Headteachers and senior executives from the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership (ATLP) joined educators from across the region on Friday 18 May at the West Midlands School Leaders Annual Conference: The School Led System – Getting Down to Business, #WMschoolled.
Organised by the West Midlands region of the Teaching Schools Council (TSC) #WMschoolled attracts the cream of senior educational leaders and decision makers, all keen to tackle the burning issues surrounding the school leadership system. Richard Gill, chief executive of the Arthur Terry Learning Partnership and TSC Member for the West Midlands, Trust Board member Professor Mick Waters and former ATLP CEO Sir Chris Stone, were among those invited to share their views with fellow experts in their fields.
The event, which took place at the Chateau Impney Hotel & Exhibition Centre in Worcestershire and was hosted by BBC Midlands Today presenter Mary Rhodes, featured leading keynote speakers, Geoff Barton, General Secretary for the Association of Schools & College Leaders (ASCL) and Professor Dame Alison Peacock, chief executive, Chartered College of Teaching and Learning.
As event chair, Richard Gill began his thought-provoking introduction with the question: “are we really a school-led system?” challenging delegates as to the impact of our school to school support, before introducing the first panel of the day.
The panel – who included Professor Mick Waters, Christine Quinn, regional schools commissioner for the West Midlands, and James McNeillie. Senior HMI inspector and senior operational lead, West Midlands, Ofsted – talked about strong practice, collaboration and the importance of governance. Professor Waters encouraged leaders to wrap their arms around schools in need.
Former ATLP CEO Sir Christopher Stone, chief education officer, MENASA and deputy chairman, Academic Council, was among the prominent keynote speakers. He talked about the lessons he has learned about leadership – from management to leadership to ‘followship’.
He told the audience: “I refuse to believe I am part of a lost generation,” and reminded them: “As a leader, you can touch people’s lives and make them better.”
In his conclusion, Professor Waters told leaders to: “Search together to find new ways forward.” He described the day as: “A balance of information, challenge and assurance.” He said: “As teachers we have to retain the ability to feed of children’s natural inquisitiveness. And always keep in mind the bigger picture of what children need, rather than only on what we can see.“
Reflecting on the event, Professor Waters added: “There was plenty to think about – and to act upon. Every speaker urged those present to take the initiative in ‘getting down to business’ in respect of those schools which are struggling to meet the needs of their pupils. From Chris Stone with images of leadership, to Alison Peacock urging a united force of teaching around pedagogy and research to Geoff Barton building determination through his balance of optimism and frustration, the alliance was prompted to come together to pick up the baton of school led transformation.
“This was echoed by Christine Quinn and James McNeillie from their regional perspectives and the themes of inter-dependence and joint working were emphasised as the opportunity for all teaching schools to be involved in dynamic aspects of the self improving system.
“The much appreciated workshops painted pictures of good practice that could spread achievement and success within the group at the conference. The challenge for the region is to spread that good practice wider and deeper to ensure the better life chances of all of our young people. What a day – information, challenge and re-assurance! Now we have to use it.”
Richard Gill said the event was a good opportunity to strengthen networks in the Teaching School Council’s eight West Midlands sub-regional groups, which will be invaluable in the development of more local and relevant approaches.
He said: “Once again, this gathering of hearts and minds was a catalyst for change – it provided a platform for leaders to engage in relevant conversations, to inspire others and propel ourselves into action. Amid the shifting landscape of education, we are creating solutions collectively, consolidating our passion for learning, our expertise and ambition to transform all schools.
“Genuine system leadership is about generosity – working with and supporting others to deliver exceptional learning opportunities and improve outcomes for all children. Last year’s event was about empowering leaders – this year’s conference looked at what we can do, and how we are already contributing to a successful, sustainable school-led system that safeguards our children’s futures.”