Leadership, SEND

Successful SEND Leadership – Is it enough to just copy good practice?

By Steve Pendleton

Peer-to-peer professional support and school improvement are two different processes.  Naturally, there is some overlap, in terms of change management and transformation. However, in the current educational climate, we are seeing an increasing confusion between the two.  Peer-to-peer support is a process of cooperation between professionals who have interests in common and experiences to share. Specialist school improvement is where developments are planned, carried out and evaluated with external advice, and where there is clear accountability for outcomes.

In this blog, I unpack some of the myths around using good practice to establish high quality provision.  I do so, from a school development perspective and I will use the case study of social emotional and mental health (SEMH) provision to highlight the key points.

One of the things I have learned from working with school leaders over the past 17 years is that good practice in one place doesn’t inevitably lead to good practice somewhere else. Context is more important than is often given credit. Underneath the surface schools vary considerably.  Schools may have similar systems, classrooms, and curriculums, but function differently because each has a unique community culture which is strongly influenced by the organisation’s beliefs and values and the geographical location of the school.

A useful metaphor to explain this can be found in gardening.  Like transplanting a thriving plant from one garden to another, there are differences, invisible to the naked eye, that can cause it to struggle. The plant might need additional help to survive in its new setting because the soil may have a different level of moisture, acidity or minerals. To ensure a successful transplant, the soil may require additives. It is possible that the transplant may never be successful because the essential conditions cannot be recreated.

Differences between schools which appear physically very similar are hard to spot when you are a successful leader in one school and have developed systems which work well in that context. The benefit of engaging with external support and school improvement trained professionals, is that you can have your assumptions challenged. This is important when you need to see the interplay between the effective approach and the context in which it is working. An external view can help you establish whether you can provide the essential conditions for a new approach to be successful.

Case study:

Jane, the head of a highly successful Warwickshire primary school opened a SEND specialist resource provision for key stage one children with social emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs in October 2020.  Jane sought my input as school improvement specialist to help her discern between good practice (the seed or plant, to extend the gardening metaphor) and the culture (the soil and other variants, unseen to the eye).  As part of the preparation we jointly visited an award-winning independent special school across the border in Leicestershire. Places in this school are in high demand because of the successful outcomes and added value for children with SEMH needs This has helped transform the lives of the children and their families.  

Our intent was to distil the elements of good practice that could be applied to the new school in Warwickshire.  So that the children could experience high outcomes too. Clearly, the two organisations are vastly different and serve different communities. One is a mainstream primary in Warwick and the other is an independent primary special school in Leicestershire.

Five things we discovered through this process:

  1. Even though the age range for provision deferred, many of the children felt like failures at their previous school or setting. Many of the children had unmet needs, causing further distress and in some cases, leading to trauma.  This was common (to varying degrees) across both school communities.
  2. The Leicestershire school clearly has effective systems and processes that enable these vulnerable children to flourish.  However, these cannot simply be replicated, as they have evolved over time.  We had to flesh out the principles underpinning the systems and processes and ask key questions to understand the interplay of the whole system.
  3. When the Leicestershire school employs staff, it looks for people with the values and beliefs that will enable them to cope emotionally with distressed children. Jane will adopt the same approach for her provision. Staff can be trained on how to help children learn. It is harder to give them moral purpose.
  4. Leaders in the Leicestershire school prioritise their own emotional well-being by making sure they have access to external support. Jane and her colleagues will need to do the same. When the going gets tough, the leader is the last line of defence and needs to be available to help and protect staff.
  5. The Leicestershire school has found that traditional rewards and sanctions are not effective at helping children with SEMH needs to cope. This led Jane to wonder whether her school’s behaviour policy was effective. Replacing it with something radically different was a bold step and took courage. Jane needed reassurance that it was the right thing to do and the support of other leaders in the school to make it work.

