Putting you back in control

An on demand event jointly hosted by the NAHT and Discovery Education

In this fireside chat Guy Dudley, head of advice at NAHT, discussed with Andrew Hammond the purpose of the NAHT & Discovery Education Pathway Advice Hub. Read more about what was covered in the ‘Putting you back in control’ webinar below.

I’ve often heard it said that “being a school leader is the best job in the world”!

I’ve also heard it said that “whilst I’m paid more now, than ever before, I’m also on the worst hourly-rate of pay”!

One thing is pretty clear to me – everyone that comes into the profession does so because they believe they’re going to make a difference to those in their care – and they do! Forty years on, I can still remember the teachers that inspired me – Vic Tomkinson [English], Maggie Newell [maths], Martin Gillard [French] and Carol Gray (sociology]. Yes, I remember them all with fondness and respect – they made a difference to me and had a life-long impact on my life [I never told them but I think they knew] – the simple joy of learning, of being inquisitive and asking questions – my school days were happy and provided the bedrock for the rest of my life.

But things have changed since 1969, when I started going to school – a year when polytechnics were created and Leicestershire was the first county to abolish the 11-plus exam. Since then, apart from a great deal of ‘business as usual’, now enshrined in legislation, some of the highlights are the creation of Ofsted in 1992 [inspections began in 1993]; the genesis of academies in 2000; free schools launched and the ‘education leaving age’ raised to 18 in 2008; PSHE launched in 2009; Teachers’ Standards introduced in 2012; in the same year, the EYFS statutory framework was established; the Children’s and Families Act 2014 tried to bring the interests of children, their families and schools together; and in 2020, RSHE gets underway and the recovery from a pandemic begins its slow and uncertain journey. These are just some of the highlights that have landed on the profession’s desk over the years.

If the historical pattern of activity is a reasonable predictor for the future pattern of activity, there’s every likelihood that the next twenty years will be no less straightforward and this is on top of the need and priority to recover from a pandemic, get back to a routine and pick through the bones of the recent exams fiasco!

When schools reopen in September and school leaders absorb and manage the minutiae of school life, the same school leaders may appreciate a big picture plan that helps keep the school on its chosen course. An approach that has often won approval in my conversations with school leaders, teachers and support staff, over the years, is to introduce the concept of ‘The Big Six’ – a straightforward working model that helps to bring some comfort to many; the Big Six are Accountability; Administration; Change; Infrastructure; People; and Risk. The model takes the whole job and simply breaks it down into constituent and more manageable parts – these Big Six are ‘the’ common themes in every school. You may have others and, of course, they’re in no particular order which is likely to change at regular intervals.

Let’s unpack the ‘Big Six’ to avoid any ambiguity:

Accountability: the inspection framework, whether you’re in England, Wales or Northern Ireland, state-funded or privately-run. Love it or loathe it, schools will face an inspection, often with very little notice. Common issues are often related to how schools can best prepare for the inspection and if the inspection proves to be unfavourable, how to challenge the outcome. Ofsted has said there will be no inspections in the autumn term but they will be visiting schools to see how everyone is settling back in and are likely to reinstate inspections in the spring term.

Administration: running the school in all the non-teaching functions and the legislation, regulations and model policies that enable you to do this. Many schools have hired school business managers and leaders to lead the school’s non-teaching functions, many of which are unfamiliar territory to school leaders. This is a growing area where I have witnessed a significant amount of traffic over the last few years and for many, smaller schools, their capacity is always stretched in this respect. I’ve led a few facilities teams in my time so none of this will be new territory to me.

Change: whether it’s foreseen, such as the commencement of RSHE in 2020, or unscheduled, such as COVID-19. Managing change, often profound change, is now a prerequisite for school leadership roles – no wonder school leaders and those aspiring to leadership roles often need to reach out for regular support – the nature of support is not so much related to the architectural demands of running a school [timetable, curriculum etc…] but more about their role, their responsibilities and the role and responsibilities of those around them.

