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Putting Staff First: A blueprint for revitalising our schools

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Putting Staff First: A blueprint for revitalising our schools

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If we do not ensure, first and foremost, that our teachers are feeling physically and mentally well, they cannot be their best for their students. Consequently, a school which does not prioritise staff wellbeing is disadvantaging its own students. <P>‘Students first’ is a misplaced sentiment: the best thing for students is a happy, healthy, motivated, well-trained, expert staff. By putting staff first you are providing for students the one thing which will help them make good progress in their learning: truly great teaching. <P>Whilst it is easy to say that schools would not exist if it were not for the students, the glib converse is that without truly great school staff, the students would not be taught. What we need – as recruiting subject specialist teachers, school leaders and specialist support staff becomes increasingly difficult – is a revolution in how we treat our school staff. <P>We have to put our staff before our students because it is the only hope we have of securing what our students need most: a world class education. The longer our schools are populated with hypoxic adults, we imperial all our futures.

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If we do not ensure, first and foremost, that our teachers are feeling physically and mentally well, they cannot be their best for their students. Consequently, a school which does not prioritise staff wellbeing is disadvantaging its own students.

‘Students first’ is a misplaced sentiment: the best thing for students is a happy, healthy, motivated, well-trained, expert staff. By putting staff first you are providing for students the one thing which will help them make good progress in their learning: truly great teaching.

Whilst it is easy to say that schools would not exist if it were not for the students, the glib converse is that without truly great school staff, the students would not be taught. What we need – as recruiting subject specialist teachers, school leaders and specialist support staff becomes increasingly difficult – is a revolution in how we treat our school staff.

We have to put our staff before our students because it is the only hope we have of securing what our students need most: a world class education. The longer our schools are populated with hypoxic adults, we imperial all our futures.

About the authors

Jonny Uttley is the CEO of The Education Alliance Multi Academy Trust. He has been a teacher for 20 years and was previously the Headteacher of South Hunsley School in East Yorkshire. John Tomsett has been a teacher for 32 years and headteacher for 17 years. He is Headteacher at Huntington School, York. He co-founded The Headteachers' Roundtable think tank and is a popular speaker on school leadership.

Reviews

Lawrence Stenhouse once described a curriculum as "an attempt to communicate the essential principles and features of an educational proposal in such a form that it is open to critical scrutiny and capable of effective translation into practice.” I have often wondered what this would look like if we designed a curriculum for teacher learning with as much care as we strive to do for our students, and now I have my answer. “Putting staff first” presents the most complete and compelling vision that I have seen for a school that places teacher learning at the heart of its endeavours, rather than being bolted on as an afterthought. From selection and preservice education through to support for the most experienced teachers, John Tomsett and Jonny Utley provide a clear template that any school leader can adapt for their own context, making it one of the very few books that I would recommend that every single school leader should read. -- Dylan Wiliam

Reading this invigorating book by two education leaders inspiring good practice in the North, especially during the last month of upheaval, I thought about our national embrace of Jurgen Klopp - the Liverpool FC manager. For so long education and football embraced the certainty of the driven ruthless leader who achieved success through a merciless drive for standards, regardless of the human cost. This archetype could thrive when generation X were being led, as there was compliance and subservience - we had grown up under an Iron Lady and this forceful leadership was the default position. In fact there was a whole industry of learning how to be this ironclad ruthless leader. Yet the next generation grew up digitally sharing and exploring their emotional response to events and the world, they were educated in schools about mental health and they  were raised to question. The Iron Clad leader looked rusty, like the tin man in the Wizard of Oz, stiff and unresponsive as the more emotionally intelligent leader skipped by - taking staff with them who thrived in this supportive new world. This is the manifesto for this shift, a necessary rebuttal to those who lazily suggest a people centred approach is anti-standards. Tomsett and Uttley have written a guide for the lithe mammals who are skipping past the 'treat 'em mean and lean' dinosaurs of education leadership. As the system tries to catch up with this rapid evolution, this book will be a reassurance to any leader who has been told this modern approach lacks rigour. This is not really a review, more a thank you note for articulating what most of us felt but sometimes were nervous to express. Schools can be great places to work and successful. This essential book shows you how. — James Eldon, Principal, Manchester Academy

This clever book is more than the title suggests. It is a sustainable framework for school development and improvement that is rooted in people and relationships. And it is people and relationships that make schools thrive, especially for the most vulnerable students. This is a book for everyone and anyone in a leadership role in schools. You cannot dictate or bruise you way to sustained excellence. John Tomsett and John Uttley demonstrates that the greatest way to positively influence our education system is through soft power, and enabling and encouraging others be the best they can be. — Marc Rowland, Pupil Premium and Vulnerable Learners Adviser, Unity Schools Partnership

An essential read for all school leaders. If we want to create the conditions for colleagues to do their best work for pupils, then staff have to come first. And this brilliant book shows us how - borne of lived experience, it walks us through the structures, systems and culture which need to be in place to make this a reality. A hard nosed look at creating the time for proper focus on teacher development; a proper, holistic way of approaching performance appraisal, the scaling up of disciplined inquiries and serious attention to workload, Those schools that grow a reputation for staff development will find that recruitment improves, because high calibre teachers want to come and work in schools which put staff first. --Mary Myatt

The combined practical wisdom of Tomsett & Uttley - rooted in their substantial intellect and experience - has provided a blueprint for schools and school leaders for the decade ahead. Full of supportive practical examples: act with strategic intent; develop the people who are developing our future generations; care for the carers. Great schools ensure their staff flourish; own oxygen masks first, please. --Stephen Tierney (@LeadingLearner), Chair of Headteachers Roundtable, blogger and author of Liminal Leadership

Additional Information

Author John Tomsett and Jonny Uttley
ISBN 9781912906840
No of pages 144
Format Paperback
Publication Date 16 Mar 2020

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