WEEK 5 - Friday 6 October 2023
I’ve always been suspicious of those people who start articles, essays or blogs with a pretentious quote from some obscure historical figure to introduce their point. But I believe it was the ancient Greek Stoics who first introduced the idea of Circles of Control and Influence. The Stoics were a group of philosophers who believed that the way to a happy life was to live a life of virtue and to ignore the search for external things such as wealth and material possessions. They also believed that we could live more peaceful and fulfilling lives if we focussed our attention and energy on what we can control and not waste time and energy worrying about things that we cannot control.
This idea is commonly used in leadership books and courses now and it certainly applies to education; both in how we lead schools but also in how we develop young people. Our students worry about so many things - mostly how they are perceived by others – but we try to teach them that this is something they cannot control; what they can control is how they themselves behave and how they treat others.
Somewhere in between ‘control’ and ‘concern’ is the sphere of influence; if we can control the controllable well, we may be able to have a greater influence on others, which may reduce the things that we are concerned about. Still following? Have a look at the model here and you’ll see it makes sense. I try to apply this a lot to my leadership thinking. We often sit in meetings finding ourselves discussing things which we are worried about and which concern us. But then we try to wrest the discussion back to the things we can control in school. There are not too many levers in school – the school day, the timetable, the rules and expectations. But if we get these right and apply them consistently, we can influence behaviour – of students and staff, and then things start to happen.
This week’s focus for me has been meeting with Heads of Department and Heads of Year for their mid-term reviews. Before each of these meetings, our middle-tier leaders produce a report summarising their work and their future plans and then these are discussed in a meeting with myself and other senior leaders. What pleases me most is the desire that these leaders have to keep improving our school; their passion for improvement is evident in the depth of analysis and the thought that goes into their planning. Their ideas are discussed and challenged and this produces the Development Plans for each subject and year group which becomes the basis for their work throughout the rest of the year. Of course, they often have to respond to things that just happen but beyond that they are working to a plan for improvement that is set out at the start of the year. These leaders tell me that they are often anxious before these meetings which I take to be a good thing; I am nervous before similar meetings with Governors and Trust colleagues. It is a desire to do our jobs well that leads to this and keeps us all striving to be better.
In recent years, we have made several changes to the school day in order to apply social distancing and to accommodate our growing number of students on roll. We are now in a position where we believe the current arrangements will meet our needs and we intend to make them permanent. As this is a change from the school day that operated pre-pandemic, we need to consult on them first. This letter has been sent to parents with information. Please note this does not mean any change from the current school day.
Today is the start of a period that most teachers hate – the start of Hull Fair! Anyone that works in a school in Hull and the neighbouring areas will know this is a distraction to students- to say the least - and we work especially hard to keep students focused in school. Thank you for your support in ensuring that your child can enjoy Hull Fair but also be in school on time each day next week.
My wife is not from this area so doesn’t really share my fondness for Hull Fair. The kids are – oddly – somewhere in between and over the past couple of years they’ve chosen other treats rather than go to the fair (we got away with paying for a film on Sky Movies one year!). This year, they’ve figured out that we’ve been short-changing them for years, so there is no avoiding a family trip. So long as I get my pattie and chips from Bob Carver’s and some fudge to take home, I’ll enjoy it. And I know they will.
Enjoy the weekend, the Fair if you’re going and thank you for your support.