We will continue to update you on the development of the school in Warwickshire.  In the meantime, a few thoughts for reflection:

  • What do you see as the main differences between peer-to-peer support and specialist school improvement support?
  • What are the strengths and challenges of each?
  • At this point in time, would your setting benefit from peer-to-peer support or specialist school improvement?  Further reflect on why.  We would love to hear your thoughts, so do feel free to comment below.

About Steve Pendleton

Steve Pendleton is a school improvement specialist for #TeamADL with expertise in the education of vulnerable and disadvantaged children. After a successful career as a teacher and leader in secondary schools, Steve became a school inspector, improvement adviser, virtual head, SEND Commissioner and senior leader for a local authority in the West Midlands. His specialisms include leadership development, and strategic approaches to impact delivery of provision for behavior SEMH, attachment and trauma needs.

#TeamADL is committed to ensuring everyone thrives in education, employment, and life. We stand up for people who are different because we are different. To find out more visit www.teamadl.uk

Early Career Framework, Leadership, SEND

SEND Leadership: a new way of working

By Anita Devi

Last week, #TeamADL jointly led a series of SEND Briefings with Tappter, because we believe this is a time for a new way of working.  In recent weeks, we have already started the conversation by talking about:

In addition, we are proposing a way of working that re-connects the sector.  For years, I have listened to people describe the SEND system as ‘fragmented’.  In truth, I have struggled with this level of negativity, not because I don’t’ believe there are things we need to address.  There are many issues we need to address.  My resistance to this comment was due to the dream I have in my heart and the joint up vision; I have in my head.

I envisage a system where there is a co-operative approach to the leadership of special educational needs, disability, and inclusion. Leadership is not just about those in post.  It is about teams and recognising the value each team member brings to the conversation. Parents and carers are very much part of the team, as are children, young people, specialists, teachers and community members.

I envisage a system where identification is both timely and accurate.  Identification has become a tick-box process, much to the detriment of the child and young person.

I envisage a system where resources are available to meet the needs of children and young people, not only in educational settings, but also in the community when they attend social groups or other community settings.  Reasonable adjustments need to become part of the norm.

So how can we connect the dots and make this a reality?

Co-operative Leadership involves mutual input from team members in working towards a common goal.  What is our common goal?  The best life chances for children and young people.  I believe many of us know this, but we possibly differ on how we get there.  It is for this reason, we teamed up with Tappter to create ‘SEND Leaders Connect’ and Advanced.  This is a safe platform for leaders, parents and carers to connect, talk and find solutions. 

A few years back, I started looking at the SEND Leadership Pipeline, in a more structured way.  I was humbled when in 2017, this work was recognised internationally at a conference in Cambridge.  The concept is simple – a thought through process of professional development from trainee teacher/educator to advanced SEND Leader.  Over the years, we’ve tested various points of effective CPD.  We have been working with different organisations such as NASBTT, Hays Education, Optimus Education and others to make this a reality.  Last Friday, a book I have been working on for two years was also published to support those in the early stages of their career.  My PhD focus enables those with experience and expertise to be retained in the profession, so we do not lose the tacit knowledge of practitioners.

Finally, as a not for profit organisation, I have had a dream for a long time about how we can fund resources differently.  I have some big and achievable ideas to make this happen.  However, we are going to start small. Settings that join our SEND leaders Connect (Advance) which includes access to Tappter networks and a termly online meet with bonus sessions will have the opportunity of receiving a resource worth up to £100.  My long-term vision is much bigger than this!  Many have questioned me over this … if we are to create a culture of abundance of resources to meet needs, it starts with generosity and the belief ‘there is enough in this world for all to receive’.

