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The Conversation – with Jess Mahdavi-Gladwell

Using time well at work is vital for productivity as well as work-life balance. The sense of always being 90 seconds behind, chasing one’s tail perhaps, is no fun and doesn’t enhance our sense of control. As school leaders work towards being ‘September-ready’, I think some of Simon Sinek’s tips could  improve everyone’s experience, at least in terms of meetings.

I’ve often heard (and perhaps used) the phrase ‘should have been an email’ about meetings. Here, Sunek suggests three ‘game-changing’ tweaks to make them more effective.

First, ending meetings on a number that ends with five, thus creating a five-minute buffer between meetings, is something I plan to implement (perhaps at home as well as at work). Whether to transition thinking from one focus to another, make a drink or take a comfort break, this feels like a simple and impactful change with no drawbacks.

Second, assigning three roles (meeting ‘owner’, note taker, time keeper) is something else that could be impactful and may be more relevant to schools than some suggestions that come from business.

Finally, having a stated goal for meetings. I will reflect on my sense that the meetings I’m responsible for have one, and ask if this is the experience of everyone in them.

This isn’t one of Sinek’s suggestions, but I’ll also resist the temptation to hold a meeting about holding more effective meetings. I’ll just signpost this blog!

In this article, James Foster and Michael Lokshin discuss inequality as something which is multidimensional. They describe educational inequality and income inequality as two of those dimensions, and reflect on the interaction between the two, drawing on a study carried out in Azerbaijan between 2016 and 2023.

Perhaps more interestingly, they go on to present a hypothetical ‘counterfactual’ where, rather than people who have lower incomes experiencing poorer quality education and medical care, these groups have access to the best quality of both. They ask us to imagine the impact of this, suggesting that reducing educational inequality will itself reduce income inequality.

At the end, they draw focus back to the interconnectedness of the dimensions of inequality. It left me pondering, when we are so often reminded of the roles we can’t or should not fill, that our impact really does go far beyond test scores and exam outcomes.

There is still time to contribute your opinions to Ofsted’s Big Listen consultation. But for those of us who work in Pupil Referral Units, there is no box to tick to identify the sector in which we work. ‘Other’ it is, then.

It’s in this context that I read this Chartered College blog outlining the organisation’s own response to the Big Listen and why professionalism defines their call for change to the inspection process.

The blog shares the thoughts of College members, and the overall sense is that inspection is really only one of a number of pieces of data to be considered in evaluating school performance.

That feels right. If only Ofsted wouldn’t so readily forget we exist.

The sense of belonging that can exist within school teams can be heady. Ironically, it can be particularly heightened (as well as much more valued) at crunch points, such as Ofsted inspections.

Here, psychotherapist Nilufar Ahmed considers the impact of remote or hybrid working (not so relevant to our profession) and how vital psychological safety is, particularly when considering diversity within our teams.

When the sense of belonging is not present for someone who seeks this, the impact on physical health is real. An increased sense of belonging is related to fewer sick days and higher productivity, as well as happier colleagues.

Whether a sense of belonging comes through time and opportunities to build meaningful connections at work, from a sense of shared values or whether it is found outside work through other activities, it’s something most of us need and something that most school leaders, I believe, want to provide.

If this is something you’re missing at work and you can find a way, I’d try to raise it;  senior leaders genuinely want schools which are staffed by those who are happy at work.

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