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It's good to talk

23rd November 2020

In the mid-1990s Bob Hoskins ran a series of simple, but memorable adverts extoling the virtues of conversation. Telephone conversations, rather than zoom calls, on this occasion. At Athena, conversations are vital to our way of working, our way of learning and improving.

Last week saw our joint headteachers' meeting benefiting from talking to each other. We discussed a range of approaches and issues, ranging from coronavirus responses, school improvement approaches to training, assessment and development, and even managing school finances. Our forums for school business managers, staff network groups (meeting this week) and even our school improvement partner visits (SiPs) all rely on the power of conversation.

There is no doubt, as the term draws on, and possibly the challenges of our current situations lengthen we need to continue talking. It is possible, as the pressures and stresses may rise, that we become less inclined to talk. We feel called to action, decision, solution. While, of course, this is admirable and leaders need to set this direction, sometimes talking and conversation assist us further. An often necessary first step is to pause. To talk. To discuss with a variety of individuals. Indeed, talking is a vital step to supporting colleagues and taking them with you.

Currently, we are seeing our staff go well above the usual requirements to, well … ‘go above and beyond’. We also need to recognise the need to talk to them and acknowledge their efforts. I am looking forward this week to meeting with chairs of governors and trustees, discussing our challenges and how we can collectively better support our schools and the children we serve. Without conversation, new learning is sometimes hard to distil. Our preconceived thoughts fail to be shaped, refined or developed. I know from previous experience that conversations really do matter.

Enjoy your week. Find some conversations to sustain and develop you. After all it is good to talk … and to listen.

Jack Mayhew, Executive Headteacher  Athena Schools Trust

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