Over the years, I often been mocked for my out-of-the-box thinking around SEND, but just looking at how we have trailed blazed over the last 9 years (i.e. since the start of the SEND Reforms), we have a lot to be thankful for:

  • 2011 – to date Several local authority projects to challenge inefficiency, redesign simpler systems and establish a more conducive and integrated local culture of support
  • 2012 – to date High impact professional networks, including several during #lockdown
  • From 2012 The #TeamADL Provision Review model has been adopted by many as an agile approach to review SEND provision and ensure it is consistent, as well as cohort responsive.  The methodology also ensures everyone has a voice.  This, with other unique CPD packages became an accredited training course in 2020
  • 2012-3 We developed some insights around ‘outcomes-based accountability’ that shaped the SEND Code of Practice 2014/15 (Partners: Optimus Education)
  • 2014-5 Designed and developed the SEND CoP Postcard.  This is still used by many schools and part of teacher training programmes globally
  • 2014-7 Workshops on SEND Finance and reducing the paperwork load. The reducing paperwork and increasing impact is still part of our core work and many schools and leaders have benefited from this. Here is some feedback.
  • 2015 Launch of www.sendreviewportal.net that is all about choice and informed decision making around procurement and commissioning.  On that note, concrete strategies on effective commissioning were shared at The Academies Show in 2017 and have been used by many schools since.  Do look at our SEND Advocates page
  • 2016 We published Time Management book for SENCOs (Partners: Optimus Education) This subsequently evolved into the first SEND Leader Planner in 2018 and subsequent versions in 2019 and 2020
  • 2017 We were privileged to be involved in the SEND ITT Toolkit (Partners: NASBTT and other ITT Providers)
  • 2019 MK SEND Careers Events (Partners: Network Rail, RiX and Natwest).  In the same year, #TeamADL were shortlisted alongside Virgin Media and the BBC for a Disability-Smart Award
  • 2019-2021 Strategic leadership development for those leading in Post 16 (Partners: Derby College)
  • 2020 During lockdown, we provided FREE SEND leader coaching to many schools and settings in the UK and internationally
  • 2020 onward SEND Leaders Appreciation Day (Partners: Hays Education).  You can find many of the stories on Instagram @send-leaders

… and now SEND Leaders Connect (Advanced) with Tappter plus a NEW way of funding resources through a #GiveBack approach. We have connected with Tappter for 5 main reasons: privacy, security, simplicity, connectivity and distraction free. The project has been piloted and scored independently by reviewers. As part of the pilot, we presented our approach to SENCOs and headteachers.

“Our Trust chose to use the SEND Leaders Connect Advance package because it is a simple and effective way to bring together professionals from across our Trust. This includes our SENCOs, where some are very experienced and others newly appointed. The App enables them to ask questions and support each other with advice and resources. It also connects our leadership teams and eventually we will connect our governors, bringing SEND to the forefront. We also chose to use it because it allows us to liaise with other professionals and experts across the region, including experts like Anita. – LH, Director of Education

Are our ideas out of the box? For sure! But we know they make a sustainable difference.  And you know, we know SEND Leadership! Listed above, are only a small selection of the partners we have had the absolute privilege of working with over the years. You can find others on our website.

#TeamADL is committed to ensuring everyone thrives in education, employment, and life. We stand up for people who are different because we are different.

If you would like to find out more about our three-prong approach to reconnecting a fragmented SEND system or anything we are involved in … do please get in touch.  We are excited about the future and the possibilities that lay ahead of us for a better system.  Ultimately, our heart remains focused on ensuing nothing holds the next generation back.  What is your hope for the future?

We have put on an extra meeting on 21st September 2020.  Click here to register.

About Anita Devi

Anita has had an extensive career in education.  Her why is based around the ‘joy of learning’.  As such, she focuses on what enables learners and what hinders them and more importantly, what can she do to improve the system.  Amongst many other roles, Anita leads #TeamADL

To find out more visit www.teamadl.uk

Disability, Leadership, Preparing for Adulthood, SEND

Special educational needs and disability: time to restore a differential diagnosis approach

By Anita Devi

In a previous blog, I have written about synthesis of assessment.  Today, I want to share my thoughts on why differential diagnosis is an important part of supporting children and young people with SEND and their families. To be clear, this is not a debate about the medical model or the social model of inclusion.  It is a conversation about ‘how’ we identify needs accurately, so that we can put the right support in place.  I will use examples from my own professional journey as a SENCO, SEND Advisory Teacher and SEND Consultant to illustrate some key issues.

