Like many places, there is a headlong rush to convert secondary schools into academies in Leicestershire. But the release from LEA control and the increased freedom and budgets are just the first step. What we are seeing here is an industry wide change process.
As schools turn into academies and they start to operate more as businesses, one thing is vital, that the staff and board remember they are there to help kids develop, learn, grow.
That might seem obvious but, it is strange what the pressure of targets and expectations and change can do for people. The NHS has plenty of examples where the desire to chase targets has led to the professionals neglecting their patient care.
We are designed to focus on the targets and objectives placed in front of us. Without strong leadership, we can focus so much on the target that we forget the reason why we do the job.
So how do you stop yourself falling into this trap? As I mentioned, it requires strong leadership from the Governors and the Principal. But, one very useful technique is to make sure you agree a set of principles or values for your school … principles that put the child at the heart of what you do. Then, you use it as the litmus test for every decision you make.
So, if you decide to get a business to sponsor your classes, you can ask whether that decision fits your values. If you decide to move the school to new premises, does that meet the criteria you have set out in your principles.
It means making hard decisions, but if you are all agreed on the principles and in the decision making process then you will, logically, be agreed on the outcomes.
I believe the smart Academies will be those that want to transform themselves into something unique and exciting. But they will do it by ensuring their principles remain in tact. They will do it by making sure they keep everyone engaged in the change. Now THAT is a fun challenge for a consultant like me.