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The power of networks – why a team beats heroic individuals.

13 Sep 2020   |   Chris Jessup   |   Wellspring Academy Trust

As a headteacher, I once conducted an experiment. How many decisions was I asked to make in a single day? These included formal requests via forms, meetings and emails along with informal conversations across the site. I counted a total of 45.

The overwhelming majority of them were quick, short, obvious (to me) and dealt with there and then. But it was the ones that I made, often in haste and without either checking or consulting, that would keep me awake at night – and come back to haunt me at a later stage. I realised very quickly that to be an effective decision maker, I needed to find another way.

There is a myth of the ‘heroic leader’. That the person in charge knows the most. That s/he has the answers to everything. What I have learned is that people who make the best decisions most consistently have a team they can draw upon for advice and guidance. My SLT was great for this. I also had other colleagues who I went to who I knew would give me their opinions – whether I liked them or not.

It happens in the classroom too. The very best planning sessions are the collaborative ones. Where ideas spark and fizzle. Where energy and creativity fill the air.

The ‘heroic teacher’ who plans, teaches, marks and assesses in isolation is surely at a disadvantage (and more tired) than one who has access to networks of colleagues – providing solutions, thinking, different approaches and support.

That is why a team beats heroic individuals. At Wellspring we have a team of networks to give support and inspiration to colleagues. A crucial example is that of our Expert Practitioners – colleagues who have been identified as exceptional teachers and leaders and who create magic everyday in their classrooms.

We now have a team of forty Expert Practitioners across the Trust, in all phases and sectors. They tweet out on @Wellspring Expe1 with thoughts and ideas around classroom practice.

If you are unsure who they are in your setting, would like to network or simply ask for some guidance – contact me for more details. Perhaps you are one in waiting yourself? Great. Let’s have a conversation. And let’s stay connected as a team.

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