Differential diagnosis is the process of differentiating between two or more conditions which share similar signs or symptoms. To be effective differential diagnosis requires three key components:

  1. Firstly – everyone round the table has a voice and difference is to be welcomed.  On many occasion, children and young people may present with some symptoms and behaviours in one environment and not in another.  What is relevant here is the difference.  By accepting both observations as correct, we are better placed to consider the environmental factors that are having an effect.  No one voice should be given more weighting than another and where possible, evidence should be sought.  Awhile back I was training panel members in a local authority to make consistent decisions regarding 9.14 & 9.54 of the SEND Code of Practice 2015.  An evidence-based approach is vital for consistency.  In one case that we reviewed, throughout the paperwork practitioners referred to a conversation where the child was said to have a diagnosis of X.  This conversation was repeatedly referred to as the primary need of the child.  It was a medical condition.  Yet, in fact there had been no formal diagnosis.  The comment (and subsequent basis for the plan) arose from anxious parents raising the possibility of this condition.  This possibility condition turned into, “She has …” in the reports and subsequent decisions (to the detriment of the child) were based on that possibility condition. Further investigations revealed the child did not have this condition and any support, intervention or treatment put in place had simply served to delay accurate identification and provision.  How different the story would have been if someone had asked for evidence of the diagnosis.
  2. Symptoms need to be perceived as holistic patterns in the current moment and over time (i.e. historical).  As a SENCO, I devised a form for teachers to record symptoms they were seeing in the classroom and over time / year groups. A symptom is a physical or internal feature indicating a condition or need. This form helped us collectively discuss with parents and understand the child’s needs better.  Too often, it is possible to consider only one or two things and depending on the lens adopted, a label is attached.  Two case studies edify how easy it is to misdiagnose.

Child A was presenting with symptoms that everyone including a private assessor diagnosed as dyslexia.  As a SEND advisory teacher, I met with the parents and ask them questions about Child A’s development history and daily routines.  Child A regularly bumped into things and presented with other co-ordination difficulties that the parents had assumed was Child A being clumsy.  Further investigation revealed Child A had dyspraxia. Whilst there is an overlap between symptoms of dyspraxia and dyslexia; the latter predominantly focuses on a difficulties in learning to read, write and spell.  Therefore, any interventions put in place may have missed other significant areas of need.

Child B was a bright year 5 student, who took part in several community team sports and orally was able to articulate high levels of knowledge and creativity.  The difficulties arose with reading and writing.  Parents engaged the services of a dyslexia specialist, who diagnosed dyslexia and suggested a 10-week intervention programme, that only the specialist could provide.  I undertook a reading test of real and nonsense words.  As Child B read, I noticed erratic eye movement.  Child B’s eyes would jump three letters forward, then two letters back.  A similar patter emerged when reading high frequency words in a sentence. I referred Child B to an eye specialist, who confirmed my observation and Child B was given eye movement corrective glasses. Entering Year 6 (with his glasses), Child B was a quite different student.

3. The third component is possibly the hardest for stakeholders to take on board.  Differential diagnosis works through 5 core thinking skills:

      • analysis
      • interpretation
      • inference
      • deduction
      • problem-solving

Therefore, differential diagnosis requires up-to-date knowledge of research and accepting the possibility ‘of getting it wrong’.  Child C was unable to access the maths curriculum.  Demonstrated ability placed Child C as working three years below his age.  One option would have been to place the child in an intervention group and support development of mathematical foundation skills.  However, the SENCO decided to commission a dynamic assessment test.  This basically assesses cognitive processes, in the moment i.e. as they are happening.  Child C was cognitively age appropriate.  However, a look through the historical records showed Child C had had many supply teachers for maths and as a result had significant ‘gaps’ in learning.  This was not a SEN issue.

