Talking Heads Blog #9: Christalla Jamil

Leadership Biography

Name: Christalla Jamil

Phase: Primary (3-11)

Sector: Maintained

Region: South- East (London Borough of Enfield)

Years Served in Education: 13 years

Years Served as a Headteacher: 4

Leadership Journey:

I commenced my career teaching in a maintained primary school for 6 years as a class teacher with TLR2b responsibilities and Training School responsibilities. I became a Consultant Leading Teacher and an Advanced Skills Teacher whilst in my first school. This allowed me to support school improvement and develop a hunger for leadership. I became an AHT in a Voluntary Aided CofE school for 2 years and had a least 50% teaching responsibilities as well as coaching colleagues within and outside of my borough. After completing my NPQH I took on a DHT role, which instantly turned into and Acting Headteacher role for 18 months. This role enabled me to apply for the Headship of my own school; the most delightful maintained primary for 480 pupils, Nursery – Y6 and I am privileged to also have an Additional Resource Provision within my school, serving pupils with complex needs that are able to integrate significantly into mainstream.

Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration:

In my first school, I was fortunate enough to have been led by one of the best Headteachers I have ever known. Geof Cumner- Price not only inspired me on a daily basis but touched the lives of many children and adults too. Currently, Alison Peacock has had the greatest impact on me professionally. By joining her #LearningFirst group not only am I energised, I have developed the courage to take learning forward and influence my staff to take risks too. Providing a creative, rich education for our children is vital. At present we are educating children for careers that have not been invented yet, for a future that we are unable to predict. Therefore, we need to ensure our teaching stimulates thinking so as to create creative and critical thinkers who are ready for the demands of the future. However, as educators we also need to provide children with social, emotional and intrapersonal skills to enable them to be successful adults. My new love of Twitter has given me the opportunity to continue to be influenced by many colleagues.

Twitter Handle: @ChristallaJ

Blog: I don’t have one yet!

Leadership Reflections

Why did you become a Headteacher?

I became a teacher rather late in life, having focused on my family for the first few years of married life. I have always wanted to be a leader though. Initially I became the leader of my class. A variety of opportunities fell in my path and I scooped every single one up! I have always been passionate about teaching and inspiring young people to discover the world and their place in it. At its best, quality teaching empowers children to achieve their full potential and results in citizens with a positive contribution for our global future. Through high expectations, the development of a growth mindset and creating a culture of responsibility and justice for the entire school community, all of this can be achieved. My goal was to foster an environment where learning would be a daily adventure to be delighted in, for all pupils regardless of their needs, ethnicity, culture, religion or background and where the relationship with self, peers, the school community and wider society were held in high regard. This is what has led me ultimately to becoming a Headteacher; to make the biggest impact and to transform education and help children achieve what they want to achieve and inspire them to do things they never thought they could do.

Why do you engage with grassroots and social media?

Grassroots raises the level of awareness allowing influence. Trust, communication, collective action and impact are the key ingredients. This is illustrated in the work of the Head’s Roundtable on Twitter @HeadsRoundtable a group which I follow and have also attended meetings of. “A non-party political group of UK HTs influencing national education policy so that it centres upon what is best for the learning of all children”. Similarly, I engage with the work of Leah K Stewart, @LearntSchool, another influential colleague passionate about the voice of the child.

“Political short-termism is often all that can be aimed for within a landscape of sound-bites, surface-targets, criss-crossing initiatives and command and control style central government. Politicians cannot comfortably speak of dreams, visions and the search for truthful actions; they have been moulded into bullish pragmatists… Since we are accustomed to feeling they are the gate-keepers for permissionto take action, we too often passively underestimate the potency of our own very different leadership potential”.

Extract from “Dare to Inspire” – Jude Kelly

… and to become more self-directing and self-determining, I believe leaders and leadership teams need to be able to think strategically and to be proactive in the process of getting ahead and staying ahead

“If you wait to be acted upon, you will be acted upon.”  (Covey)

Over the past year I have personally benefitted from the power of social media. It has allowed me to establish links and partnerships that have further developed me as a Headteacher. It is a powerful, virtual, community that supports my CPD. There are too many educators to mention but basically everyone I follow is a source of inspiration to me; I read most of their blogs and tweets and share their good practice. Social media has eliminated barriers and empowered me to share and derive, to reflect and be inspired!

