RSS Feed

RNLC Conference – New Challenges and New opportunities


November 9, 2013 by hallyd

On Wednesday i went along to the Redbridge Networked Learning communities conference – this was the 11th year the conference had been held and the theme this year was New challenges and New opportunities.

The first speaker was Andrew Pollard, he spoke about his involvement with the national curriculum expert panel and the need for the profession to be reflective in their practice.

 The fundamentals of education stay much the same we have responsibility to identify fundamentals and hang on to them as a profession. Policies struggle for which ideas take place – context of influence, text production and context of practice each of these are contested as policies are implemented DfE team expert panel was predominantly secondary apart from Andrew Pollard.

Issues began to be raised that focus was too narrow needed to look at breadth and building blocks, it seemed that  expert panel was working in one way but others working in other way – ministers getting opinions from diverse sources. Expert panel began to work on a  document looking at structure worked in parallel with DfE However it seemed that this parallel working was not working and Andrew Pollard wrote  in Oct 2011 on a number of grounds breadth being compromised, curricular constraint push of knowledge no people being consulted for oral language and  no attention to transitions. However it was agreed  to be delayed for a year and have debate about structure aims and purpose of curriculum.

1st document was  produced end of 2011 – expert panel report – framework for the new nat curriculum came out first Monday before Christmas – started tweeting each part out  in the fashion of twelve days of Christmas but Andrew didn’t think there was ever a national debate.

In the report  they covered knowledge and development,  aims and purposes,  maintaining breadths,  structure of key stages looked at 2 year blocks of learning wasn’t really a debate until June 2012 – when the overview structure was ignored and the focus again was back again to National Curriculum for English, Maths and Science.  Andrew  then blogged from IOE, this in turn was picked up by various news outlets.  The blog posts can be read here the expert panel tried to be as open as possible publishing letters on bera site etc as to the problems they had encountered so that all knew the direction they were trying to move the national curriculum.

Curriculum HMI report 1985 look at as model for curriculum. There has been continuing controversy over National Curriculum from parties  and the a deepening rift between teachers and government, although it seems that the Liberal Democrats are beginning to break ranks. Whereas the Government seem to be pressing ahead with position irrespective of advice from diff quarters.

So what to do?

Context of practice – Lots of reports about importance of learning and teaching but also nation of what is professionalism if stay close to professional  skills and commitment to children, then we can’t go to far wrong and will have a profession for the future with the aims being raising standards for all, strategies to do this is teacher expertise and the process  involved is using evidence to inform principles, being pen to new ideas. Effective teaching and learning should equip learners for life, active engagement with the learner , teacher scaffolds learning, needs assessment to be congruent with learning, social process, depends on teacher learning, demands consistent policy frameworks with support for teaching and learning  as their prominent focus.  We need to ensure that we have a language of teaching and learning  based on professionalism and pedagogy. Education has moral purpose and social consequences and as such reflective activity is vital – underpins professional judgement, provides a vehicle of learning and enhancement of learning. Feedback loops – for children  to be told that you are a level does not tell you what you need to do next to improve therefore in a way levels get in the way of authentic learning. In 1981 Brian Simon wrote an article – why no pedagogy in England?  The  basic argument was that pedagogy has not been taken seriously in England because of  the class system – assumes certain sectors are not going to attain or progress and sadly it seems that what is currently  in place looks like it will perpetuate this. Also not sure what the degrees of constraint will be from assessment and inspection that will bear on how we interpret the curriculum – assessment part is difficult – power lies in what the outcome of assessment foci will be.

I found this first talk interesting in plotting the journey of the expert panel and to what we need to do as a profession to move forward. Next up was David Hopkins whose talk was entitled ‘exploding the myths of school reform’

The myth that achievement cannot be realised at scale for all students, the mouth that teaching is either an art or a science – it is both and the myth of the contribution of charismatic leadership to school reform. Narrative is crucial to what we do – teacher knows where children need to go and has developed narrative of where going and connect and empowers the learner – importance of stories and of a journey, a set of visions linked to strategies in an inclusive way that people feel part of that the story and this  goes out of school into community. The right story makes people act, an emotional idea that makes people care  – our moral purpose and a credible idea makes people believe our theories of action. The story is always about moral purpose



Pisa scores from 2009 – learning how to I do things as a system from other systems and other schools, looking at what are the ingredients of successful systems – need to mix in the right ingredients. Good to great professional teaching and leadership and great to excellent is a system led innovation need to look at where we are and go from there. You have to unleash greatness , you can only micro manage to a certain point .