As part of the work I do, I am often asked for a good-practice example of an Education Health Care Plan (EHCP) and 5-star examples of well-written outcomes.  I have yet to find one and I have worked across several local authorities.  The issue is the plan has become about form filling, not the connected bigger picture of understanding the child and presenting symptoms.    In one local authority project, I reviewed the Advices written for more than 30 EHCPs.  I also then reviewed the associated plans.  What was apparent was the reports by specialists focused on one or two voices, at the expense of their own professional knowledge.  When I then met these specialists, they then shared with me their reluctance to express their opinion, as it differed to others.  I regularly undertook statutory assessment of pupils and a key part of my report writing was to consolidate conflicting pieces of evidence to clearly discern the child’s needs and then the provision needed to be put in place to meet those needs (sometimes multiple).  On many occasions, less is more meant I had to acutely define a catalyst approach for supporting the child.  The current system (post SEND Reforms) shies away from difference and differing opinions.  I think this is a mistake and as a result, I am not convinced we are identifying needs and provision accurately.  The system is resources-driven, not identification-based from differing evidence-based perspectives.

One of the areas I lead training on most regularly is enabling SEND Leaders to discern ‘why’ an intervention / support is needed and ‘how’ it should be delivered.  The why and how are intrinsically linked.  To discern this knowledge, SEND Leaders need to look beyond the data and look at patterns across several factors. Knowing the why really does change the how.

What is needed for improvement?

I would suggest two factors are needed to drive improvement and ensure a better system for identification.  The first is ‘protected CPD time’ for SEND Leaders.  This is in complete contrast to current SENCO Workload Survey approach and I have written more about this here  The SENCo workload survey, mistakenly focuses on ‘protected work time’.

The second is a recognition and acceptance of difference at all levels.  This needs to be evident within settings and at local authority level. Only then can we begin to discern patterns, environmental factors, and historical issues for accurate identification of needs.

If both were in place, over time we would see a system where open conversations were prevalent and the single goal of ensuring the child progresses becomes the focus.  Naturally, this involves a conversation about defining progression.  However, this is the 21st century; young people and adults with an educational need and/or disability should be able to contribute to society through employment, they should be able to live independent healthy lives and be included in the community.  So, if we are serious about the ‘preparing for adulthood’ outcomes, we have a responsibility to employ a differential diagnostic approach to accurately identify need and the provision needed.  I would be interested in your thoughts, especially if you disagree with me!

About Anita Devi

Anita has had an extensive career in education.  Her why is based around the ‘Joy of Learning’.  As such, she focuses on what enables learners and what hinders them and more importantly, what can she do to improve the system.  Amongst her many other roles, Anita leads #TeamADL

To find out more visit www.AnitaDevi.com

Parenting

Parent Perspective: Freddie and me

By Richard Nurse, Dad of Freddie and Creator of Picturepath

How do we manage to navigate a typical day in our household? The answer is routines – lots of them. My son is 8 and is autistic. He was non-verbal till 2 ½ and went to school with only 1 to 2 word sentences. Before he could speak, we had some colossal meltdowns until a Speech Therapist one day gave us a tool which made all the difference. It was a PECS book! PECS stands for ‘Picture exchange communication system’.  It is exactly what it says on the tin – a method of communicating through the exchange of pictures. Instantly, the meltdowns eased significantly. My son knew what was coming and what to expect. He peeled off the “now” and “next” pictures and after a while he started saying phrases like “Biscuit please”.

As we moved onto longer sequences, it became important for him to know all the steps of a process. After one morning where we almost had a little boy getting undressed in the lounge, we realised that for us it was important to put more detail on to our timeline. The “go upstairs” symbol was born! Our revised morning routine (which we still use today using a software solution) has steps in it including “go upstairs” and “get dressed”.

