Author Archives: Joe Kirby

About Joe Kirby

School leader, education writer, Director of Education and co-founder, Athena Learning Trust, Deputy head and co-founder, Michaela Community School, English teacher

Red Team: involve, don’t announce

Every September, headteachers around the world announce their annual improvement plans to staff. Most are pronounced. Few are involved.  How can we as school leaders help all staff feel involved in their school, and involve staff in strategic planning, without … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

School Improvement Stories

My school improvement plans lacked imagination. I was struggling. There was no emotion, no adventure, no excitement. They seemed cold, clinical, rational, bureaucratic, bloodless. Sure, there were flaws a-plenty, but obstacles, adversities and conflict were avoided.  I wondered – what … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Comments Off on School Improvement Stories

Mammoth, Chimps and Octopi: evolutionary psychology and our battle to prioritise

Evolutionary psychology helps us see why we struggle to choose well, and how to choose better Why do we find it so hard to prioritise well? Why are our plans so often flawed? Our minds are primal. Let’s take a … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

Anatomy of a School Improvement Plan

School leaders creating school improvement plans are faced with pressing questions. What should we prioritise? What goals should we set, and how? Where can we best invest our staff and leadership time? How do we discern the critical from the … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

Megatrends

2050 is now closer to us than 1995 is. What does the future hold in store for us? How can we shape the future? One way to start is by knowing the deep trends that are driving the world forward.  … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Comments Off on Megatrends

The Infinite Game: warding off warped fears 

Millions of school improvement plans are written every year around the world. Many are overloaded, disconnected, avoidant, boxy. Grey rhinos (predictable, high-impact threats) like pandemics scupper them.  School leaders labour under intense pressures and immense forces that surround them.  What … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

Flawed School Improvement Plans: Black Swans and Grey Rhinos

Every year, the world’s school leadership teams look to create a school improvement plan for the year ahead.  What can we learn from the school improvement plans we’ve made each year, in the past? What have we prioritised? How did … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Leave a comment

Thinking deeply: Matthew Evans and the Shoulders of Jedi

Every so often, a writer deepens your thinking permanently and unalterably.  Such a writer is headteacher Matthew Evans.  A thorny problem for school leaders is the learning-time constraint. There’s lots to learn in school leadership, but there’s limited time to … Continue reading

Posted in Education | 1 Comment

Problem-solving: Viviane Robinson and the Shoulders of Giants

What can we learn from the life’s work of one of the giants of school improvement research, and over forty years of her studies of school leaders? Viviane Robinson is to school improvement research what Daniel Willingham is to the … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Comments Off on Problem-solving: Viviane Robinson and the Shoulders of Giants

Difficult conversations, HiPPOs and giving feedback well: brave-kind, open honesty

Not to avoid or to bypass – not to see them as difficult, but as honest, open conversations – is both brave and kind, and can bring both trust and improvement. ‘Challenging colleagues directly is the aspect of my job … Continue reading

Posted in Education | Comments Off on Difficult conversations, HiPPOs and giving feedback well: brave-kind, open honesty