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I hope reading
7 Questions with Ben Waldram
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Ben Waldram
Name: Ben Waldram
Current title: Headteacher
Current organisation: Lowdham CofE Primary
Husband. Father. Head. Forgiven.
Born and raised in Derby but moved to the metropolis of Nottingham.
Which option best describes the religious affiliation of the organisation you currently work for or most recently worked for?
Christian religious affiliation
What type of organisation do you work for or support?
School (5-17 y/os)
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader in the education sector?
The last 12 months!
Running a school during a pandemic: caring for the staff, the children in our care (and those at home), dealing with endless and unnecessary forms, managing parents' expectations, coping with all the normal school business and all on a rapidly-depleting budget.
2. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Wake. Shower. Dressed. Breakfast. Drive (listening to a podcast). Emails. Check in on staff. Playground and front of school. Whiteboard job list. See children/staff. Job list. Emails. Home. Family dinner. Games/TV/exercise. Bed. Read. Sleep.
All punctuated with strong tea and the occasional single malt (although not in the school day!)
3. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
One person's small deal is another's big deal (and vice versa).
Some staff can deal with change on a sixpence and some need to know weeks in advance. How to handle staff when either of these 'notices' don't pan out in the way they need them to.
4. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
Legacy by James Kerr. As a sports fan, this book about the New Zealand All Blacks and their success is brilliant. So many messages that I have taken to heart and some that I already use/do and some that I have run with.
I now think carefully about what I visually do - the unspoken actions that staff read in to. Also, working really hard on making sure that actions follow words.
5. How do you find and keep great leaders in the education sector?
Treat them well. Give them opportunities to grow and fly so the school is in the best place possible. If they don't leave, we have great leaders; if they do, then someone else has a great leader and we can train up the leaders of tomorrow.
6. What's most important as a leader in the education sector for developing a culture of wellbeing in your staff and students?
Treat them well.
Wellbeing is not making them come to yoga every Tuesday. It is not leaving cakes in the staffroom but insisting that you are maintaining your unworkable monitoring cycle. Wellbeing is what you do on a daily basis and how you are with people - spotting the low moments. If someone is struggling, consider how to make it easier - 90% of the time, this relates to time. Give them some and make sure they take it. Being fair when it comes to medical appointments and sports day and nativities - don't make them afraid to ask.
A realistic expectation of what you want to achieve but hand it over to them so they run with it - their idea but from your vision.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader in the education sector so far?
A teacher was set to be working in the afternoon but her daughter had had an accident in her school. I told the member of staff and told her to go, right then. Not a question of her partner picking up the girl or could you go later - go now. I took the class without knowing what was to be covered but we survived. I have no idea what I taught that afternoon but the teacher still remembers that her family came first.
We're looking at doing a limited, online 30 minute leadership masterclass in the next couple of months. What topic/s would you find most valuable from a leadership masterclass?
How you build the confidence of someone when they have none. When you have explained, shown and developed them but, due to circumstances out of your control, have become almost defeated by it.