Amanda Lees, Headteacher at The Shrubbery School, has been awarded the ISA Certificate in Advanced School Leadership. Amanda is the first to achieve the Certificate, which was launched by ISA in 2019, and is pleased to share her experience with us.
The Certificate in Advanced School Leadership recognises excellence in senior leadership, and celebrates a continuing commitment to drive personal improvement. It is open to those leaders (both Members and non-Members) who wish to develop their skills and knowledge in school leadership. Participants are given two years from their first activity to achieve the award through collecting credits through attending ISA Senior Leadership Pathway courses, selected ISA conferences and practical work.
ISA: Congratulations, Amanda! To start, please tell us a little about yourself and what led you to participate in the ISA Certificate in Advanced School Leadership.
Amanda: I am married and a mother of two teenage boys. I have been teaching for 25 years. 23 of these years were within the state system, 13 of which were in senior leadership at an inner-city two form entry state school. During this period, I gained extensive experience working with looked after children and children with special educational/behavioural needs. I joined the independent sector in 2019 and took on my first headship role in September 2020 at The Shrubbery School.
I have led on delivering safeguarding training across the Academy Trust that I was part of and also on initiatives such as Peacemakers and Family Groups (which is based on the Secondary Vertical Tutoring model), where I led a conference in Birmingham for heads, colleges and businesses.
As a new head I thought it important to embrace development opportunities that would help me grow the skills required to successfully lead an independent school. The ISA Certificate in Advanced School Leadership seemed like an obvious choice.
ISA: Which parts did you enjoy the most, and which did you find most difficult?
Amanda: The overall support offered by the ISA has been tremendous and the opportunity to network with peer senior leaders has been invaluable. Having taken over a school that Requires Improvement (Ofsted graded) I found the ‘Unlocking the Potential of Your Team’ course particularly valuable. This really helped me identify ways that I could work with my staff to create learning outcomes that were high impact. Listening to the course presenters and their experiences was an element that I particularly enjoyed hearing as this gave me opportunities to apply the learning to my own school.
As a new headteacher the most difficult aspect was having the inner belief that I could achieve the outcomes that I wanted. Starting the Certificate in Advanced School Leadership seemed quite daunting to begin with and finding the time was a challenge.
ISA: Could you tell us a key area you have developed following any of the courses or work you have done through the Certificate?
Amanda: The course, Improving Documentation for ISI Inspection, was invaluable in helping me fully understand the gaps that I needed to close in documentation to ensure the school was compliant with inspection standards. I found the course very supportive and I very quickly learned that the ISA was a supportive body with a ‘done with’ model as opposed to a ‘done to’ model.
I am currently setting up a Forest School area within our school grounds which can be used to bring learning to the outside classroom. All children across the school can have the benefit of this kind of learning, a new experience for The Shrubbery.
I also particularly enjoyed ‘Unlocking the Potential of Your Team.’ This allowed me reflect on the best ways to develop and motivate my staff to assist them to reaching their full potential. In particular I have reassessed how I coach and mentor them to ensure we improve not only the school’s provision but also staff well-being.
To enable the school to move forward, I intend, over time to draw on all staff members’ potential and grow these strengths to hopefully nurture staff to become responsible for areas across the school.
ISA: Do you have any advice for anyone working towards the Certificate in Advanced Leadership?
Amanda: My advice would be to take the opportunity that we have been given within the Independent sector. One of our core values at The Shrubbery School is ‘reflection’. The Certificate in Advanced Leadership gave me the opportunity for self-reflection in terms of what I was trying to achieve for our school and its stakeholders. It gave me the confidence to do this in such a way that I am now able to nurture and structure my staff to unlock their true potential.