Monthly Archives: December 2017

The CMI Management Book of the Year Shortlist 2018: interpreted for educational leader managers and aspiring


If we didn’t have managers, where would we be? If we didn’t manage the operational side of our organizational practice, would anything get done on time to budget? You might argue that with the right staff and leadership team in place, then, yes. But is it as simple as that? Can you afford to be negligent and ignore the book keeping, stock control and resource side of day to day life in the workplace? The simple answer is obviously, no. Even the most transformational and visionary of distributed school leaders, expert in the finer arts of coaching and mentoring in place of lesson observations attached to performance appraisals, needs to keep an eye on the operational managerial as well as the touchy feely human stuff.

It’s a good job then that we have excellent resources available for our own CPD that can help plug those gaps if all we’ve done is teach RE for the past 5 years and now we decide we would like to make the leap to middle leadership and beyond: resources that allow us to learn independently and empower us forward.

The Chartered Management Institute not only provides membership with associated qualifications and training from level 3 to 7 in team management, supervision skills, coaching and mentoring and more, but it also gives you a kick start with ongoing CPD that you can be getting on with by yourself. One way the CMI has done this ready for your big leap forward in 2018 is by creating their CMI Management Book of the Year Shortlist. I’ve given this list some thought as to how their value in the context of school leadership and management might be recognized.

Firstly, under the heading of ‘practical manager’ they list ‘Time, Talent, Energy’ by Michael Mankins and Eric Garton as a book that will revolutionize the way you unleash the productive power of the people in your care – perhaps one to evaluate against the teacher workload problem then? Or might this just be a step or two on from time and motion measurement studies? I’ll leave to you read, think and share!

Next, they recommend Harvard Business School Professor Joseph Badaracco’s ‘Defining Moments’ – a book about managers facing situations that trigger conflicts with their personal values and what to do in such circumstances. Perhaps this will help those of you working in a no excuses school who suddenly realize they were meant for humanist Montessori settings after all. Or perhaps you never realized how trad you were until you looked around you in the staffroom and noticed the progs had you surrounded.

Third, ‘The Finance Book’ – an introduction for all managers needed to understand the language of finance: an essential piece of reading for all aspiring school heads who at some stage will have to decide how they are going to spend the school budget or perhaps approach the MAT board with a business case to make some radical changes. Also, if you want to start up your own Free School and are looking for sponsors, this might just help you clinch the deal!

Fourth, ‘Strategy Journeys’ – tells you how to put together a strategic plan. Again, useful for implanting change or starting up your own school.

Under the section of ‘Management Futures’ – for those school managerial jobs that don’t exist yet, is a selection of books to prepare to be one such manager of the future. One assumption seems to be that things are going to get increasingly techy, and increasingly changey. So the first book on this list is ‘Building Digital Culture’ – one to help you manage your data even better than you currently might be trying to, based on the idea that you will need that data to help you respond to regular change. SIMS be gone! Here you have some new technical sorcery to wave your lazer beam enhanced IWB clicker at.

The next book on their list under this category is ‘Fully Connected’ by Julia Hobsbawm. Perhaps this may be the missing link between data and social media overload we have all been looking for – a manager’s version of mindfulness and wellbeing for the practical school leader of the future who, again, doesn’t want his NQTs running off under workload avalanches or fear of data. Never mind the future – this is a now problem, surely?

‘Inclusive Leadership’ looks like one for the #BAMEed and #WomenEd book shelf for sure, but not to be dismissed by any in SLT, ever again methinks! The CMI say of this book: “The most successful organisations are those with the most diverse and engaged workforces. Studies show an 80 per cent improvement in business performance among those with high diversity levels. When people feel included and able to reach their full potential, they are more engaged, more productive and often more creative. Inclusive Leadership will help you drive culture change using organisational development principles”[i]. Just what the head teacher should have ordered perhaps?

Have you ever got jaded by the amount of policy updates you get through as a school leader? Or DfE/Ofsted induced changes you are made to feel you have to jump through the hoops for? Have your staff lost the will to live and find it hard to respond with enthusiasm and motivation when change is ushered in? Then maybe ‘Disruption Denial’ is a book for you and your team. They say at least recognizing you have a problem is a step towards solving it. So here you go!