Not every autistic child stims or acts like Rainman

Who else gets told “your child doesn’t look autistic”? We get that a lot. I want to scream “not every autistic child stims or acts like Rainman” but I just smile – people mean well. They see a happy child joining in with his peers. They do not realise that to have that lovely, calm, smiling boy requires immense planning. We spend a long-time building picture-based routines, so he knows exactly what to expect. I cannot praise routines enough. If we mess up and do not build them, even in situations where we think he does not need them, it can lead to tears and tantrums. During lockdown, I know every day is the same for him (yes, PE with Joe Wicks is the start of every day) but if I’ve not built a visual guide, he can became upset because in his mind he doesn’t know what’s coming up. You and I know that it is the same as yesterday, but he does not and he’s worried.

It is extremely easy to think “We don’t need that today” but my recommendation is – build the routine anyway. If you use a digital solution, then you do not have to worry about losing a symbol or having to laminate a whole sheet just for one picture. Take pictures of places or people to personalise the routine (anyone else need to differentiate between “big Asda” and “little Asda”?). Believe me it is so much better than not doing it and thinking “I should’ve built a timeline today”!

We’ve been introduced to many ways to make life easier but nothing has been more effective for us than using a visual timeline, whether it’s “now and next”, or a routine to explain an event, or a whole day timeline. Use it continually and this can help, often in times when you might think you do not need a timeline.

Anyway, have to go now. Apparently, I need to be doing some spiderman lunges and burpees…. Help …

Richard Nurse created Picturepath as a digital solution for daily routines.  After a year of research, it launched in 2016. Since then, Picturepath has been downloaded thousands of times by parents and carers and is being used in schools across the UK, making a real difference to the daily lives of children, parents and teachers. 

More info on https://mypicturepath.com/ Twitter: @mypicturepath

Leadership

Out of this World Crisis Leadership

By Jez Bennett

During my permitted “once a day” exercise/dog walk I’ve been enjoying listening to the BBC Word Service’s 13 Minutes to the Moon podcast, written by Kevin Fong.  The current (second) series describes the Apollo 13 mission, in which the astronauts and their mission control team battled to cope with the catastrophic aftermath of an explosion in a fuel cell which ended their hopes of a lunar landing and gave them a very slim chance of returning home safely.

Apollo is a timely focus in the current climate.  In Greek mythology, Apollo was the god of light, knowledge, music, poetry and healing.  Amongst other qualities, he is strongly associated with the health and education of children.

One head teacher I work closely with described the Covid-19 crisis as our “Apollo 13” moment, and this Easter weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 13 mission.  There is a sense in which we are developing solutions as we go along, but might we also learn from Apollo to cope with the changes and challenges we are facing and so that we might improve the quality of the education we provide in the long term?

The process of change, whether externally or internally determined, often follows a similar pattern.  Psychologist Elizabeth Kubler-Ross initially proposed it in 1969 as a series of steps she had observed in terminally ill patients.  Although its evidence-base is somewhat limited, it has become a favoured model in change-management theory, and appears in many different versions.

Kubler Ross

This process can be separated into 3 distinct sections.  It’s instructional to notice how the Apollo 13 team went through these phases too.

Stage 1 – “We’ve got a problem”

The first stage is typified by shock and denial.   When the explosion happened on Apollo 13, mission control’s initial response was one of denial.  They assumed they must have an instrumentation error.  As the severity of the situation became clear, denial led to disbelief.  Flight controller Sy Liebergot stated he couldn’t believe that a titanium oxygen tank had exploded:

“If things got real tense – if there was a bad problem, you could see us grabbing one handle.  If it was a real bad problem, you’d be grabbing both handles.  You know you get the cold feeling in the pit of your stomach, like, this is really bad, but you can’t get up and go home.  But this was not an option.”

Moving through this stage requires information with clear, direct communication.  People want answers to their concerns, but these need to be carefully managed.

