Festival News: reflections on the session from Sir David Carter

Published: 15 September 2020
Stephen Betts (Learn Sheffield) reflects on the session for school leaders from Sir David Carter.
  • Stephen Betts (Learn Sheffield CEO):

This was one of the most eagerly awaited sessions of the festival and was as thought-provoking, relevant and authentic as you would have expected. The recording will be available online shortly for those participating in the festival. 

Sir David Carter explored the challenge of leading in times of uncertainty. His opening points, about accepting that we don’t have all the answers and need to recognise how this impacts on our own leadership behaviours, and his reminder to retain our inclusivity and empathy was good advice for us all.

During the presentation David discusses the unease (uncercertainty + anxiety) that leaders currently feel and the resilience needed to function successfully in changing times. He made reference to some of these things as things that leadership teams should discuss and this was a timely reminder that this presentation could be shared with SLTs to prompt or support that discussion.

In the middle section of his presentation David shared his current thinking on securing improvement. One of the things that he shared as underpinning his thinking was the principle that no school or trust should be content if they see another in trouble. The later discussion about the different ways that we can all contribute was thought provoking in the context of this. David shared his thinking on the role of mission, vision and strategy underpinned by values and described the capacity needed to bring about improvement.   

David went on to share the learning of McKinsey from the business world and applied their five phases of returning to a ‘new normal’ way of working to the education sector. Many leaders would have found the extended timeline that David attached to these stages and the developing focus on the things that we have started to do that we will retain and build upon, both reassuring and hopeful.

David returned several times to the central role of collaboration, which he described as the oxygen of school improvement. He discussed the features of effective collaboration (purpose, mutuality, change, pace and prioritisation) and looked ahead to the work that he will do with Learn Sheffield and the city in the months ahead.

The discussion after the presentation picked up on some of the points that had been made in the presentation, including the accountability framework, the likely impact of the current situation on 2021 assessments, catch up approaches, working with parents, and more.

We look forward to being joined again by Sir David for a panel session on Tuesday 29th September and to working with him throughout this year. 

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