Under the heading of ‘Commuter Reads’, the CMI draws our attention to another one for #WomenEd advocates: ‘The Paula Principle”. They explain (what WE know already!): “An expert on innovation and work argues that many highly capable women are not being recognised, and that this harms businesses, societies, and individuals alike. Whereas The Peter Principle, a four-million–copy bestseller from the 1960s, argued that most (male) workers will inevitably be promoted to one level beyond their competence, Tom Schuller shows how women today face the opposite scenario: their skills are being wasted.”[ii]

Another tome in futurology, ‘Megatech’ comes next on the list – one to help you consider, along with scientists, industry leaders and science fiction writers, what the world, or possibly your school and classroom will look like by 2050 and how you will manage it. Probably a step beyond dinner supervisors floating the school corridors on invisible hovercraft no doubt. Perhaps Matrix style lessons where children don’t even need to get out of bed and come to school? Learning can just be downloaded digitally via the ether?

Next, ever wondered how Steve Jobs, Marie Curie or Thomas Edison might have run your school if they were on SLT or made the leap to headship? Well, now’s your chance, ‘Think Like an Innovator’ will help you consider how!

Finally, in this category, comes one we all need on a daily basis for when we think to ourselves, “I could have said that better!” Perhaps you had to give a teacher some feedback on their obs and didn’t get quite the response you were looking for? Well, “The Emotional Intelligence Pocketbook” could be just for you! What everyone in a managerial position needs. In bucket loads!

Finally, finally, in the last category of all, come five books recommended for those new or aspiring managers among you already on the stairway to leadership and management heaven by way of some kind of CPD course (see more at Books recommended here include: ‘Potential’ (to help you assess your strengths – essential when carrying out a leadership needs analysis for an MA Education L&M course!); ‘Happy Working Relationships’ by Simon Jones – a guide to people management intertwined with current employment law – remind yourself on how to survive in the staffroom and not lose your job; the ‘Harvard Business Review’s Manager’s Handbook’ – an essential ‘Bible’ for all would-be managers covering everything from finance and strategy to recruitment and emotional intelligence – the very thing every English teacher stepping up to HoD needs under their Christmas tree this 25th; and, ‘Brilliant Coaching 3rd Edition’ – you all know how coaching and mentoring is the new appraisal post lesson obs, so don’t be shy.

And that’s all folks (well, not quite, I did leave a few out – see for the full short list under category headings).

What books would you recommend for new or aspiring school leaders and managers?



Ethical Issues for Research: A Reminder and Lessons From the 19th Century


Back in the dark days of dangerous and unethical research, we had Dr Frankenstein doing bad things with his Monster… oh, wait. That wasn’t real. Sorry. However, in Christopher Edge’s (2015) book, “19th Century Fiction and Non-Fiction”, he reminds us of the very real undercurrent of what was definitely going on in the world of science at the time:

“In the 19th Century, the invention of electrical batteries allowed scientists to experiment with the power of electricity. The Italian scientist, Giovanni Aldini, performed a series of experiments in public where he applied electrical currents to the corpses of convicted criminals.”

Edge then goes on to provide an extract from reports of Aldini’s experiments that were carried out in 1803:

“A very ample series of experiments were made by Professor Aldini which show the eminent and superior power of galvanism beyond any other stimulant in nature. In the months of January and February last, he had the courage to apply it at Bologna to the bodies of various criminals who had suffered death at that place, and by means of the pile he excited the remaining vital forces in a most astonishing manner. This stimulus produced the most horrible contortions and grimaces by the motions of the muscles of the head and face; and an hour and a quarter after death, the arm of one of the bodies was elevated eight inches from the table on which it was supported, and this even when a considerable weight was placed in the hand.”

The report continues:

“George Forster was hung at 8am on 18th January 1803 at Newgate Prison, for the drowning of his wife and youngest child in the Paddington Canal. After hanging for an hour in sub-zero temperatures, Aldini procured the body and began his galvanic experiments.”

“On the first application of the process to the face, the jaws of the deceased criminal began to quiver, and the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and one eye was actually opened. In the subsequent part of the process the right hand was raised and clenched, and the legs and thighs were set in motion. Mr Pass, the beadle of the Surgeons’ Company, who was officially present during this experiment, was so alarmed that he died of fright soon after his return home.”

