How the ASLDP Allowed Me to Discover Who I Am as a Leader
By Stuart Pryke
Education Author and Assistant Principal (Teaching and Learning) at Iceni Academy
‘Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’ —John F. Kennedy
The Aspirant System Leaders Programme is the best CPD I have ever had. I don’t think this blog could start any other way. I could (and do!) wax lyrical about the ASLDP. Was it challenging, rigorous and demanding? Yes. Was it also rewarding, valuable and inspiring? Absolutely. Without a doubt, the ASLDP was the best thing I have participated in when it comes to my own professional development.
A Bit About Me
My name is Stuart Pryke, and I’m Assistant Principal for Teaching and Learning at Iceni Academy where I have worked for a year. I am an English teacher in my 11th year of teaching and during this time I have been a Subject Development Leader, Teaching and Learning lead and ECF mentor and induction co-ordinator. My subject has been my passion for a long time and I have also worked with Oak National Academy, PiXL and GCSE English in Action, speaking about English and the teaching of literature to teachers across the country.
Why the ASLDP?
The ASLDP was an opportunity to do something for myself. As a teaching and learning lead, one can be so focused on the development of other colleagues, that one can often overlook their own needs for growth and progression. As a new senior leader, I knew that I needed to utilise the knowledge and expertise of others who had the experience I was lacking as a novice to whole-school leadership. I needed to learn; I needed someone to challenge my way of thinking, and the ASLDP was the perfect way of learning about the strategic and operational responsibilities of a senior leader and those involved in trust-wide roles.
The ASLDP is a two day residential, but the learning happens long before the residential even begins. The chance for an introductory session allowed us to meet other ASLs in our cohort and reflect on what kind of person and leader we thought we were. I want to limit spoilers, but the chance to have a ‘Colour works’ profile completed on our personalities and leadership styles was incredible; based on a questionnaire we had to complete, we were given a report, generated by AI, on who we were alongside our strengths and areas to develop, an exciting and bizarre experience. This report seemed to know me better than I knew myself. Armed with this knowledge, we went into the residential aspect of the programme. The course itself was centred around how to improve a failing school. Through an amalgamation of independent and groups tasks, role play, one to one interview style tasks and coaching, the ASLDP is designed to keep participants engaged and challenged. To be thrown from one scenario straight into another was a real test of our adaptability. To say more would be to spoil the surprises, and the surprises were some of the best parts of the course.
Having completed the residential, I am currently participating in 6 months of leadership coaching as part of the ASLDP. CPD is often treated as a one-off event. The ASLDP is not. I’m still reflecting on things I learnt about myself during those two days with my coach, ensuring that the skills I picked up there are being used effectively.
I also must mention my fellow ASLs on the course. Each of us had differing levels of experience in whole-school leadership. Participating in the ASLDP was a real, unique bonding experience. When you’re thrown into a high-pressure environment with only each other for support, it’s fascinating to witness how quickly everyone can gel. This was a chance to network but it was also about what we could each bring to the course; I have no qualms about calling any of my fellow ASLs and asking for advice, seeing as we all progressed through this brilliant experience together.
Application of Knowledge
As a result of the course, I’ve been thinking primarily about communication and ensuring the message I am sending to others is the message that has been received. I have drawn from the one-to-one role play scenarios with members of the trust team when I’ve had to have challenging conversations in school. The finance task also helped me to identify my lack of experience in this area and as a result, I now oversee Pupil Premium funding for the academy.
- Consider how you communicate with others. What kind of person are you communicating with? What are the best strategies for dealing with that person?
- Use your strengths, but don’t neglect your areas for improvement. How can others around you help to address these areas to enable you to become a stronger leader?
- Implementation is a process, not a one-off event. True change should be thought about and considered carefully.
- A personal one for me… have confidence in your decisions.
And to bring everything back to the very beginning of this blog, as John F. Kennedy says, ‘leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.’ We are always learning as leaders, always striving to be better. The ASLDP taught me a lot about myself as a person and a leader: what I’m capable of, how resilient I am, what I need to experience to be better. I urge you to apply for this fantastic opportunity.