Great to Excellent – the system emphasises innovation and learning through peers.

Cultivation peer-led learning for teachers and principals

–        learning communities: the system facilitates school-based learning communities to create peer-led support and accountability to each other.

–        Flexibility: the system provides effective educators with greater pedalogical autonomy

–        Rotations: the system rotates educators throughout the system in order to spread learning and varied styles of mentorship

Additional support mechanisms for professionals:

–        Levarage: the system provides administration support so teachers and principals can concentrate on pedagogy and leadership

System sponsored innovation across schools

– Stakeholder innovation: the system sponsors and identifies innovative prctices and then develops strategies to share those practices across schools

Sustainability depends on all three working.

To establish collaborative practice we need to develop a mediating layer between schools and the centre – problem at the moment LA’s going but there is not a middle layer in place to replace them. Gove has thrown all the cards up in air and hasn’t really bothered to see where they fall. if you want equity then need to manage these moves – need that middle layer to mediate between the two otherwise things will fall apart. When looking at putting in place  tomorrow’s leadership – succession planning is vital.

Why the job is so difficult –

Policy imperatives rarely match accurate system diagnosis, there has been a history of weak implementation. Narrative of reform not been sustained over time, teaching has struggled to establish a robust  culture built on diagnosis, specific of practical  collaboration and research. It has been like a bureaucratic father than systematic organisational change.

So in stead need to put in – Substantial collaborative arrangements that support schools develop profession learning systems where every individual can reach potential and move from external to professional forms of accountability. Moving to inside out form as oppose to outside in. Every student will reach his or her potential  is seen as essentials. Lass room context –  knowledge curriculum, framework of assessment that informs learning and student voice, school, organisational  and system context but central polices are coming in and missing point of these.

3 goals for schools – Literate, numerate and curious – metaphor for trying to build confident skilful learners. Diagnosis and treatment – what is the problem how best do we solve it? Instructional rounds can be one way of doing this – school opens up doors and 6 teachers in each observation – 4 in each group doing the rounds only instruction give – don’t want judgement just describe what you are seeing – engage with youngsters with task that they are doing – describe the narrative of the lesson that take place in morning and in the afternoon you will have 120 pieces of evidence – look through those – 6 observations draw out common themes what is evidence – define categories sharply if looking at questioning then focus on that and that alone – translate this into theory of action –  for example,  when teachers do x learners do y.

Curiosity is the unfinished business – 10 theories of action that when taken together promote curiosity :

IMG_0543 IMG_0545


(Apologies for quality of photos!)

Need to get the basics right first before taking on more complex issues. Leadership – Top down change is a technical solution whereas bottom up change is. Adaptive work requires new ways of thinking and operating. Circles of confidence we all have. we also have circles of competence – people feel insecure and exposed when out of their circles of competence – how do we help people broaden and step out of circles of competence – technical support and pyschological support –  time in judgement mode  creates an area that is personally threatening debate not if I am a good teacher but how can we collectively improve. We need to ensure we  stick to professional need – do we drive learners  to answer or do we drive them to be  curious and lead them to stat questioning and leading their own learning.

Process for linking curiosity –


Good to great –


Cpd focuses on teacher knowledge not teacher skill model of professional development:




This was the first time I had head David Hopkins speak and thoroughly enjoyed it – it was challenging and gave myself and my Head Teacher time to talk and explore our theories of action. Last but not least was Steve Munby, the Chief Executive of CfBt Education Trust, his talk was entitled the Power and Love in Leadership, and as a new leader this was one talk that I was particularly interested in

What kind of I leader do I know I  need to be that I didn’t need to be in the past –  personality, skills and expertise that develop, values and moral purpose and finally context that you find yourself in,  these go together to make up your professional credo. Leadership now needs to have the right balance between power – drive, energy, confidence, determination and  love – take people with them inclusive in approach. ” Power withou love is reckless and abusive, and love with power is sentimental and anaemic” Martin Luther King.  The contention is that we should not choose between but both – key for leadership in next few years is being equally strong.