“The action even of those muscles furthest distant from the points of contact with the arc was so much increased as almost to give an appearance of re-animation vitality might, perhaps, have been restored, if many circumstances had not rendered it impossible.”

“Galvanism was communicated by means of three troughs combined together, each of which contained forty plates of zinc, and as many of copper. On the first application of the arcs the jaw began to quiver, the adjoining muscles were horribly contorted, and the left eye actually opened.”

“”The first of these decapitated criminals being conveyed to the apartment provided for my experiments, in the neighbourhood of the place of execution, the head was first subjected to the Galvanic action. For this purpose I had constructed a pile consisting of a hundred pieces of silver and zinc. Having moistened the inside of the ears with salt water, I formed an arc with two metallic wires, which, proceeding from the two ears, were applied, one to the summit and the other to the bottom of the pile. When this communication was established, I observed strong contractions in the muscles of the face, which were contorted in so irregular a manner that they exhibited the appearance of the most horrid grimaces. The action of the eye-lids was exceedingly striking, though less sensible in the human head than in that of an ox.””

Quick note to current would-be researchers: no, you cannot take home the heads of dead prisoners to your apartment and experiment on them. For one thing it’s just not hygienic. But of course so many other laws and ethical guidelines exist today that would rule out not only that, but most of what is described above to have taken place in the name of scientific research.

But, ok, you may argue that these research subjects were dead people, and criminals, with seemingly no rights perhaps. Obviously back then this remained unchallenged and even rights to a decent burial were apparently waivered due to the nature of the abhorrent crimes committed by the deceased. No one was there to fight for the rights of the decapitated one. Law was still evolving at the time, and deceased criminals were usually given over freely to science:

“Before the Anatomy Act of 1832, the only legal supply of corpses for anatomical purposes in the UK were those condemned to death and dissection by the courts. Those who were sentenced to dissection by the courts were often guilty of comparatively harsher crimes. Such sentences did not provide enough subjects for the medical schools and private anatomical schools (which did not require a licence before 1832). During the 18th century hundreds had been executed for trivial crimes, but by the 19th century only about 55 people were being sentenced to capital punishment each year. With the expansion of the medical schools, however, as many as 500 cadavers were needed annually” – read more on bodysnatching and grave robbing at .


In case you were wondering, “The Anatomy Act 1832 (2 & 3 Will. IV c.75) is an Act of Parliament of the United Kingdom that gave freer licence to doctors, teachers of anatomy and bona fide medical students to dissect donated bodies. It was enacted in response to public revulsion at the illegal trade in corpses” – again, read more about that at . And, note the use of the word ‘donated’. After 1832 it was only donated dead people that scientists were legally allowed to experiment on. Well, in the UK anyway.

But that’s just dead people. What about the living? Research ethics have also evolved over the last century. Some head-shaking cases that helped us to determine our moral compass on these matters included:


By turns these experiments caused different kinds of outcries and resulted in a firming up of what is nowadays considered good ethical practice for research. Learning can essentially be reduced to the following guidelines:

  • Obtain informed consent from research participants – trickier with minors and definitely to be thoroughly gained with parents as well
  • Obtain permission and informed consent also from any relevant authorities or organisations, and those in positions of managerial responsibility
  • Obtain ethical approval from any university ethics committees required
  • Do not deceive any of them about the aims of your research
  • Fully explain the purpose of your research, what you are doing, how and why
  • Give all concerned the right to withdraw at any time
  • Fully assure participants of confidentiality and anonymity
  • Do not harm your research participants emotionally, psychologically, physically or otherwise
  • Offer to debrief participants after the research, to discuss what happened in depth if required
  • Offer to stay in touch and share contact details and results

On reflection, I don’t think Dr Frankenstein ever asked his Monster if he wanted to be brought to life. And I don’t think we can say there was no harm done there, on quite a few levels. So, yes, by today’s standards Dr Frankenstein’s research was definitely unethical. However, Mary Shelley did preserve the Monster’s identity and therefore provided anonymity by not giving him a name…

Then again, confidentiality was totally blown!


PS: You can read lots more interesting accounts and reports of 19th century shenanigans in Christopher Edge’s book if you get hold of a copy. See e.g. for more details.

