Lord Jim Knight has called on the 200 principals, academic and pastoral heads from the Middle East, along with ADEK, KHDA and SPEA, to give themselves space. Speaking at Outstanding Schools Middle East, he explained: “It’s time to stop and reflect in order to interpret the changes of 2020 and build on them.”
Sir Michael Wilshaw spoke of his ambivalent relationship with the term “outstanding”. It is a mindset, not a result. What matters is to be a “Good” school and to be obsessed with improvement. In his experience, outstanding leaders are fiercely competitive, ambitious, perceptive and unconventional. They are restless, with a clear view of what they want, yet pragmatic enough to get there. It is their role to disseminate this passion and drive to all staffing levels.
Sir David Carter told us how to lead with impact and gave a framework for underpinning school improvement through establishing values, designing plans, talent management and governance structures.
Wellbeing worked its way into almost every conversation and with good reason. Sir Anthony Seldon said it’s time to stop just talking about wellbeing and to start teaching it. For Mike Lambert, it’s about finding evidence-backed programmes founded on sound data and integrating them into the curriculum. He shared Dubai College’s journey for adding wellbeing to the curriculum.
Kate Griggs opened everyone’s eyes to the brilliant potential of the 20% of all students that are underserved by our current education systems – dyslexics.
Delegates responded with enthusiasm, especially in the interactive video roundtable discussions. They described the process as somewhat therapeutic, offering reassurance, connection, validation and a focus to carry them through the rest of the year.
A director from Al Mamoura Academy explained that it was “reassuring in this difficult environment to talk with people, to hear other people’s approaches to teaching and learning during Covid-19 and beyond – to take those ideas away and implement them in our own school setting and to know we are on track.”
A Dubai school explained how the roundtables enabled them to flesh out “meaningful ideas with people from different backgrounds” and valued the “building and developing of new connections to focus on improving school practice through ongoing conversations.”
CPD is more important now than ever, especially for school leaders. There are still many challenges ahead. Distance learning must be accompanied by useful templates, fair assessments, rich dialogue and deep questioning. Student wellbeing must be taught. Staff CPD and wellbeing must be put first. Decision-making and planning must involve effective parent input and communication. The home and school spheres are merging, so how can schools better manage emotional and social development? These are the questions that Outstanding Schools Middle East will look to answer in 2021.