As school leaders, what are the problems that we can best focus our thinking and action on?
What are the most useful questions to ask together?
School strategy problems: how can we make our school improvement efforts cohere?
What makes a great education, and how can we create a great school?
How can we best understand our school’s context, and know what’s going on?
What do we most want to see happen for our students, staff and school?
What should we prioritise to best improve our school at this moment – how can we best invest our limited time together?
What do we know as a teaching profession about how to improve schools?
Who can we best learn from?
What can we learn from the best research? How can we know what works best?
Where are we overloading ourselves, and what can we best stop doing, limit or simplify?
How should we approach whole-school planning, thinking and strategic problem-solving?
How can we best communicate, listen, understand each other and get shared clarity?
How can we best review and improve the implementation of our plans?
How can we work out the worst adverse consequences of our initiatives, and address them?
What political, economic, societal, technological and cultural forces are most pressing on us?
What are the strongest perverse incentives in the system and how do we guard against them?
Staff culture problems: how can we improve the staff culture in our school?
What must we as school leaders know?
What else is best to build our school leaders’ knowledge about?
How can we best develop our school leaders’ expertise?
What makes CPD effective, for all roles in the school?
How can we bring the best out of everyone we work with?
How can we achieve cohesion and clarity together, as school leaders, as teachers and as staff?
How can we best tackle recruitment challenges?
How can we best improve our line-management: how we manage people?
How can we retain our staff (and improve staff retention)?
How can we support our staff with absence?
How can we best address underperformance?
How can we take really great care of our staff?
Student culture problems: how can we improve the student culture in our school?
How can we develop our students’ character, habits, beliefs and resilience?
How can we improve behaviour in our school and reduce disruption and distractions?
How can we build our students’ motivation?
How can we best teach our students to listen actively?
How can we best teach our students to interact and respond really well?
How can we support our struggling or vulnerable students?
How can we boost our students’ attendance?
How can we develop our students’ reading?
How can we teach our students how their mind, memory, health and emotions work?
How can we keep our students safe?
How can we provide great pastoral tutoring?
How can we best celebrate our differences?
Curriculum teaching problems: how can we improve our teaching culture?
How can we improve our subject teaching?
How can we build our curriculum and subject expertise?
How can we develop our curricula?
How can we better select and prioritise the knowledge in and across subject curriculum units?
How can we better sequence and revisit the knowledge within and across subject curriculum units?
How can we help students understand, remember and apply what we teach them?
How can we improve the recaps, modelling, checking and practice in our subject(s)?
How can we boost student motivation in our subject(s)?
How can we know what our students know and struggle with, and develop our assessments?
How can we make subject feedback to students effective?
How can we enable students who find learning hardest to access the best rigour and dignity?
How can we support, challenge and empower students with lower prior knowledge?
How can we support, challenge and empower students with higher prior knowledge?
How can we help our students with their learning outside of school?
How can we help our students with their next phase of education, apprenticeships or careers?
School systems problems: how can we improve our operations?
How can we develop our IT provision and support?
How can technology best help us to keep improving? Where is it hindering us?
How can we develop our HR provision and support, from recruitment to leaving?
How can we develop how our office and reception work?
How can we develop our finances?
How can we develop how our site and facilities work?
How can we improve the way our admissions and transitions/inductions work?
How can we develop our relationships and trust with parents, carers and families?
As James Murphy says, all these issues interact. So strategy is indispensable.
Where are we overloading ourselves, and what can we best stop doing, limit or simplify?Tweet
When we ask, ‘what problems are we trying to solve?’, how are we seeing things?
It’s starting with the most basic choice we have: what we choose to think about, along with some fundamental assumptions as the foundations of our thinking.
We don’t have limitless time.
We don’t have limitless energy.
We don’t have limitless attention.
We don’t have limitless finances.
We don’t have limitless people.
We don’t have limitless resources.
We don’t have limitless capacity.
The problems we choose to consider, the questions we ask, and our thinking about them, all play a part in the impacts we have as school leaders for our students, their futures and lives in our world.