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REFINING JUDGEMENT 

Dear colleagues
 
As we continue to journey through this incredibly complex term together, we continue to thank you for all you are doing to invest in the flourishing of the children and adults in your care. Moving into this Advent season, I imagine that almost nothing about the usual run-up to Christmas is the same, both for the school and for the children in it. For some this will be highly disorienting, and for others it will provide moments of real challenge as the lack of expected activity raises questions and anxieties. We continue to share our Faith at Home videos - those for Advent were released a few weeks ago (with the Christmas episodes out today) - all found on the
Faith at Home film pages. Equally there are some wonderful resources for classrooms and year groups – all found at the Faith at Home School Leaders page.
 
In this week’s Called, Connected, Committed, we are thinking about the leadership practice of ‘Refining Judgement’ – a central and pivotal process for leaders at every level. I don’t know how many decisions you have to make each day in your role (or whether you could even count them!). If you multiplied that up across your staff team or student body, it would quickly run into millions of decisions being taken every day. Wisdom is sometimes something we think of as an ancient concept of knowing right from wrong – something we work towards with experience, and perhaps something that older people may be more likely to possess. In fact much more important in our leadership is the idea of ‘practical wisdom’ – where we’re making a series of decisions, often between complex options, with very few easy answers.
 
This refining can come alone – that self-reflection as a leader which analyses in detail how things have gone and what could have been even better. For some of us, we can hugely benefit from a coach or mentor to help enlighten our path and refine our thinking. Furthermore, the refining can often come (if we’re courageous enough to ask) in a team – where we agonise over decisions together, weigh up and, even through internal disagreements, decide together – living out that decision publicly.
 

The reality of refining is that we do get better in our judgement, but refining usually happens when the heat comes. That’s certainly true in the chemistry lab or the engineering plant, and it can be true for us as leaders. While we may not always seek the heat, it is usually that which refines us, both individually and together, for the long term. I’m reminded again of one of the central passages on which we draw in the Called, Connected, Committed document – available at www.cefel.org.uk/ccc from Jeremiah 17.7-8.

As you continue to live and lead under this significant pressure, may you and your teams continue to refine your judgement and celebrate the progress that has been made through this season, and as we begin to wait in expectation with the coming of Advent, may you begin to sense a new season of hope coming – of Emmanuel, God with us.

Andy Wolfe - Deputy Chief Education Officer (Leadership Development)

Our Foundation Updates
Looking to meet other school leaders from across the country to share stories, ideas and to be inspired? Our Open Networks are for any school leader looking to connect and explore our leadership practices.
Our next Open Network is on Thursday 10th December at 4pm and looks at Enabling Flourishing.
Contact emily.norman@churchofengland.org to find out more about our networks.
The deadline for our next CofEPQH programme - the last one in this current form - starts in January 2021.
There is still time to apply this week - final deadline is 3rd December.
We are delighted to share that we have acquired some specific funding for leaders from small/rural schools – any school with 210 pupils or under is eligible for this discount, which takes the price down to just £730+VAT. All the details are at www.cefel.org.uk/cofepqh - so do check that out and get involved in a great opportunity to invest in your school’s leadership development for 2021.
We are currently welcoming new members to join our MAT Leadership Network. We have an exciting series of Transformational Conversations planned throughout  2021, including (hopefully) a face to face event at Lambeth Palace in the Autumn of 2021.
You can explore the programme here.
Please contact emma.trenier@churchofengland.org by 8th December to sign up!
Refining Judgement Reflection (Extract)
Leaders of learning need to be resourced by deep wisdom. Their professional development and personal growth are shaped and directed by well-informed, discerning judgement, and by ethical, accountable decision-making.
Leaders are immersed in the drama of actual life in all its complexity, messiness and difficulty. Leadership is usually under pressure. Hardly a day goes by without the need to face awkward people and problems. These cry out for wisdom, and that is rarely instantaneous: it needs to have grown over the years, with roots deep in what has been learned by others. Therefore the leader needs to be resourced deeply, while also alert to the reality of the present. Then comes the risky necessity of making judgements and taking decisions. Educational, ethical and environmental wisdom must lead into practical decision-making, often between two or more seemingly good choices. It acknowledges the strain of decision-making, and recognises the rarity of easy answers.


