What are the qualities needed to be a successful school leader?
Far from being clones enslaved by professional orthodoxy, the best headteachers run their schools through conviction and often sheer personality.
And it seems that Kirklees top primary school has just that.
Rizwana Mahmood is the kind of dynamic and daring headteacher every parent dreams of.
The educator embraced the role as headteacher at Carlton Junior and Infant School in Dewsbury some six years ago and instils her vision (also the school motto) ‘Dream, Aspire and Achieve’ with great enthusiasm.
Her leadership qualities, emotional intelligence and ambitions to turn-around the previously failing school has seen OFSTED inspectors give the school glowing reports.
In addition, at the beginning of the year, the Department for Education (DoE) released a league table of primary school performance showing the results of this year key stage two assessments covering reading writing and maths.
94% of year 6 pupils from Carlton Junior and Infant School reached the expected levels in the national curriculum tests known as SATs, while 11% reached an even higher standard than the national average. This puts the score as the best performing out of any other primary school in Kirklees.
Talking to the Asian Express, Rizwana says: “It gives me great pleasure to see that Carlton Junior and Infants have now made it to the top in Kirklees and ranked within the top 1% of high performing schools in the country.
“After years of hard work, many challenges and changes have taken place and we are now the best school in Kirklees.
“It’s just an absolute honour to lead such a talented group of individuals who make things happen for our children.”
In addition, the school has pioneered awards within the Yorkshire and Humber region such as the SMSC Gold Standard, leading the way with the Engaging Families Award in Kirklees and the One Education Award in Reading.
“We have also been ranked tenth in the top 100 schools for Diversity and Equality, and here I have only named a few of our numerous achievements,” she adds.
“To think that we were a significantly underperforming school, echoing the stereotype of deprived communities, to where we are now is a remarkable achievement for our school and its community.”
Rizwana loves the diversity of the staff, children and wider community. She talks of how they embrace all of the cultures and beliefs she strongly advocates.
It’s easy to dismiss the concept of “vision” as vague and woolly, but the best school leaders are visionaries with a clear sense of moral purpose, something which Rizwana and her team of teachers and support staff have in bucket loads.
Armed with an MA in accelerated learning and social engineering and the conditioning of the brain, upon taking the role of the headteacher, Rizwana transformed the school. Today it’s a haven of ‘brain-calming’ colour themes creating a happy wisdom wonderland for the 200+ young children who attend the school.
On talking about her secret to running a successful school, Rizwana says: “I am a big believer of strong pedagogy rather than expensive resources.
“I give my staff strong, cutting-edge teacher training. The best resource in the classroom is the teacher. If the delivery and teaching-style aren’t right – if that parting of knowledge isn’t there, then how can children flourish?
“My position as a Muslim Asian female in a leadership position is quite a privilege, and allows me to drive that agenda,” says the headteacher.
“When I joined the school, what I used to hear from my predecessors was that the parents would not engage and they didn’t allow children to take part in the Nativity and Easter plays. Now we have a high level of engagement.”
Rizwana finds that her school’s success is thanks to being more empathetic with both children and parents.
“It’s a matter of experiencing what they experience, moving to the other side and seeing what they see. What is key, is that greater level of understanding. Parental engagement is a major highlight for me.”