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e4education review of By Leaders, for Leaders #BL4LMay19

This brilliant review of #BL4LMay19 was written by Katie Sixsmith at e4education

At e4education we are very privileged to be one of the sponsors of By Leaders For Leaders, which allows us to attend and exhibit at their conference events in Oxford Circus, London.

On Wednesday 1st May, myself and Natalie (the e4education Sales Manager) were pleased to be invited to attend the secondary By Leaders For Leaders conference. This was our second time visiting a BLFL conference, and even though we are not senior leaders ourselves, we both came away from the day with a new awareness and understanding of the useful, relevant and insightful education topics which were discussed. 

It is always a joy to listen to influential and inspirational educational presenters and BLFL excels at this. Every speaker who attended the conference was eloquent, engaging and extremely down to earth with a wealth of knowledge and an enthusiasm and commitment to sharing best practice. 

To give you a small insight into the innovative thought-leadership which is present within By Leaders For Leaders events, I have highlighted a few key takeaways from the event last week. However to really gain from the experience of these professionals, I would strongly recommend attending the next conference in October or one of the Dive Deeper Days which are held, for free, at schools around the country. The full calendar of events can be seen here.

An Overview of the 1st May Conference

David Weston, the Founder and Chief Executive of the Teacher Development Truststarted the mornings events by speaking about the development of professionals and the importance of relevant, intellectually engaging CPD. He cautioned against using methods which lead to ‘superficial compliance’ and instead encouraged 'openness, effective teamwork and meaningful, objective, consistent feedback that genuinely helps to improve teaching’. 

Leann Swain, the Headteacher at East Barnet School, spoke about disruption free learning - in particular about her successful implementation methods of removing mobile phones from her school environment. Leann’s key messages were around absolute clarity of the message being sent, reinforcing this information through signage and communications and then consistently supporting staff and students to achieve the overall goal. Using these methods, after only 3 days, East Barnet School was mobile phone free and they have never looked back. 

Joe Ambrose is the Headteacher of Henbury School and the School Improvement Leader for Assessment and Curriculum at Greenshaw Learning Trust. He started his talk by reading from ‘Leverage Leadership’ by Paul Bambrick-Santoyo and then went on to discuss the topic of ’more development, less monitoring’. He emphasised methods such as ’10 minute Developmental Drop Ins’ and ‘Principles of Better Practice’ to help highlight to teachers what they are doing well and what they could do to improve, giving them the tools they need to develop without feeling constantly monitored. 

Jill Rowe serves as the Director of Ethos and Formation, as part of the Oasis Group Executive Team. Jill’s talk was centred around directing the ethos - a very informative talk which can be applied to any school, organisation or business. She spoke about ethos as being ‘fundamentally important to the way we do things around here’ and as a ‘declaration of intent and a description of the way you believe the world can be.’ It’s important that an ethos is not just a statement, but that it underpins the foundation of everything an organisation does.

The final topic before the networking break was from Ben Parnell on creating and sustaining brilliant teams.

Ben has experience of successfully leading 9 secondary schools across the South of England and has worked for some of the largest MATs in the UK. He spoke about a relentless focus on teaching and learning and about conversations that allow development combined with a drive to improve. He advised ‘focusing on the micro to ensure overall performance of the school increases day on day’ and highlighted the importance of high performing teams, high quality line management and the ability to challenge colleagues where necessary. 

After a twenty minute break of tea, coffee, delicious cake and networking, the delegates then heard from the incredible Dr Jon Rudd who is an Olympic Gold Medal Winning Coach and had four athletes compete for four different nations at the London 2012 Games.

Jon Speaking at By Leaders For LeadersJon’s conference speech on Positivity and Marginal Gains was superb with lots of insightful thoughts on managing life in general, not just within the confines of school or sports. He highlighted that building resilience is key when dealing with a situation and that there should always be ‘realistic hope alongside controlled optimism’. He spoke about how we should ‘control the controllable and be patient; things take time’ and that we should ‘enjoy what we do, not endure it - too much time is spent dwelling on missed opportunities’.  Jon ended his speech by taking a couple of questions and, at an audience members request, sharing an amusing Olympic story from London 2012. 


One of the many brilliant opportunities that By Leaders For Leaders offer their delegates is the chance to attend a ‘Dive Deeper’ day at a school who are part of the BLFL network and who have freely given their time and experience to share best practice with their peers. 

Recently, Bushey Meads School offered a Dive Deeper Day and their Executive Principal Jeremy Turner (a previous BLFL conference speaker) expressed to the audience the importance of collaborating with colleagues and how helpful he found the day. He then handed over to two attendees of his Dive Deeper Day; Sam Jones from Kelmscott School and Kirsty Aaron from Priory Community School to share what they had learned from their visit. Sam’s school had adopted shared solutions; learning that whilst schools may be different in different areas, they still face similar challenges and Kirsty’s school has since implemented staff ‘thank you’s’ from year 11 students to help promote staff wellbeing and generate a tangible, powerful buzz. 

The penultimate speaker on the day was the founder of By Leaders For Leaders and the CEO of Greenshaw Learning TrustWill Smith. Will is articulate and passionate about his work and his topic for this conference was on ‘the leadership of outcomes’.

Will Speaking at By Leaders For LeadersHe spoke about the Ofsted priorities around the curriculum, raising standards and about authentic leadership. He highlighted the need for Intent > Implementation > Impact and the requirement for less complexity and more clarity especially when it comes to leadership, ethos, culture, curriculum and collaboration. He also stressed the importance of noting that ‘easy’ and ‘less complex’ are not the same thing and of having a Raising Standards leader who can ‘reduce the amount of data collected, stop over-marking and move the focus onto feedback and development rather than monitoring’. 



The final speaker of the conference was Manny Botwe, the Headteacher of Tytherington School.

Manny Speaking at By Leaders For LeadersManny was originally due to speak at the January conference but unfortunately, due to his northern location, he was snowed in on the day, so could not attend. It was well worth the wait though, as we heard about ‘keeping the main thing in focus’ and the importance of the school leader role in leading the community. He emphasised the need to focus on the culture of the organisation, to invent traditions and excitement within the school and to establish a moral purpose, to drive everything you do. He strongly advised the leaders that ‘if they had a great idea, to do it now. Don’t wait for September’ and cautioned them against becoming blasé about leadership.


If you are interested in attending the next By Leaders For Leaders conference, make sure to visit the By Leaders For Leaders website or follow them on Twitter at @by_leaders1.

The next conference will be held on the 9th October 2019 in London - it is free to attend but you will need to sign up in advance as places are limited. 

I will leave you with a final thought from the May 2019 Conference - some wise words from Manny Botwe: 

"Culture eats strategy for breakfast"