Session 1: What is Cultural Leadership?

Donmar Warehouse, 28 November 2017

One of the most important aspects of the CLC programme is the space and time it creates for teachers to reflect on ideas about leadership and what that means for the arts and culture in schools. We did not always agree, but there was a clear and consistent message that arts in school are both a right and a necessity.

In this first session, many participants discussed the limiting effects of strong top-down hierarchical leadership styles and the group reflected on the importance of a more adaptive and inclusive style of leadership in the current political climate. Emphasis was placed on building effective relationships and strategic partnerships in order to share expertise and to mitigate the erosion of arts within schools. In line with this, being able to inspire, influence and “face outwards” was another important topic of discussion. Our cohort stressed that teachers at all leadership levels need to be supported and equipped to advocate for the arts on local, national and even international platforms.

Each teacher was also given an ‘accountability partner’, somebody they could check-in with about the process of their projects. This created dedicated space for reflection that enabled participants to focus on progress, not just things that weren’t working or long lists of to-dos. We were inspired by the honesty and openness of these exchanges and delighted that such a simple exercise could provide so many insights. It was a reminder that in the busy world of teaching, opportunities to share ideas are more valuable than ever.

Key learning

Cultural leaders must be able to articulate and share a compelling case about the value and impact of arts and culture in schools. They must be able to do this across a variety of platforms.

Creating strategic partnerships in school and the wider community is an effective way to maximise resources and achieve key goals in advancing cultural education in a fast-paced, time-limited system
Self-reflection is an essential part of leadership.