CofE Foundation for Educational Leadership

The Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership is a partnership of schools, dioceses, universities and others dedicated to supporting the development of leaders in education working towards a vision for education based on a Christian view of 'life in all its fullness' (John 10:10).

All schools have an ethos, a character, a leadership-driven DNA that determines their identity, priorities and decision-making. Equally all schools are striving to improve outcomes, sometimes under significant pressure, as they seek to provide the very best learning experience for the pupils in their care. Too often, leaders can see these two elements as distinct and separate. The Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership aims to bring them together, to ensure that the stated ethos of schools is not separated from the lived reality of its corridors and classrooms, and that its leaders are well equipped and encouraged to ensure that this ethos fundamentally enhances their school’s outcomes. We work to resource leaders at all levels of the education system by offering:

NETWORKS: Bringing leaders together regionally to support, challenge and inspire each other, through collaboration, coaching and conferences

PROGRAMMES: Equipping school and system leaders with the wisdom, knowledge and skills to realise our vision for education

RESEARCH: Ensuring leaders have access to a strong evidence base for their work through a depth of thinking and reflection on leadership, pedagogy and theology

Through these 3 core strands, the Foundation aims to create and resource a movement of dynamic and creative leaders who are equipped and encouraged to support each other’s development, synergising the best in pedagogical and leadership thinking with rich theological reflection and personal development. Regional peer support networks provide the opportunity for schools of all shapes and sizes to work together to support each other’s development through rich pedagogical and theological reflection, drawn together in a range of exciting regional and national conferences. Cutting edge professional development programmes are offered through the CofEPQH and CEO MAT qualifications. These are underpinned by an academically rigorous approach to research, identifying the very best practice and resourcing schools and university partners to evaluate and celebrate leadership approaches.

Church of England Foundation for Educational Leadership - Little Gonerby Church of England

Infant School within the Peer Support Network

In the autumn term I took up the invitation from Jackie to find out more about the Foundation for

Educational Leadership and the Peer Support Network. I was particularly attracted by the

opportunity to work with colleagues across the Dioceses of Derby, Leicester and Southwell &

Nottingham as well as Lincoln. My Deputy Headteacher and I are leading on the project together in

our school.

At the launch event in October we learned more about the four different streams for the peer

networks, and decided to join the group exploring Leadership of Vision and Ethos as this is a current

key priority and significant piece of work at Little Gonerby. This has enabled us to engage with

‘Deeply Christian, serving the common good’ and to share and articulate each school’s vision and


Once the groups were defined, a further session in November gave us the opportunity to meet as a

smaller group of ten schools and begin to explore the Ethos Enhancing Outcomes resource,

discussing how our ethos can make a positive impact on the lived reality for children in our school.

The resource uses questions designed to provoke deep discussion around twenty aspects of school

leadership, from removing disadvantage to admissions and curriculum design. We tried out some of

the questions in the group - ‘If we see each child as God sees them, what barriers would still

remain’? for example - and found the activity challenging but encouraging as it helped us to look at

issues from a new perspective. As a group, we then came up with the project title for the rest of the

year - ‘How would anyone know?’ Leadership of Vision into the Classroom.

Over the remainder of the autumn term, we introduced the project to staff and governors and used

questions linked to the resource to find out what children and staff currently understood about our

vision and what Wisdom, Hope, Community and Dignity looks like in our teaching and learning. This

was a fascinating and valuable exercise, revealing insights from the children such as ‘Hope means

God will always be with us’, ‘we are community because we are in a team together and we love

each other’, ‘we encourage each other to keep on trying’. It also showed us how difficult it can be as

adults to put what is often implicit into words- from this, one aspect of our project is to work

together to help each other articulate our vision as well as the children already can!

In January, we hosted the next group session at Little Gonerby. During this session we shared the

outcomes from our research so far and explored ideas further on how to develop ‘How would

anyone know?’. We split down further into pairs and triads of schools, each focusing on one

particular aspect. The morning concluded with a tour of the school which enabled us to receive

feedback from colleagues and to share aspects of pedagogy and practice.

We have now paired up with Woodborough Woods Church of England Primary School in the

Nottingham Diocese. Through discussion we identified that the group who perhaps have the least

understanding of what impact vision has on teaching and learning is parents and carers, so we

decided to direct our focus towards how we can articulate and share our vision specifically with

parents and carers. We travelled to Woodborough to meet the team, tour the school and formulate

our joint project. Over the rest of the spring term, we will be taking our Vision and Values out to

parents on the playground and through the website and Twitter, focusing on a different value each

week and asking for parents’ thoughts, questions and comments about ‘how do parents know?’. At

the end of the project, children from both schools will have an opportunity to share their findings

with each other, and senior leaders will share learning and ideas for how to further develop these


As a result of joining the Peer Network I also found out about the Foundation’s National Conference

on 1st February and decided to attend. What an inspiring day! Following opening worship led by

local school students, we heard from three key-note speakers. The following aspects particularly

resonated with me -

Amanda Spielman - how reassuring to hear the Chief Inspector champion a long-term approach to

school improvement, stating how there cannot be a trade off between ethos and outcomes, and

that schools should have a rich and deep curriculum designed to give children the best path to the


The Bishop of Chelmsford - for a full education children need interplay of mind, body, heart and

spirit. When so much in education pushes us as leaders to see children only as data and to fit into a

very narrow and specific ‘box’ of ‘expected standards’, it was uplifting to be reminded that

education is to nurture and enable children to be and flourish as the unique person they are capable

of being. Dame Julia Cleverdon called us to ‘connect’ - connect with the unconnected and to give as

well as receive with our neighbours in other dioceses - something which has resonated with me

through our involvement with the peer network as we can find ourselves limiting our possibilities by

not moving beyond our own locality. This was reinforced in the concluding panel discussion on

Connectivity - exploring how we can connect and then collaborate locally, nationally and globally.

But also on the importance, in a world where we can be endlessly connected through social media,

of knowing when to disconnect from toxicity and helping children and staff know when to

disconnect for our own wellbeing - this resonated particularly strongly as in my school we are

prioritising staff wellbeing through ethos and practice.

Workshops- Character Education with the Jubilee Centre. For our peer network project this

prompted interesting reflection around Virtues or Values? Moving from Values - ‘this is what we

believe’ to Virtues - ‘this is what we do’. Virtues could be an interesting focus for our next steps as a

school because they refer to behaviour, they have to be practised together as a community and so

this may help us as we seek to demonstrate the peer network question ‘How do we know?’

Workshop 2 - Ethos enhancing outcomes - hearing from colleagues in different sectors - how leaders

and governors are using the Ethos Enhancing Outcomes resource to encourage discussion about


Overall, I am excited by the further possibilities for joint working through our new connections in

the peer network and by the opportunities to use the Church of England Vision, Ethos Enhancing

Outcomes and Foundation resources to develop our distinctiveness as a school. I would encourage

colleagues in other schools and the Diocese to explore how we can all benefit from these resources

and partnerships.

Helen Hilton

Head Teacher

Little Gonerby Church of England Infant School


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