Dr Ed Wickins

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Following a degree at Cambridge Ed taught in South East Asia, before returning to the UK as Headteacher of Farmors School in Gloucestershire. He supported the local education authority as a secondary adviser and moved on to lead Brockworth Enterprise School before joining the English School Foundation in Hong Kong as Principal of KGV School. Having recently completed his Doctorate with Bristol University, Ed is now leading the development of an inclusive learning community in Kowloon, as Executive Principal of Kowloon Learning Campus. Totally committed to inclusion and equality of opportunity for all, in the 20+ years that Ed has been a school leader he has made a significant difference to the lives of countless young people and their families, both in the UK and abroad.

 

Leadership means change, and change is difficult, it takes courage. It’s much easier to let things run as they always have. A good leader recognises the need to rattle cages and stir it up occasionally, and notably has the courage to go ahead and do it.

Some have said I am “dictatorial”. That hurt. We all have a different view of the best pace for change and I accept my preferred pace is quicker than most, but I’d much rather work with others and empower them to take responsibility than drive too hard myself.

It is an enduring challenge to encourage everyone in an organisation to feel able to contribute to leadership. Some colleagues are comfortable being “tall poppies” whilst others are not. It can be a difficult place to inhabit in a very high achieving school.

Leaders ignore context at their peril. Professor Allan Walker of the Hong Kong Institute of Education talks about ‘Clones, drones and dragons.’ A new leader may clone themself in the image of an admired individual or they might transfer established best practice from elsewhere in an impersonal drone-like way. Neither strategy will be successful. A leader needs to recognise the needs of the environment, and adapt to context, much as the fabled dragon of Chinese culture did, growing more claws on its feet in Japan than it did in China, to reflect the more hostile environment it encountered there. Only strategies that are compatible within the specific context are likely to be successful.

I don’t set out to inspire. I demonstrate competence, believing that many colleagues need the security of being confident that decisions are properly reached. If colleagues are confident they are more likely to be inspired.

I wish I hadn’t taken the setbacks in my leadership journey so personally, but if I were to start my career afresh tomorrow I would do exactly the same thing.

 

 

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 I derived most satisfaction from being Headteacher of Brockworth Enterprise School. I joined as it went into Special Measures and left it in a significantly improved position 5 years later. My satisfaction came from the fact that there our energies were invested in young people who had few advocates. Our battles were for the underdog and our successes gave the community more hope.

The best advice I ever ignored was “Take your time.” I’ve always been ambitious. There are many talented people who don’t go for leadership positions because they aren’t ambitious. By the same token in leadership I believe its important to be yourself, and be authentic.

Classic funk and soul get me home on days when its been particularly challenging. The world can’t be a bad place if someone can sing like Marvin or move like James. Escapist nonsense is very satisfying, as are walking, running, talking, watching the Baggies (West Bromwich Albion FC), indulging my family and sitting under a particular tree in France with my wife and a chilled glass of Rose.

I admire Barack Obama’s leadership. He has retained his dignity, values and sense of humour despite all the attacks. I believe his legacy will be extraordinary.

The following poem by Guillaume Apollinaire defines leadership for me:

                      “Come to the edge,” he said.

                        “We can’t, we’re afraid!” they responded.

                        “Come to the edge,” he said.

                        “We can’t, we will fall!” they responded.

                        “Come to the edge,” he said.

                        And so they came.

                        And he pushed them.

                        And they flew.

The legacy of my Headship I would hope to leave is an inclusive, accepting school culture that values innovation in the interests of all young people.

“ Always take MOET to the celebration party!” would be the most memorable lesson I learned, it was from John Nash, Gloucestershire LEA adviser, and it's served me well.

 

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