Educational Leadership development by ‘Investing in our future leaders’ and creating ‘Leaders4learning’ in previously disadvantaged school communities
by Desmond Zeelie
The Foundation of School Leadership and Management
There is no question that Principals and School Management Teams remain the central source of leadership influence in all South African schools, and that SA needs Principals and School Management Teams that are able to drive school change from the inside out. School leaders focused on learning, have the potential to unleash vast latent capacities in their uniquely demanding worlds.
Without effective leaders for learning, SA’s goal of transforming challenged schools will be impossible to achieve. Great school leaders can fortify classroom instruction by motivating teachers and improving teaching conditions, while simultaneously building a strong sense of school community, regardless of the prevailing pessimism.
Furthermore, effective leaders for learning encourage teachers to work with one another and collaborate closely. They also encourage their teachers to be about leadership, and they build on their individual strengths to do so.
Leadership challenges are far from small, and leaders in all walks of life need to depend on others to accomplish their purpose. They need all the support they can get. South African principals are no different. Most principals are unlikely to succeed if their local district is unsupportive, disinterested or pursuing other agendas. Having said that, it’s widely believed that many districts must re-culture themselves to focus less on administration and compliance needs, and more on helping schools improve teaching and learning, and hence learner success.
It is in this context then, that the Foundation of School Leadership and Management, committed Funders and under-performing previously disadvantaged schools are collaborating to develop a growing core of effective and inspired school leaders who are fully committed to a vision of academic success for all students in the greater community.
The Foundation of School Leadership and Management’s primary goal, is to create influential and impactful leaders for learning that have the children as their primary focus. It does so by guiding the leadership of selected schools, to better teaching and learning, culminating in academic success for all students.
In so doing, The Foundation’s 3-pronged, Train-Mentor-Coach Approach over three years, pays careful and deliberate attention to five practices that are key to effective school leadership:
- Shaping a shared vision of academic success for all students
- Creating an enabling climate and culture for quality education
- Cultivating leadership in others
- Prioritising student learning, and improving instruction
- Managing people, data, and processes to foster school improvement
The 3-pronged, Train-Mentor-Coach Approach is a blended approach that incorporates skills training (mindful that most candidates already had degrees), individual coaching (12 week one-on-one coaching cycle) and group mentoring of School Management Teams.
The benefits for each individual in the ‘Leaders4learning’ programme are:
- Greater self-awareness
- Improved skills to interact with people
- Greater self-belief, coupled with appropriate behaviours and attitudes
- Improved confidence in dealing with school and personal challenges and challenging people
- A hunger for new skills and knowledge acquisition
As the school leader develops, so too does the organization and its people. There is,
- Improved personal performance
- Tangible evidence of commitment
- Improved cross functional interaction
- Greater efficiency
- Improved skill levels
- Impact on the work environment due to personal change
The intended outcome is that the schools would be more sustainable from a skills perspective (due to better management), student results at high school would improve (exit levels), and that functionality of the institution would be rated as – ‘institutions with advanced functionality’, in the South African context.
A successful approach that is supported by consultants in the school every week and is a reflection of real work in context is a recipe for a successful and sustainable model. Tried and tested!
In conclusion, the McKinsey Quarterly of January 2014- ‘Why leadership development programmes fail’, highlights the following regarding leadership development programmes:
- They need to be implemented in context
- They need to run in reflection of real work
- They mustn’t underestimate existing mindsets
- Outcomes must measured