Corrina O’Beirne, Propelo Director, shares her reflections on a key challenge for academy trusts of all shapes and sizes: how to develop aspirant leaders?
Education leadership recruitment is incredibly competitive. Top candidates are in high demand and have more choice than ever before. Forward thinking MATs recognise that their future success often hinges on their ability to retain and nurture their highest performing leaders.
Over the last year, Propelo have been supporting a growing MAT to do just that. As well as attracting new leaders to the trust, we have shaped an in-house development programme – ensuring incumbent aspirant leaders receive the opportunities and pathways they need to remain professionally challenged, committed and focussed.
Here, we share some of the key elements that supported our success:
Clarity of purpose
Successful talent development relies on clear goals from the start. We spent time with the board defining outputs, pressure points and how these might evolve over time. This specific MAT is experiencing significant growth with several new schools transferring over the coming months, each with a unique set of challenges. Working with the board, our team developed a competency framework to map out the skills and experiences needed in each school and to ensure the milestones were in place to track individual progress.
A bespoke approach
Every leader is unique. Before creating an individually tailored programme, we spent time understanding each participant’s professional journey and personal motivations. This created the building blocks to design a development programme entirely bespoke to each participant, ensuring leaders were equipped with the specific skills they needed to develop at pace.
It is imperative that training is purposeful, engaging and taxing. Our support allowed leaders to delve into their own practice, learn from others, receive real-time feedback on their developing practices and crucially, confidently apply their new skills.
- Career-focussed mentoring from both sector and out-of-sector experts to help aspiring leaders identify their current strengths and areas for development;
- Hands-on training on modelling leadership, communicating vision, managing challenging conversations, strategy and growth, using data and budgeting;
- Opportunities to visit high-performing schools outside the MAT (in differing contexts) to share best practice and nurture a collaborative mindset;
- The opportunity to apply learning by leading whole-school improvement projects with measurable impacts;
- Regular and structured reflection with a professional mentor (external to the MAT);
- Preparation for Headship interviews through application writing clinics and mock assessments.
By investing in each participant’s leadership development journey, the MAT has been able to hone an agile cohort of ambitious leaders that being strategically deployed across the trust – often into first time headships. The group are more committed than ever to the trust’s vision for the future and participants feel prepared for the opportunities and challenges ahead. Undoubtedly a powerful and purposeful asset for any growing trust.