As we know Deborah Leek-Bailey OBE has been at the forefront of Leadership provision for many years. In 2008 the eight Independent schools Council (ISC) Professional Associations met for a training day at Kilworth House, initiated by Geoff Lucas the former HMC general secretary. Those in attendance decided that they required a more informed perspective regarding training provision and Deborah was invited to join a small group who were requested to explore this issue. The group was expertly chaired by Tim Kirkup, from SHMIS, (now known as the Society of Heads), and commissioned a report by Joy Richardson, so as to establish the CPD available and any gaps in provision.
As the findings were circulated it became clear that there were gaps in training and geographical issues which were preventing some headteachers from attending courses already available. Professional development officers were working in isolation and often competitively and middle and senior leadership courses were limited. Towards the end of 2009 Tim Kirkup approached Deborah and requested that she succeed him as Chairman of the group.
Over the next four years the Cross Association Leadership Group was formed. Its members were from every ISC Association and funds were provided to source further research, website development, travel for visiting speakers and symposium events.
Deborah chaired the group with dedication and passion, strongly articulating the belief that it was crucial to link all headteacher training to the national standards for Heads, as well as providing leadership training for middle and senior leaders, so as to address succession planning. She was invited to speak at numerous events, such as the Association of Governing Bodies (AGBIS), Headmasters Conference Group (HMC) Professional Development Committee, COBIS conference, ISA Annual Conference; Boarding Schools Association Annual conference (BSA) and many more.
Very quickly the popularity and credibility of the group grew and those slow to engage became keenly involved. Deborah was ably supported by her deputy chairs Jennifer Bray (COBIS) and Mike Jeans (AGBIS), as well as her own, extremely competent PA, Shelley Butterfield. CAL representation was sought at conferences, as well as being requested to provide informed perspectives on leadership provision to many organisations, such as NCSL National College of School Leadership ( now NCTL), Government and the inspectorate.
The enthusiasm of this group was palpable and infectious. Members of CAL worked exhaustively because they were dedicated to making a difference. Once firmly established the professional development officers from each Association were invited to attend sessions run by visiting speakers and in subsequent years they were asked to hold their own collective meetings, Chaired by Deborah’s deputy, Jennifer Bray, and to provide open access to ISC members from other Associations. They found the forum to be both constructive and beneficial in relation to enabling their members to access new courses, as well as supporting one another in their own roles.
Once training provision had been mapped the next stage was ensuring that the information was accessible and hence the “Leadership Hub” was born. In agreement with ISC the CAL group placed their information on a dedicated part of the ISC website. All courses were coded, and therefore easily identifiable regarding different stages of leadership development. CAL tried to encompass a broader range of educational professionals without compromising web search optimisation or discouraging prospective teachers.
The group had a clear vision and were able to articulate this to others. CAL enabled top-level leaders to have contact with other sectors and access to specialist leadership training, including from external providers. It also enabled stronger buying power as a sector for external course provision. Cal facilitated leadership links to the local, national, and global community, and embedded a training map of competencies.
The role of the CAL group was a strategic one, whilst the PDOs provided ‘on the ground’ experience. It became apparent that as the knowledge base grew it was time to share with others and hence the inception of the CAL symposium. Deborah was asked to chair this event and assisted in its planning at Westminster School. Many eminent speakers contributed towards ensuring the events success and when Deborah stepped down to chair another National Committee, at the request of Lord Nash, Julie Robinson from IAPS was appointed as chair.
In the summer of 2014 the Cal group handed its responsibilities over to the professional development officers. The legacy of the group is twofold. Firstly that there is far greater collaboration between the members of ISC, regarding training provision; secondly the quality of that provision has been considerably enhanced by the innovative way in which the CAL group adapted to suit the ever changing needs of the Independent sector.
“I am proud to have led CAL. It was a wonderful opportunity to shape the way in which Independent Schools developed their workforce and I do not think that its impact on future generations of teachers can be overestimated. I was fortunate to work with an amazingly dedicated group of people from different Associations, and within ISC, and I hope that they also realise the value of their contribution”.
Deborah Leek-Bailey OBE, former Chair of CAL.