From education to employment

Brave new education: the leaders of our AI future

The education sector is undergoing a remarkable period of change on a scale not seen in decades – not least due to the remarkable advancement of AI. This article looks at the core qualities needed in school leaders in our AI future.

Doomsayers claim AI could “spell the end of the traditional classroom”. It’s true that its impact on schools and the jobs within them will be dramatic. Similarly to the pandemic, AI is set to irreversibly change the way we teach and learn. But such colossal shifts will also bring immense opportunity, especially for the leaders who can thrive in this period of innovation and capitalise on the very human traits that will continue to prove essential – and irreplaceable – in school leadership.

The interface of a sector-wide transformation

AI in education can be seen as an innovative, exciting tool that can accelerate what students and teachers are already doing.

Reduced administrative burden seems a certainty. AI will also help teachers to plan lessons and rapidly develop subject expertise. Many in the sector believe these developments will cause a more general type of teacher to emerge, and yet lessons could be more effective than ever as AI offers each student the potential of individualised lesson journeys.

The visionary vanguard

Schools will always need leaders with vision, passion and high emotional intelligence. Leaders of the future will also need technological expertise to apply AI to school operations, along with ethical awareness and a commitment to continuous learning. 

A great school leader’s longer term vision for the school will ensure that they will be able to embrace new learning practices and formulate a plan for the whole school community – students, teachers, parents, governors, and beyond. 

Just as those in the classroom are having personalised lessons from AI, so must the leaders overseeing them. If we learned anything from the technological changes surrounding the pandemic, it is that one size does not fit all. Online learning was rolled out very quickly at the onset of Covid, and the truth is that it didn’t work for everybody. 

The schools that performed exceptionally were those that had the resourcefulness to go beyond the curriculum. AI will be the same, impacting exams, curriculum, extra-curriculum: leaders must take a case-by-case approach, assessing the needs of each school uniquely to identify the best approach. 

Leaders must use AI for personalised responses to teachers too, understanding the implications of how people are not simply an array of datasets.

Mettle from amongst the metal

It’s going to take someone enthusiastic with a clear passion for learning to push this change. It’s also going to take courage to make the right call. Emotional intelligence and resilience has always been key in school leadership – now more so than ever.

Not all AI will benefit schools. Leaders should make important decisions based on evidence – and those around them. A true leader shows the courage to have a senior leadership team around them that they talk and listen to, letting others be experts to come back with ideas. Specialise your team and then personalise your learning with AI.

Looking beyond education  

The corporate world has eclipsed the education sector in its embrace of AI. It therefore makes sense to hire from that talent pool. Consultants, AI experts, teachers teaching AI – there is immense opportunity for schools who are willing to look beyond the education sector. 

Schools are becoming more business-like as they respond to an array of challenges – but the ever increasing need for versatility, innovation, and expertise means securing transformational leaders from markets where high levels of competition and cutting-edge ideas are rife.

Onwards together

AI may be two-thirds of the solution, but the final and crucial third is human. The AI revolution in schools will not happen overnight. The element of balancing old and new knowledge will continue. But those who can see and use AI as a tool – not a threat – will fare particularly well. There is hope from amongst the wires and chips and data centres for those who are flesh and blood and who care for pupils, learning, and nurturing a school’s wider community.

In our AI-augmented future, it is heartfelt leaders who will thrive alongside the young minds they are there to enliven. 

By Hayley Mintern, a Partner at executive search agency Anderson Quigley.

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About Hayley Mintern

Hayley Mintern is a Partner at executive search agency Anderson Quigley. She has supported the education sector for ten years, providing executive search and interim and consultancy solutions to Independent Schools, Academy Trusts, FE Colleges, and Universities. Her speciality is understanding the education sector and connecting talent that is passionate about providing high quality inclusive education. Hayley has built a track record with education leaders and helped many organisations identifying top talent.

Hayley has a passion for education, she is a governor for MAT working closely with the head and trust leaders to ensure excellent levels of education. She previously worked closely with England Rugby Schools to deliver inclusive sport in schools and has strong understanding of the curriculum.

Hayley joined the AQ team to further develop the schools and colleges practice and is driven by making a positive difference to the education sector through the quality of leadership appointment.

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