Leaders must keep fighting, says outgoing AMiE president Josie Whiteley

Blog
31 August 2018 by Josie Whiteley
Josie Whiteley looks back over her year as president of AMiE

As my year as AMiE president comes to an end, I have been looking back and wondering if I have made a difference.

It has been a significant year for me, in that it has cemented my view that we must all be prepared to speak truth to power as and when needed.

And I have worked hard to do that whenever I could.

I’ve had the chance to speak out at conferences about the need for ethical leadership, the decimation of the arts and narrowing of the curriculum, constant curriculum change without any discussion with experts, forced GCSE resits in the post-16 sector, T-levels, DBS checks destroying lives, health and the need to focus on the well-being of staff and students. The list goes on.

I have felt privileged to have had that opportunity to speak out, often for those who dare not because their working environment is toxic and they fear the repercussions.

 

I have come across some influential leaders over the last 12 months, some who absolutely “get it” and some who don’t. I think it is fair to say that if you are leading an academy or a college and being paid £200k+ a year then you need to take a long hard look at what you are doing and why.

Most people involved in schools, colleges and universities are drawn to the work because they want to contribute to society through educating others. They should be properly rewarded for their work and of course there will be a salary scale dependent on roles, but there also has to be some realism and some fairness in the pay scales.

Meanwhile, the Government thinks education “on the cheap” is acceptable in one of the richest countries in the world. A part-funded teachers’ pay rise is useless when many schools are facing a funding crisis. An effective 25% cut in pay for FE staff over the last decade is a disgrace. This is what we are facing and leaders must use their influence to challenge.

I’ve enjoyed working with AMiE’s director Mark Wright this year, and the development of our “WHOLE CARE” code of leadership practice is something I am proud to have been a part of. If I achieved nothing else I hope its publication this year will have an impact on those who have read it.

It is available to download free of charge and is an easy-to-understand document. My expectation has been that all AMiE members should abide by that code and treat their colleagues with respect. There really is no excuse for behaving in any other way.

A particular highlight this year was my visit to a primary school picket line, where I distributed copies of the code and had a teaching assistant tell me it was one of the best things he had read. If everyone behaved in the way set out in the code, there would be no need for anyone to ever go on strike, he said.

Indeed!

The core of the document is about treating your team as you would wish to be treated. If lack of resources means you cannot do that, and is forcing you into unethical behaviours, then surely as a leader you need to take action? As we have seen in the School Cuts campaign mobilising governors, parents and students can make a real difference.

It has been heartening this year to see education leaders speaking out and fighting for the resources they need to teach those in their care and to pay their staff properly. Leaders lobbying Parliament and speaking out on social media really can instigate change.

 

Never forget, ethical leadership makes a difference every day and has a positive impact on everyone involved.

Finally, I would like to say a big thank you to all the staff teams I have worked with during my time as president, and also to the other ATL section officers who have had to put up with me for a whole year!

I wish AMiE’s next president Lesley Tipping the very best as she takes over.

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