Say yes to STEM & STEAM, but insist on liberal arts, philosophy, intellectualism and humanist education too


When we say STEAM, we are of course talking modern day Leonardo Da Vinci, Hypatia and Marie Curie type education, seeking out, developing and nurturing the talent of scientifically creative genius to find solutions to today’s problems:

“STEAM is an educational approach to learning that uses Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics as access points for guiding student inquiry, dialogue, and critical thinking. The end results are students who take thoughtful risks, engage in experiential learning, persist in problem-solving, embrace collaboration, and work through the creative process. These are the innovators, educators, leaders, and learners of the 21st century!” [ii]

But why, specifically, is STEAM needed? Basically, argue leading advisers, for our economic survival: to “meet the needs of a 21st century economy[iii] A recent article published by Forbes explained the shift: “Work based skills are changing as more and more jobs are displaced by digital technologies […]with self-driving vehicles on the way, how many taxi, trucking, express delivery–and even aviation jobs–will go the way of the telephone switchboard operator? If history is a reliable guide, the technologies that are eliminating one set of jobs will create others: jobs that require twenty-first century—mainly digital—skills.  The explosion in industrial robotics, for example, is eliminating thousands of assembly line jobs but it is creating a demand for people who can design, manufacture, program and maintain those machines.  The questions are –  what will the net impact on jobs be and how well are our schools preparing young people for those new, higher skilled jobs as we head toward the fourth industrial revolution?[iv]

The UK it seems, may be taking the lead in confronting these issues head on right now. The Forbes article author, Nicholas Wyman, went on to put the UK on a pedestal, focused on Lord Baker’s current work: “According to Edge Foundation Chairman, Lord Kenneth Baker, “The U.K.’s future workforce will need technical expertise in areas such as design and computing, plus skills which robots cannot replace – flexibility, empathy, creativity and enterprise.” The Edge Foundation has released an 8 point plan of action in a manifesto called ‘The Digital Revolution’, elaborating how such a vision could be reached (click the link below to see the 8 point plan in the Forbes piece). Lord Baker was praised for his vision: ““Knowledge is as necessary as ever, but it is not enough,” says Lord Baker, “It has to be connected with the real world through practical applications ranging from engineering and IT to the performing, creative and culinary arts.  We need 21st education for a 21st century economy.””[v]

So Lord Baker puts knowledge in its place – it has one, but it doesn’t have primacy. Imagine then the embodiment of the product of the proposed needed education. My interpretation is that the successful 4 A star A Level student of tomorrow should be creatively and emotionally intelligent, with technical expertise and skill, entrepreneurial and switched on to real world problems: a sentient innovation machine, holding hands with the rest of the world. I implicitly link here to the concept of the 4th Industrial Revolution put forth by Schwab[vi].

My skeptical side doesn’t yet allow me to fully embrace this concept. It doesn’t sound fully convincing. It feels a bit too science fiction, abstracted from the gothic industrial realities of the inequality ridden world we currently inhabit. However, Schwab explains: “The First Industrial Revolution used water and steam power to mechanize production. The Second used electric power to create mass production. The Third used electronics and information technology to automate production. Now a Fourth Industrial Revolution is building on the Third, the digital revolution that has been occurring since the middle of the last century. It is characterized by a fusion of technologies that is blurring the lines between the physical, digital, and biological spheres.”[vii]

So if this Fourth Industrial Revolution comes to fruition, we should be all be connected through our brains, bodies, gardens, vegetable patches, fridges, cars, computers and mobile phones as part of an Avatar movie style ecosystem. I’m not keen on that vision to be honest, are you? My cynical side imagines a dystopian interpretation, where the inequalities inherited by the system prevail, and a Borg like infrastructure takes advantage of talent for its own benefit – the rich and powerful still get more rich and powerful, and those at the bottom of the inequality heap just get used and abused for their ideas. Cogs in the machinealbeit more sophisticated cogs and a more sophisticated machine.

