Leading with Moral Purpose

Over breakfast this morning (Feb 9) I was reading the letters page in the TES and read a letter that said the following-“Am I the only reader put off by pious talk of moral purpose when leadership is discussed by the likes of the National College or Sir Michael Wilshaw…When was educational leadership ever informed by immoral purpose?”

This got me thinking about this. On face value it is a very fair point but I think if we assume that the author is correct and that no-one leading a school today has anything other than morality at the core of their decision making, then what is it that makes leaders think and work differently?

There are two elements to the descriptor. Moral as in morality and purpose as in intent and focused directional thinking. The core must be that belief in doing what is right for all students. Every head I have worked with or helped to train has this. But there are different ways to see this in action. For example:

  • Moral Purpose for the most vulnerable students in our community has their lifelong learning and adult experiences at their core
  • Moral Purpose underpins the belief that success is for everyone and that every student has a right to the best education we can give them
  • Moral Purpose about teachers having the right to teach and the right to learn
  • Moral Purpose about the quality of the working day expereince and support we provide to those entrusted with the delivery of great learning
  • Moral Purpose about a group of schools working together to take responsibility for students across a community irrespective of which school they attend

The list goes on but it is a reminder to me and probably others that the DNA of outstanding practice is often related to knowing and understanding why it is we do what we do and what we believe in. The hardest decision we face as school leaders often have their origins in decisions and outcomes where there was a contradiction between our core values and the actions we need to take. Few of us enjoy seeing that our vulnerable groups do not perform as consistently as we want. Few of us enjoy managing difficult relationships with parents where the triangle of learning  between school, the student and the parent is fractured and few of us enjoy the conversation that shifts from supporting a weak teacher to the one where the support moves to something more formal. Yet this is the arena in which moral purpose underpins what we do and for this I reject the idea that the National College or OFSTED are pious in their talk when they remind us of the obligations we have to be the best, teach the best and produce the best. When this is true, we can hold our heads high as a world class education system. When we are one, both moralilty and determined focus will be in sync


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