Note: The Link for the Video can be found at the Bottom of the Page.
Several weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to appear on Sky News to share my thoughts on the Head Teacher recruitment and retention crisis. A topic which I believe to be of fundamental importance to our education system at this current moment in time.
In my short stint on “The Point”, I discussed that according to three Educational Leadership organisations, English Schools may face a shortage of up to 19,000 Heads by 2022, findings which were also substantiated in a recent article in the Times.
The report and the Times article, once again, underlined how schools are struggling to retain great School Leaders, with many leaving due to a lack of nurture and support from within the profession.
Things must change!
Reading these reports affirmed my belief that so much more must be done to make the role of School Leadership sustainable.
The pace and volume of change over the past decade has led to increased ambiguity, inconsistency, insecurity and staggeringly high levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability.
The system continues to perpetuate the myth of the Teflon coated Super-Head; The leader who can turn around a school at lightning speed, and sustain their performance and motivation, amidst criticism, job insecurity and the continual sacrificing of their own needs for the sake of their school.
There must come a point where all in education recognise that Head teachers are mothers, fathers, partners. They feel hurt and pain. They experience self-doubt and worry. The Super-Head does not exist. What does exist, are normal human beings who have to survive in a system that too often sees a passion for high standards as being mutually exclusive and separate from compassion and humility.
Whether Heads are new in post or well established and long serving, too often the predominate type of support they receive is concerned with meeting the strategic and operational aspects of the role. Support that is given neglects to acknowledge that it is a human being in the role and if their emotional and psychological needs are not met, all school improvement efforts are put at risk.
We must change this inhumane approach to school improvement. It is simply unsustainable. We must change this culture which fails to consider the “Soul in the Role” and learn how to properly take care of the human needs of all who take on the mantle of school leadership.
The price of continually failing to do so is one we can no longer afford to pay. As James Toop, the chief executive-designate of the merging Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust rightly says, “Great school leadership is essential for improving school performance and children’s life chances”. When we fail to adequately recognise what it takes to create ‘Great School Leaders’, we also fail our children and their hopes of a better tomorrow.
A Wake-Up Call
These reports must act as wake up call for policy makers and governing bodies.
Our children deserve the best care and education and our Head teachers deserve the best care than can be provided, so that they can remain in the profession, fulfil their vocations and meet society’s hopes and dreams for our future generations.
Supporting Headteachers – What Happens when Headteachers Drop the Leadership Mask?
In November, as a new offering to support Headteacher and their emotional and psychological needs, we hosted our first ever Head Teacher’s Nurture Meal. We were very clear in our purpose. This was not going to be one of those Head teacher gathering where individuals met with their peers, but still felt the need to be to wear their leadership mask or suit of armour, for fear of being judged or criticised for anything that they might say. This was going to be different. We wanted this event to say to all Heads who attended:
‘You are of value; you are of worth and you have the right to have your needs met’
So we made sure that there were no:
– Obligatory tasks
– Agendas [ particularly of the hidden kind!]
– No fixed outcomes
The experience provided a wonderful space full of laughter and joy, in which Heads were able to lean back and for a couple of hours, drop the leadership mask, appreciate and enjoy the company of fellow school leaders.
As they did so, there were 4 key things that I noticed happening when Headteachers dropped their leadership mask….