Power involves – leading with confidence, being challenging, transformational leadership and being competitive Versus Love – leading with humility, being open to challenge, respecting the context and being collaborative.

Confidence and humility – become a leader means putting on mantle of leadership saying yes I am the leader I am in charge I accept it – understand that we are accountable.  A leader takes on the gravitas, a  person people look to.  But, some never quite put on the mantle never believe in themselves lack the confidence – consistently seeking assurance from others.   To be led by someone like that is challenging  you have to prop them up can’t have challenging conversations – need to be comfortable with own but need to be reigned back.Then there are those who put on the mantle and the crown this  is equally challenging, they  re-enforce their own I views, danger is in the end they become complacent can be overwhelmed or overbearing so key is the balance – humility in leadership – it’s about the team to get balance. Need to understand our weaknesses, job is not to be the perfect leader but make sure you have the perfect team that is crucial and demonstrating in my leadership that I am a learner – be a learner acknowledge things, to say I don’t know and be willing to learn things.

Being challenging versus  being open to challenge – Good leaders are challenging and holding people to account – really good leaders can divide the personal from professional- little things as well as the big things – may not like doing them but do them because need to make sure it is right for the children but if all you do is challenge you won’t take the rest of the staff with you.  Pace and drive, deadlines are crucial but also find a way to take staff with you keep challenge full on but welcome challenge back not just a one way street good leaders welcome challenge from outside as well right and proper that we should be challenged for how we are acting but  want it to be a fair and transparent challenge.

Being transformational versus respecting the context – New in role easy to be transformational with all guns blazing understandable if lot to do sometimes it is what is needed but at times go in with fixed idea all guns blazing and don’t last long “skilful leaders …… need to get a sense of the town and to conform enough so they are seen to be acting in the best interests of the townspeople, so they can lead change without being shot early in the proceedings” taken from Why should anyone be led by you – Rob Goffee and Gareth Jones.  Decide which battles to fight first understand the context that you are in. Sometimes transformation is not needed but instead for people to continue doing what they are doing but doing it consistently well, having good systems in place.  Sometimes answer is not a new initiative but do the last one well consistently, focus on consistency. Another mistake is not to go for enough – when you start you can see all that is wrong with it – analogy of buying a house – when you buy a house there is lots sometimes that you find  unacceptable so you begin changing things in house – very often list is not completed could be run out of money but can also be that become complacent what was unacceptable has become acceptable,  culture of organisation dominates you as  a leader instead of other way round – dampen down what you can achieve instead of above it.

Competition v collaboration – Most leaders are competitive – as a leader do you want your organisation to be the best – of course you do mustn’t deny the fact that you want to be the best and be able to compare ourselves if you lose competitive edge competition stops us being complacent it enables us to compare and find out how to get better however without collaboration we are finished as an education system. In a market driven system in education all you will get is some schools doing well others not so well you will not get whole system change. Two types of collaboration at moment first is what government is supporting chasing multisupport academies trust  – hard edged collaboration lots of power not much love other type is loose collaborations may call them networks opportunities for people to get together to have dialogue, professional deception worry about this is good on love but not so much power. Collaboration needs to have both they are not contraries they are complementary needs to be a lateral leadership avoid isolation but have collaboration that has both .  To move towards a ‘self-improving’ system we need to have: a profession that sets high standards, taking seriously the evidence of what works, enthusiasm for excellence, even when it is achieved by other local schools, acceptability that starts with those we serve; children, young people and their parents and a commitment to continuous improvement for others as well as ourselves.  As Napolean said ‘a leader is a dealer in hope”

But mostly to remember  ‘When the wind of change blows, some build walls others build  windmills”– Chinese proverb.  What will you build as a leader?

I found the whole day very thought provoking with lots to mull over and take on board and take back to school, it was also a good opportunity to talk to other networks in the borough as well as other leaders. A time to reflect and think about how we move forward.




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


November 2013
Skip to toolbar