Tags:Case StudiesSpringboard Coaching for LeadershipStrategic Leadership for Principals ProgrammeSecondary Schools

Case Studies
05/27/2021
5 min read

Journeying to the centre of school leadership with Mangere College's Tom Webb

Since 2007, we have greatly expanded the ways we support school leaders here at Springboard Trust. While the Strategic Leadership for Principals Programme (SLPP) remains the cornerstone of our mahi, we also support widespread change in schools through programmes focusing on the leader as an individual, as well as distributing that leadership throughout a team.  

We like to think of the work leaders do with us as a journey – beginning with the foundation of strategic leadership, and then focusing on one’s own leadership style and how they can develop the leaders around them – all to create lasting change for students.  

It’s a journey that Tom Webb, principal at Mangere College, is very familiar with. Since 2017, he has embraced nearly all the learning that Springboard Trust has to offer – and seen the results throughout his school.  

A non-stop journey of learning and development  

Tom did SLPP in 2017, and found it incredibly rewarding.  

“The sessions we had with Mark (Russell), they were amazing – we covered strategies and ideas that I still use to this day. Connecting with the other principals, having that out-of-school influence – it all just clicked to give me an explicit plan around where I saw things going at my school.”  

“But I remember saying to my Programme Manager that this is brilliant, and I want to include everyone in it. It’s an amazing programme for me and my personal development, and I wanted my leadership team to have that same experience.” 

From there, it was on to the High Performing Leadership Teams (HPLT) programme, which is designed to support principals and their senior leaders to work together effectively and begin distributing leadership.  

“It brought us together so well! But, of course, then we started thinking about the leadership of other people too. That’s when we did Springboard Coaching for Leadership (SCL), to give everyone who might need it in the school the right kind of development.”  

And before you know it, Tom is working through his third Springboard Trust programme. But this time, alongside 10 senior and middle leaders from Mangere College, each learning with a dedicated volunteer Coach who helps them unpack their unique leadership style. 

“It was such a safe space to be vulnerable about your strengths and weaknesses as a leader, to feel comfortable learning about how you can grow from both a personal and professional standpoint. Doing the programme with so many of our team, it completely changed the leadership culture in the school from directive to distributive.”  

The growth in Tom’s team must have been clear to others in the school, as another 10 middle leaders joined SCL for the following year (2020). 

“It was more difficult then, because of course we were in the midst of a pandemic and quite distracted. Even then, it was still an amazing process. With 10 people doing the programme, nearly all of our teaching staff were supporting the 360 process, giving feedback and understanding more and more of what we were doing and why.”  

This is just a brief summary of the work Tom and his team have undertaken since 2017, but it has all had a profound impact on the way they work. 

“Involving so many people from our side, it broke down a lot of barriers between senior and middle leaders. I want everyone to benefit from the same work that I have been able to do with Springboard!”  

The impacts of distributed leadership development 

With such an extensive body of professional development under their belts, Tom says the Mangere College team now operate completely differently.  

“We’ve moved completely and utterly into a culture of ownership. Instead of me telling people what I would like them to do, they come to me and say ‘this is what I want to do, and this is how it fits into our [strategic] plan’. It’s amazing.”  

“It’s a collective thing, too, especially around student achievement. People feel empowered to go out and take on projects themselves, knowing how it will positively impact the school and help us get where we’re going. I might have oversight of what’s happening, but the staff have true ownership of their work.”  

It’s a desire to help the school succeed that has become embedded in even the most dreaded of tasks – measurement.  

“We’re constantly evaluating how we’re doing, moving from accountability or blame to always focusing on how we can improve for our students. People are far less reluctant to do something like reporting, because they really see the value in it now.”  

Of course, creating such a vibrant network of leaders does create its own challenges, as Tom explains.  

“One unintended consequence of our work with Springboard Trust is that we have some highly ambitious middle leaders! We have a Deputy Principal going on leave and have such a strong field of internal candidates for the role. It is great, but the other side is the challenge of appointing one person and disappointing others. It’s a challenge, but part of this work is accepting that it’s not a bad thing if someone feels they have to leave to develop further. We’re all doing this for students and schools – developing leaders so they can lead themselves.”  

In such a short space of time, there has been a complete change in the way Tom’s leadership team (and wider staff) work – and he believes that is down to Springboard Trust’s focus on people.  

“A lot of PLD is about content, about pedagogy, rather than our own personal development as leaders. It’s an incredibly important element that Springboard just gets right – and you can see that in how much my team have enjoyed doing it.”  

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