Schwab goes on to describe how this world of interconnectedness is taking shape: “Already, artificial intelligence is all around us, from self-driving cars and drones to virtual assistants and software that translate or invest. Impressive progress has been made in AI in recent years, driven by exponential increases in computing power and by the availability of vast amounts of data, from software used to discover new drugs to algorithms used to predict our cultural interests. Digital fabrication technologies, meanwhile, are interacting with the biological world on a daily basis. Engineers, designers, and architects are combining computational design, additive manufacturing, materials engineering, and synthetic biology to pioneer a symbiosis between microorganisms, our bodies, the products we consume, and even the buildings we inhabit.

The Luddite in me wants to say stop. But can we? Is it too late? Is everything already too connected? Can we unplug and maintain cerebral independence, or is being part of the matrix the only way we will eventually be able to breathe? Or, is our only advantage to not just work hard with the creative side of the arts, but to fight back with the strength of the philosophical?

When the industrial revolution took place that we all know and love from our school history lessons, romantic poets, artists and philosophers fought back by placing an emphasis on the uncontrollable forces of nature – showing how minute and powerless humankind really is, and reminding us of the magnificent beauty of the thing that the industrial revolution was destroying. At the same time philosophers such as Karl Marx and Durkheim stepped us and gave us insights into the machinations of the workings of power and people behind this monumental takeover. In the same way, I’d argue that liberal arts, humanistic education is vital now to providing intellectual education and freedom of thought, as one way of still maintaining independence from the evolving Borg. In fact it might be the only way.

They might be able to matrix our bodies, but can they take our souls and minds? I conclude with a song: Manic Street Preachers, “If you tolerate this, then your children will be next”:

Say yes to STEM and STEAM – but keep the intellectual edge. Empower our children with intellectualism. Insist on a curriculum with liberal arts, philosophy and independent humanism as well.









Is there a place for humility in leadership? What does it mean? #SLTChat

Thoughts on educational leadership and management this week


First: “humility”. I used to be quite put off the subject domain of leadership as a taught subject when I was in my 20s. My disdain came from seeing largely what I perceived to be ego-driven individuals, beating their chests and proving their leadership potential by being the loudest voice in the room, or being able to down the most pints in an hour or having the funniest jokes to tell and being the life and soul of the party, or the cheekiest chappy at the bar. Although I can see why a lot of those kinds of behaviors command attention, and in some circles do gain popularity votes (especially after a sporting event perhaps), it leaves me wincing.  It also leaves a lot of people and their voices excluded too.

My personal preference was always for leaders of the Ghandi variety – or Nelson Mandela, Kofi Anan, or Antonio Gutiérrez, for example. I also admired Mo Mowlam. And Tony Benn. People with principle, values and personal integrity. They all had something to say. None of them empty kettles. Unafraid to firmly fight their corner for what they believed in, but not necessarily by charismatic means. Their message shone through for the long term, grounded in much more than flimsy, popularist, vote winning behaviors.

Fittingly, the topic of “If Humble People Make the Best Leaders, Why Do We Fall for Charismatic Narcissists?” is debated by the Harvard Business Review at

However, on the other hand, false modesty of the Uriah Heep type (“humble, humble, very, very humble” – picture it being said while bowing slightly and accompanied by the wringing of hands), is not my cup of tea either.

So where can the balance be struck? How about by just being honest? Say it as it is. Speak with a sense of audience: deep theory for Einstein audiences, and practical application for practitioners perhaps. A judicious mix of both when appropriate and relevant? Give what’s needed as and when it’s required. If it’s relevant to mention that you are an Olympic gold medalist, don’t hold back! If that fact is worthy of being mentioned for some reason, do so.

For those who are struggling, the ‘Leadership Freak’ gives 12 tips for humility in practice this week at:

On another note, emotional intelligence. All would-be school leaders will benefit from developing theirs. Not for the dark side of evil manipulation, but in order to just treat people well as the human beings they are, with a view to all getting along and playing nicely, and effectively. For emo int beginners, 8 apps are recommended at – these are mainly aimed at younger learners but are good for all beginners!

In addition to any MA level education leadership and management course you might be on, the UK’s DfE runs the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) – find out more at – this will help make your journey to SLT and headship increasingly robust.

Finally, possibly one of the best tweets of the week, by John Tomsett, whose school has just achieved outstanding status by Ofsted (perhaps to be coupled with a light hearted musical note at – just to keep Ofsted and regulatory bodies in perspective!):

john tomsett