Summer Reading List for School Leaders

Many of you may want or need to avoid thinking about schools and education for a chunk of time over the Summer and that is quite understandable. School leadership is an enormously rewarding job but it is also stressful and more pressured than ever. I can certainly think of some recent summers when I (and my teams) staggered over the line at the end of the term and really needed some time to clear our heads before thinking about the day job again. However, the longer holiday break is a good time to get to grips with some quality reading about the wonderful world we work in. Here are some personal favourites of mine that I have benefitted from over my time as a Head and Senior Leader – I am sure you have many of your own that you could recommend. Firstly: Leadership of Place by Kathryn Riley – The notion of ‘place’ is a powerful one: the place where we are from; the place where we live; the place where we would like to be. It raises issues of identity and belonging (or lack of it), and about roots and connections (or lack of them) which can be vital to our children and young people. In a world that is more uncertain and unpredictable, place matters. The book is a fairly easy read and appears to be the first of its kind to look at the role of place in schools and in the lives of young people today. Drawing on original research from the US, UK and South Africa, Kathryn Riley poses some tough questions to the practitioners who lead our schools, and to the politicians who decide the fate of our schools:·Can schools create a space for young people to be safe and confident in who they are?·Can they help them find their place in the world and understand how to shape it? Secondly: Miseducation by Diane Reay. Diane spoke at our recent conference on education and poverty and her keynote was a riveting, challenging listen. The book addresses the urgent question of why the working classes are still faring so much worse than the upper and middle classes in education, and vitally – what we can do to achieve a fairer system. Thirdly: Linking Leadership to Student Learning by Kenneth Leithwood and Karen Seashore Lewis. This is a longer read than the first two but worth the persistence. It is based in the American system but has any lessons that are applicable to our own. The book is based on an ambitious five-year study on educational leadership that was sponsored by The Wallace Foundation. The authors studied 43 districts, across 9 states and 180 elementary, middle, and secondary schools and in the book they report on what they found. This offers a balanced understanding of how the systems we operate in affect how we lead and the impact we can have.  Finally ( and this isn’t really a leadership book but I would say it is essential reading for all school leaders – What about me? by Louise Michelle Bomber. This addresses the nature of attachment in children and how it develops. It then poses the vital question: What would a genuinely supportive school day look like in practice, for children who have experienced attachment difficulties and developmental vulnerability. The foreword by Dr Kim Golding includes possibly my favourite quote about schools ‘perhaps the true measure of a school is how it teaches its most vulnerable pupils.’ Powerful stuff. Anyway – I hope this at leasts prompts you to consider reading one of the above or to return to one of your own favourites. Happy reading and have a great Summer!


Phil Mellen

July 2019

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