To read the reflection in full visit:
https://www.cefel.org.uk/judgement/

Suggested resources to reflect on Refining Judgement where you are
'As leaders refine their judgement, so their own character grows, formed in the crucible of challenge.'
We know that our communities watch us as leaders, looking to see how we demonstrate character - especially under pressure. When in challenging circumstances, how do we hold fast to our vision and core values in making wise and considered decisions? Who supports you in that?
The Chartered College of Teaching has just produced a Special Issue of their Impact Journal - all about Youth Social Action and Character Education. There are some really thought provoking articles such as this one on pupil agency in curriculum design (see left hand image above) and another on whether character is 'taught or caught'.
For both our own leadership, and that of our teams and students, awareness of our own consciousness - where we might have blind spots or untapped potential - is crucial. The Jahari window is a well-known tool that can helps us develop in that awareness.
'Judgement is refined in relationship... Wise leaders rarely fly solo but create networks and communities of practice on which they draw and to which they contribute.'
This TED talk poses the question - do we make better decisions when working collaboratively or independently?
Our @CofE_EduLead Peer Support Networks are spaces for school leaders to have conversations about how they are putting their vision into practice; a place to refine their thinking and rehearse their decision-making.
https://www.cefel.org.uk/networks/
'The leader needs to be resourced deeply, while also alert to the reality of the present.'
In Archbishop Stephen's book 'Hit the Ground Kneeling', he cites this helpful analogy from Stephen Covey of Sharpening the Saw
How do you sharpen your saw? How do you view rest and contemplation? How do you, as a leader, enable a rhythm of rest within your school community?
This week, Archbishop Stephen spoke about the Vision and Strategy of the Church of England over the next 10 years. A short summary of this can be seen hereWe are particularly excited to engage in working towards a younger, more diverse church for the 2020s.
'Leadership in this tradition permits lament and anger, confusion and despair - "Hear my cry for help".'
One of the ways we can exercise wisdom in leadership is by finding healthy ways to make sense of our own feelings. This Welcoming Prayer - taken from Fr Thomas Keating - is one way of handling our emotions. By observing, welcoming, acknowledging and then letting go of our feelings, we can become more free and therefore more ready to discern the way ahead.
Why don't you take a moment with this reflection, giving yourself the chance to figure out what might be going on for you right now?

A Prayer for School Leaders

Almighty God, source of all wisdom,
We come before you knowing that all answers can be found in you,
We ask for your Holy Spirit to bestow upon us discernment in judgement for each and every circumstance we face.
For the decisions we must take to keep our community safe,
For the conversations we have to ensure the best for all pupils,
For the choices we are making between competing priorities,
For the actions we're committed to, securing order amidst chaos,
For the questions we ask to make sense of the world,
For the moments that require us to demonstrate character,
For the deepening of our roots - as leaders, as schools, and as communities inextricably connected together.

May we know that when it all feels too much, too overwhelming, too messy, difficult and complex - you are with us.
As you were with Moses finding a way through the desert,
Nehemiah inspecting the ruined walls of Jerusalem,
Isaiah speaking words of both hard truth and comforting hope,
Please would you be with us, too.

"Because you are my help, I sing in the shadow of your wings."

We ask all this in the name of Jesus - who modelled for us sustaining wisdom in difficult circumstances and suffering.
Hear our prayer,
Amen

'Wisdom... acknowledges the strain of decision-making, and recognises the rarity of easy answers.'
This beautiful hymn is a great reminder that when we don't have the answers, we can call on the Lord and ask Him to 'be Thou my wisdom'.
It's ok to ask for help!
 
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