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Entrepreneurial School Leaders

Sue Robson

This blog profiles an entrepreneurial Triad Model of School Leadership developed by three schools involved in the Erasmus+ project: Dame Dorothy Primary School, Springwell Village Primary School, and St John Boste RC Primary School in the northeast of England.


As the local authority support for school improvement in the region came to an end, the head teachers of these three schools were determined to ensure that the critical professional friendship that helped them to evaluate their performance, identify strategic priorities and plan effective change should continue. Louise Wiegand, head teacher at Springwell Village, noted her initial concern regarding how she could develop her Senior Leadership Team (SLT) without local authority support:

‘My SLT needed further development in the strategic skills needed to lead long-term meaningful change – where were those meaningful opportunities to come from?’

‘The ability to deliver meaningful and thought provoking feedback in a professional and sensitive way is a crucial skill for leaders’

The answer lay in sharing leadership expertise at all levels across the three schools. They embarked on a collaborative model with a self-assessment of each school and critical evaluation of the other schools. One SLT played the role of an inspection team to assess the performance of a partner school. The third school chaired a meeting between the school and its ‘inspection team’. The three head teachers agree that:

‘The ability to deliver meaningful and thought provoking feedback in a professional and sensitive way is a crucial skill for leaders’

To monitor the process of collaboration, the head teachers gathered evidence from OFSTED reports, pupil performance data and awards received by each school. Subject leaders, teachers, governors, office and premises staff, and pupils gave their perspectives on being part of the network of support.

The Premises Manager and SLT member at Dame Dorothy commented:

‘I liked the idea of working with others. If I get the chance to pass on good knowledge or good practice then this is something I am eager to do’.

This led to enhanced use of school premises in the triad schools. Iain Williamson, head teacher at Dame Dorothy, commented on the enhanced sense of confidence and competence as leaders his SLT gained through sharing their skills with others:

‘I believe my SLT were the most established of the schools at the formation of the Triad but they lacked confidence. Working alongside colleagues with similar fears but who had not been allowed the opportunities they had gone through gave them a sense of value in the roles they performed. It was at this point that they started to see themselves as I did – as leaders’.

An OFSTED inspection report for St John Boste School (2016) noted that the ‘dedicated and committed leadership is effective and has led to improvements in the school’. The report noted that governors benefited from their involvement in the shared leadership approach:

‘Leaders work collaboratively with those from two other schools to share practice. This ‘Triad’ enables governors to attend training and share expertise with other governing bodies’.

Denise Cushlow, head teacher at St John Boste, reflects on the impact of the Triad on the extended leadership team:

‘As we met towards the end of the first year to evaluate the Triad and the impact it had had, it was clear that it was something that would continue to grow and develop. Realising the positive impact it had had on us as leaders and on our SLTs inspired us to consider ways in which other members of our teams could benefit and grow.’

The collaborations have extended to include pupils, with School Council members from the three schools meeting regularly to learn from each other. A recent Dame Dorothy School Council Newsletter reports on how council members feel their leadership skills are developing as they ‘share ideas to improve our schools.’

‘We visited Springwell Primary School; … we learned about young leaders which is also used in our school. We heard that they linked their young leaders to an anti-bullying scheme. So since we were given a silver award in anti-bullying we thought it was a good idea to follow’.

The entrepreneurial Triad Model has enabled leaders at all levels in these schools to develop and to gain an enhanced sense of their contribution. The Model has created an energy that cascades into many aspects of school life. The schools are committed to sustaining this energy and allowing it to grow further.

The modules, case studies and associated resources are free to download from the project website