On an Apollo mission, all communication with the spacecraft was through one dedicated colleague, known as CAPCOM.  This would be a trained astronaut who might envisage the situation the crew found themselves in.  This single channel ensured that communication was timely, clear and specific.  CAPCOM could also ensure that the messages were positive and proactive.  For example, rather than an the expletive-ridden, frank analysis provided by one flight controller, CAPCOM communicated:

“We’ve got lots and lots of people working on this.  We’ll get you some dope as soon as we have it and you’ll be the first ones to know.”

Stage 2 – “Is there anything we can trust?”

In the second stage, anger and frustration resulting from the situation are often prevalent.  The reality becomes clear, and may lead to resentment, depression and fear.

“What do you think we’ve got in the spacecraft that’s good?”

On Apollo 13 flight director Gene Kranz realised that he needed to stop analysing the problem and start identifying the thing he knew were working well.

Moving through this phase requires clear planning, support and encouragement.  This planning helps avoid chaotic response that might otherwise result at a time of low productivity.  It can also require time, particularly in a large organization as members of staff may move along the change curve at different rates.  Leaders need to anticipate the change and provide the mechanisms for others to move along it at appropriate rates.  As Kevin Fong writes:

“Keeping control of your team in the face of something so chaotic is tough.  Without proper discipline things will disintegrate.  This is the genius of Kranz’s leadership.  He finds a way to force his flight controllers to stop, reset their approach and start again from fresh.”

Stage 3 – “Start handing over”

Fong also describes how Kranz had the discipline to relinquish control to the incoming team at mission control, rather be tempted to make all the decisions himself despite the pressures and responsibility, recalling Kranz’s words:

“A fresh team is probably going to thinking clearer.  The rest of us can continue working in support of that new team.”

Characteristics of the third and final stage of change leadership are acceptance, exploration and experimentation.  Carefully led and managed these result in integration and improvement.  Initially it’s important to capitalise on the ideas of the team through encouraging creative thinking.  Glynn Lunny, who replaced Kranz part way through the crisis, was clear that he needed to ask his flight controllers for their recommendations, whilst remaining calm and taking responsibility for the external pressures of time. Fong states:

“Survival depends on an option which is not in the flight manual.  This is as close to a leap of faith as NASA will ever make. Mission operations are supposed to run on carefully prepared checklists with well-rehearsed procedures.  Improvisation is something to be wary of.”

Schools are also closely associated with procedures and dislike improvisation.  At a time of crisis, moving through this stage 3 requires both training and decisions with the recognition that there may be no precedent for required actions.  Training helps get the best out of everyone rather than accepting the status quo, and again may take time.  Having explored a variety of options, at this stage decision making needs to be clear and well communicated.

Back to normality  

I’m aware that many of our children won’t know the story of the Apollo 13 mission, so I won’t give away the ending here, but there is one other timely story to tell.  The original flight crew included the astronaut Ken Mattingly.  During training all crew members had been exposed to the rubella virus through a fellow astronaut.  Mattingly was the only one not to be immune from the disease, and was forced to withdraw from the mission.

As the emergency unfolded, Mattingly found himself called upon to try to develop a procedure for ensuring the safe return of his fellow astronauts through experimentation in the simulator.  His expertise proved invaluable – you might say that he undertook extreme home working!

Where do you think you are currently on the change leadership curve?  Where are the members of your team?  What approach to you need to take to ensure that, following this crisis period, our practice and procedures are stronger and more effective than before?  Which of the god Apollo’s qualities do you most need now?

And whatever your situation over the next few weeks, If you find yourself with some spare time in the next week (!) and are looking for a great family movie, you could do worse than Apollo 13.

This blog was first published on the LTC website in March 2020.

About Jez Bennett
Jez is Principal of the Leadership and Training Centre at 5 Dimensions Trust in Milton Keynes and an Associate of #TeamADL  He is an experienced secondary headteacher, governor and leader, and has particular interests in curriculum and leadership development.  He is also a practising musician as a performer, conductor, composer and teacher, and believes that the arts have significant potential to transform and develop the educational landscape.  You can follow him on Twitter @LTC5D