lie ahead.

I am very excited about the line-up of keynote speakers who are coming to share their thoughts and insight with us:

  • Paul Whiteman, NAHT general secretary
  • Stephen Morales, ISBL chief executive
  • David Hyner, goal setting researcher and motivational speaker (he will teach us that smart goals don’t work and show us how to achieve our goals)
  • Tony Foot, Education Funding Group director at the DfE (you will get the opportunity to submit questions for him ahead of the conference).

We also have a wide range of workshops to choose from:

  • Ending the endless reorganisation
  • Maximising the contribution and impact of teaching assistants
  • Centralisation of services – when is it a consideration, and is it worth it?
  • School business leaders’ pensions
  • The specific challenges of school business leadership in special schools
  • Exploring collaboration models and opportunities between schools - whether maintained or academy
  • Getting the most out of your due diligence
  • What Kipling said: creating resilient leaders
  • And recently added workshop on how you can work with the local government pay or academy pay frameworks to secure a better salary for your role, and how to empower school business leaders to have a powerful voice within the education system.

There will also be opportunities to network with colleagues and learn from and inspire each other.  

We very much look forward to seeing you there.

Rachel Younger

Chair of NAHT’s school business leader sector council and business manager at St Nicholas C of E Primary School in Blackpool

First published 29 January 2018