Richard Potter: My Personal Learning Journey

Richard is a Headteacher in a two form primary school in Essex having been a school leader and headteacher for over 15 years. He is an Executive Primary Principle for a Multi-Academy Trust, a local leader of education for the North Essex region and a strategic leader for the area’s Teaching School Hub and initial teacher training offer.  

Prior to beginning my journey to Chartered Teacher (Leadership) Status, I had undertaken a number of ‘industry standard’ qualifications. I also had a wide range of experience from diverse schools as both a teacher and a leader. Within my self-evaluation, I identified my strength as a confident instinctive leader but I knew that instinct was a glass ceiling in my development: national policy, effective methodologies and deeper insight would only be gained through developing my knowledge of how to utilise evidence-informed research. I had not undertaken any academic writing or research since my bachelor’s degree and thus I chose to focus on developing my own academic knowledge, to develop an evidence-informed culture within my school and to develop a local culture of evidence-sharing through the teaching school and the consortium of schools for the town I was part of. This formed the basis of my professional learning plan which I reviewed regularly  as part of my  Chartered Teacher (Leadership) journey, forcing regular reflection and adaptation as my confidence and skills grew. 

Although I had a focus on school culture, part of this impacted curriculum and teacher development. My understanding has developed in terms of the basis of statistical models that support sound assessment. In learning this, I and my staff revisited curriculum ‘quizzes’ from my reading of Rachel Johnston’s work (Johnston, 2012) as the data-assessment practice my staff were pursuing, under my direction was baseless and flawed (construct-irrelevant and underrepresented content was common upon a second look) (Downing, 2002). I would not have known about this; being open and honest about this learning with my staff allowed us all to revisit assessing interleaved learning opportunities within our curriculum together with a stronger structural and model-informed basis.  I feel this has made my leadership fallible, meaning I am open about being on a learning journey with staff and thus approached by them with more trust as my own CPD experiences are relatable from the staff perspective. Working through Christine Counsell’s ‘Taking Curriculum Seriously’ (Counsell, 2018) made it clear that my views on an aspirational culture and supportive, positive professional behaviours being the outcome of high expectation ignored the structure of the curriculum. How could I have high aspiration if I had not identified what in the curriculum was to have aspiration? Counsell’s refinement of the knowledge vs skills debate was elucidating; something I had not ever considered. The wider impact of this is that I could balance evidence-informed viewpoints against each other: something that gave greater validity to my decisions as a leader by being thinking fairly about the evidence I used. Susan Michie’s work gave me a framework for this thinking: evidence should be reflective of:  “…observable, replicable and irreducible components of an intervention” (Michie S, 2013). For every suggestion from staff, possible interpretation of a meta analysis or executive summary, I ask myself what the observable and replicable possibilities are in my setting; what are the ‘truths’. This leads me to question and seek alternatives to disprove my own thinking in ‘faithful adoption or intelligent adaptation.’  

A Valuable Experience 

I am a different leader now. Whilst my experience and confidence can allow me to run a school and make decisions rewardable by OFSTED, the process through which I’ve changed myself via the professional learning plan and my Chartered journey has made me vastly reflective, open to new, often contrasting, ideas and a seeker of what is new and effective. Through the structured direction, exploration and feedback I have gained the confidence and skills to continue that journey for the betterment of myself, my staff and the children we impact.

Find out more about achieving Chartered Teacher or Chartered Teacher (Leadership) status here.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Add Comment *

Name *

Email *