Infrastructure: the school model, it’s structure and the curriculum. The demand for advice and guidance is typically seasonal as schools have probably geared up in the spring term to adopt a new school model, a new staffing structure and changes to the curriculum. These are particularly difficult situations for many school leaders to progress but, fortunately, it is an area where my expertise is at its greatest and I trust that this is reflected in the guidance you will have access to and see in the Advice Hub.

People: pupils, staff, governors, parents, support staff providing support by the employer [e.g. school improvement partners, auditors, the legal team, HR support, community organisations and so on]. Often regarded as the most challenging and rewarding area of activity, in equal measure. What greater satisfaction can there be than to see a pupil with real potential achieve beyond their and your expectations. An exclusion, on the other hand, has the opposite effect. Before I joined NAHT in 2013, I led a number of HR teams in the public, voluntary and private sectors and the Advice Hub will therefore be well-stocked with information, advice and guidance that will enable you to face dealing with people-related matters with a great deal more confidence.

Risk: safeguarding and other risks. Many [non-school] leaders adopt a risk-management approach to running their organisations on the grounds that if risk is managed, everything else should be ok. This is not a model I’d advocate for schools but it is why the management of risk is critical. If schools lock horns with an employee or a supplier and the nature of the conflict escalates, possibly to litigation, the costs associated with such a process can be significant and are therefore best avoided by having a clear and simple risk-management plan. The Advice Hub will provide details of such a plan and I know that the schools that have adopted it are very glad that they did.

On the same subject, at the risk of understatement, the autumn term will be particularly challenging for even the most seasoned school leader and their colleagues. One thing will however be common amongst all schools – there will be a great deal of uncertainty as children return to school and may have been absent since 20 March 2020. The best way to deal with this is to take back control of what you can do and try not to dwell on matters that are simply not a priority – in this respect, I’ve produced a ‘Back to School’ advice document that sets out all you need to know and what you need to do, to get you, uneventfully, through the autumn term.

Above all else, you must look after yourself – your school and all those associated with it – pupils, staff, parents and governors – need you to be well and able to deal with what lay ahead – try to manage your pace as you regain control and try to pause once in a while just to reflect on and record your progress – keep a log, even if it’s just for the autumn term – you can then use it to rely on a later date and when time allows.

If you would like further information about the Pathway programme please visit: www.discoveryeducation.co.uk/NAHT


Guy Dudley

Head of Advice at NAHT

Guy Dudley was appointed to head of specialist advice in 2014 having joined NAHT in 2013, cutting his teeth as a specialist adviser. Guy leads a team of highly-qualified specialist advisers and assistants that deliver first-class specialist advice and support services to NAHT members and officials across England, Wales and Northern Ireland and to NAHT’s National Executive. The services provided include legal advice and support, information and guidance on educational management issues, general employment practice and law, salaries, pensions and conditions of service, enabling members to better undertake their professional leadership roles. Before joining NAHT, Guy, an MCIPD-qualified HR practitioner, was employed in the UK and the international charity sectors and also worked for the Learning + Skills Council for 6 years, coaching, developing and helping leaders become better people managers. Guy’s passion is to work with leaders, putting them back in control using bold, pragmatic, fair and empathetic approaches.


Andrew Hammond

Senior Director of Learning at Discovery Education

Andrew served in schools for over 20 years, as class teacher, head of department, deputy head teacher and head teacher in both independent and maintained sector schools. A prolific author, Andrew has written numerous titles for a range of educational publishers. He has a BA QTS from Bath and an MA from King’s College London. He is currently studying for an Ed.D at Buckingham, researching the power of culture to deliver character traits and attitudes in schools. He is interested in how schools turn values-based platitudes into practice and how we best support pupils’ personal and cultural development by supporting the personal development of their teachers. Andrew joined Discovery Education in September 2019 as Senior Director of Learning. He designed the Pathway Programme and is series editor for its content. He is passionate about supporting the whole teacher.