In preparation for a CPD South West Training session designed to prepare me to act as a facilitator for a couple of the new NPQH modules, I have been asked to read an NCSL paper entitled Think Piece – Preparing to Develop Your Facilitation Skills by Dr. Coleen Jackson. It is a very worthy document, containing a fascinating range of jargon, but that’s not the real problem with it. It describes the process of effective ‘facilitation’ and is intended to ‘enable Facilitators to engage more readily with the module key concepts and issues’. That’s fine. But, having read the whole article, what concerns me is the disconnect between the facilitation of leadership and the purpose of leadership itself. Leadership is treated almost as an abstract concept: leaders can be trained to lead; facilitators can be trained to facilitate ‘great’ (and how often do we see that word nowadays?) leadership. However, what they are leading is almost entirely absent from the discussion.
We are talking about the leadership of schools here. The National College is about school leadership – and it should be about the leadership of learning – what goes on in the classroom. Only in the conclusion to the article is the context of leadership mentioned: ‘Facilitators should not forget that however far they are removed from the classroom they need to model behaviours and adopt practices that we would want to see in our schools and classrooms’. This is added almost as an afterthought. Most worrying of all is the phrase ‘however far removed’ since this seems to condone leadership which is removed from the classroom. Surely we should be screaming at the top or our voices that leadership which is removed from the classroom is not good school leadership and can certainly never be great.
This article is therefore very useful as a warning as we begin our research into the leadership of great pedagogy. Great pedagogy needs to be the focus; if it is not, the leadership will be poor. It would be very tempting to follow previous NCSL patterns and create a system of competencies for the leadership of teaching schools but these run the risk of becoming as abstract as the facilitation competencies described in Dr. Jackson’s ‘thinkpiece’ (and what’s wrong with ‘article’ or ‘paper’ anyway!). We need to make sure that our research explores leadership skills in the context of the classroom because that is where the real impact will be.
And just a final thought, how often does the National College run programmes which focus on the classroom skills of ‘great’ leaders?