How do you create a culture of wellbeing?

In my current setting I have been on a journey of RI to Good with a couple of Outstanding areas too. In order to recruit and retain I have had to create a culture of wellbeing but this has taken time. I have made mistakes along the way and hope that now I have finally got it right. I always ensure that in addition to PPA time all staff have an additional release session for marking and another session for their subject or the area they are responsible for. We have, once again, reviewed our marking policy but this time, my staff led this. It is important to hear their voice and empower them. I have invested hugely in the power of technology and how this can support quick, effective almost effortless marking and inject some fun too! All teachers have mini ipads as well as mac book pros. When conducting book looks, I now do this with all of SLT and with all the teachers of that particular year group. This way it is not done unto them. Appraisals are fairer, less reliance on data, though data of course tells a story we need to hear and respond to. Respecting and identifying individuals’ needs is key. It is pivotal for staff development to invest in ongoing CPD opportunities. I try to lead by example and send emails during work hours and try to leave school early at least one day a week. Though this doesn’t always happen I will persevere. It is important to build resilience and trust amongst staff. Yet it is equally important to be able to laugh together!

How do you talent spot/nurture aspiring leaders?

I love to work with people who share and understand my vision for our school. People whose performance defines ability and expertise. It is a parameter we must keep in mind to identify a leader, but look beyond performance. What I also look for is aptitude, the desire to grow, and overall potential. I look for people who make things happen, who are decision makers, who have an identity. I identify those who are accountable, even when mistakes happen. Particularly important for teachers is that they are in a ‘safe place’ where they won’t be made accountable for taking risks to innovate if they don’t pay off. They must be able to empathise and have emotional intelligence too. Communication is key, so articulation and courage is another factor.

What are the values that your shape you as a leader?

I strongly believe that values reflect ‘the way we do things’ and living them out is as applicable to all the staff as it is to all the children. Mine are about those principles or moral standards which I feel are important in life:

  • Inclusive
  • Courageous
  • Aspirational and ambitious
  • Creative and imaginative
  • Community spirit
  • Honest
  • Considerate
  • …having a sense of humour!

Not forgetting that consistently living out both individual values and the collective values of the school requires self-control, resilience and self-regulation. Additionally, one needs to be able to recognise that we can no longer be all things to all people and to focus on the priorities which are forever relevant. As we focus on the priorities we need to be thinking more about how we can do things differently and more intelligently and to recognise when transformational thinking is required. For instance:

  • the emphasis on developing the whole child
  • ensuring consistently high quality teaching and learning
  • ensuring all pupils make good or better progress
  • continually working at closing the gap
  • continually striving to build capacity and sustainability
  • building a culture of teamwork and collective accountability
  • ensuring high levels of staff satisfaction and fulfilment
  • strengthening partnerships within and across schools

What have been the highs and lows of your role as Headteacher?

There have definitely been more highs. Working with brilliant children and great staff makes each day a good day. On a daily basis I feel a sense of achievement when children celebrate their learning, their successes. Being at the heart of a super community makes me feel not only proud but privileged too. I serve a school in one of the most deprived parts of my borough but you would not know this if you visit our school. Our school oozes tolerance and respect. Social justice fills the air. Creativity, drama, song, dance and music are embedded in our foundations. It’s cool to enjoy learning. We celebrate with laughter and metaphorically speaking, embrace diversity with a great big hug.

Though each day is filled with celebrations and successes there are of course challenges and sometimes barriers too. Yet we are a family, where commitment and dedication give us the courage to take risks and tackle whatever comes our way effectively.

Leadership Advice

“You cannot do it alone. You need a team2.

“Less is more. Focus on a few things and do them well”.

“Children first. Children middle. Children last”.

Leadership Inspiration

Assessment for Learning Without Limits, Dame Alison Peacock

I read this book at the point when there was so much uncertainty surrounding assessment. It gave me courage to allow children to learn with social justice; removing a ceiling set through ability groupings and permitting children to reach their full potential.

High Challenge, Low Threat, Mary Myatt

Mary Myatt’s book gives effective advice on how to tackle the many challenges we face as leaders and in turn allowing others in our community to do the same. A wide variety of scenarios shared. So many lessons learned. A super read!

Leadership Mantra

As Ghandi said:

“Be the change you want to see in the world”.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s