Building a Leadership Program to Support Middle Leaders’ Professional Development
My name is Ilne Gevers, and I am the Deputy Head of Primary at GEMS Westminster School, Ras Al Khaimah. As the Deputy Head, my role includes supporting and developing the middle leaders in the school and ensuring that they have the skills and knowledge to develop their areas and demonstrate impact and improvements. I am also passionate about the professional development of myself and others in education, and therefore I am always actively applying my own skills to develop teachers and leaders.
A leadership program to develop middle leaders
With succession planning and a turnover of middle leaders, I identified a need for a leadership program that would develop their leadership skills, align their knowledge with the UAE and National Curriculum expectations and develop the effectiveness of middle leaders performing in line with the School Development Plan (SDP) and raising the attainment of all students.
As a result, I developed and set up the “Growing Leaders” program. The Growing Leaders program aims to support and develop the middle leaders in the school, develop their understanding of their leadership strengths and attributes, and identify their areas of development.
One of the first tasks that the middle leaders completed was a “16 Personalities” online survey. From the results, I grouped the leaders and assigned online courses from the GEMSU platform that would develop their knowledge and understanding of their specific leadership skills needs.
Throughout the year, training was offered by various senior leaders on key aspects that were identified, and further GEMSU courses were assigned to link in with the training being delivered. The training included writing and monitoring an action plan, developing quality assurance systems, data analysis, and coaching. As part of the whole-school quality assurance, middle leaders are expected to present their termly data and data analysis which feeds into the SDP and Self-Evaluation Forms (SEFs). As a result, one of the focus areas for middle leaders on the Growing Leaders program includes training and GEMSU courses about planning and delivering effective presentations.
Success with the leadership program
The Growing Leaders program is currently in its second year of operation. One of the greatest successes is the appointment of a new senior leader in primary for this academic year following her attendance in the first year of the program. Christiana Bamidele, who is now a Director of Learning in the Primary Senior Leadership Team (SLT), said:
“In 2019, when I became a middle leader, I knew I needed a leadership program to be successful in the new role. Hence, when the Growing Leaders program started, I was happy to participate. I have experienced transformation and growth in my career by applying what I learned from the program. The highlight for me was that we were not just lectured but allowed to lead a project. This initiative built my confidence and developed my ability to think as a leader. So, when there was an opportunity to apply for a senior leadership post, I knew I was ready because I have learned and grown so much within my two years in the program. I will recommend this program to anyone aspiring to grow in their leadership skills.”
At the end of the first year, the program was reviewed, and feedback was taken from leaders to improve the program. I adapted and developed new areas of focus to align with the school’s key priority areas and also to include the suggestions from the leaders.
A key aspect that has been embedded in the second year is the inclusion of GEMSU online courses to ensure that the leaders also gain certificates for the leadership skills that they developed. In the first term, middle leaders completed, on average, five GEMSU courses, including training for data analysis and presentation skills, which prepared them for the Term 1 data presentations to the Senior Leadership Team.
In her reflection on the significance of the Growing Leaders Program, the Phonics Lead, Julieann Sugatan, said:
“The Growing Leaders Program is a massive hit for me as a leader. From knowing nothing to becoming someone who is more capable of data analysis and planning. It has helped me greatly moving forwards with how to analyze trends while pumping in more strategy to bridge data gaps.”
Grade 1 Leader, Carolina Herrera, who is a new middle leader this academic year, stated that:
“Thanks to the Growing Leaders program, I’ve learned about myself as a leader, my capacity, my skills, my talents, and my weaknesses in order to be a better leader. Now it’s easier to establish my goals and my team goals and support everyone to work as one group. It has been a daily challenge because I need to lead by example, but it is helping me to delegate some responsibilities to my team and establish a relationship of trust. Now I can understand that my success is not only about me, but it is about helping my colleagues and supporting each other.”
Swati Kamble, who is also a new leader this year, has shared her views on the Growing Leaders program and said:
“The Growing Leaders program has helped me get a set of strategies so that I can achieve goals and move the team in the right direction to show an overall growth of the team. As a leader, it has helped to improve my communication skills and developed my leadership skills to build a team that is inspired and energized to perform at their best.”
Directly impacting students’ attainment and progress
The development and success of the Middle Leadership Team has a direct impact on the students’ attainment and progress and in the strategic planning of the school. Middle leaders have developed their skills and knowledge in relation to the school SDP and SEF, and this has supported them when creating their Departmental Action Plans for the year. In addition, as middle leaders have developed their confidence with data and data analysis, they are more confident critically analyzing student data termly with their team. This process has also ensured that effective mapping of student targets and curriculum adaptation is made to provide bespoke learning, improve student progress and attainment, and to bridge the gaps in students’ learning. This analysis, curriculum adaptation, and target setting are reviewed and discussed with SLT in Pupil Progress Meetings and in Departmental Action Plan review meetings. This process has been especially important following the extended online learning months. The plan is to review this process with the middle leaders at the end of the academic year to adjust and make adaptations to it, thereby continuing our journey of raising the attainment for all students.
As a lifelong learner, I constantly seek opportunities to learn more and develop skills to ensure that my strategies and approaches evolve and that I use these skills to develop inspiring leaders. In addition, I believe that my actions as a leader and leading by example ensures that leaders have a role model to aspire to. Having the trust, accountability, and openness with the middle leaders ensures that we have a valuable and positive working relationship and that everyone is striving for the same goals and outcomes of working in a successful school, and that we are all focused on developing children who are prepared for the future.
My name is Ilne Gevers, and I am the Deputy Head of Primary at GEMS Westminster School in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE. I have a Bachelor of Primary Education degree from the University of Durban, South Africa. After completing my degree, I worked in a primary school in South Africa for two years before relocating to London, United Kingdom. For ten years, I developed my teaching and learning skills, working across the primary years. I fulfilled two subject leadership roles in my school, and I was looking for a new challenge for my career when I was offered the opportunity to be a Key Stage Leader and class teacher in a start-up school in Dubai.
I joined GEMS Westminster School after five years of working at GEMS Metropole in Dubai. One of my proudest moments as an educator with GEMS was being nominated for the GEMS Teacher of Excellence award. This award is given to the top 39 teachers in GEMS schools. GEMS and Teacher Learning and Leadership for All (TELLAL) provided opportunities for professional development, and over the years, I have completed leadership courses and coaching. These courses have enabled me to be an effective and successful leader, with a focus on developing and supporting teachers’ professional development through teaching and learning training and leadership development and quality assurance to raise the level of teaching, ensuring a high standard of learning for the students. I strive to create a school where we develop holistic learners who are independent, curious, and innovative and students who are confident to share their knowledge and learning experiences.
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