Coaching & Leadership Development
Why Well-being Should be a School Budget Priority – Alison Kriel

Why Well-being Should be a School Budget Priority – Alison Kriel

My name is Alison Kriel and I’ve been the Headteacher of Northwold Primary School in Hackney since 2008. I was originally appointed as an Executive Head after the local authority had been running the school for 3 years.   During that period there had been a number of leaders which had led to instability.  When the job was presented to me, I was asked to prepare the school for an Ofsted but lead to believe that with, leadership aside, everything was fine at the school. I quickly learned that that wasn’t the case.   The school was failing and it was near the bottom of the national league tables; parents, pupils and staff were aware of the school’s position. As a result, the self-esteem of the whole community was very fractured and there was little sense of pride within the school. Confidence was so low that teachers had the mindset that they could not expect much from the children and in turn, the parents had very little trust in the school. The school was also receiving a huge number of complaints.   It really was all very poor. The school’s culture at time was also very negative, chaotic even. Staff were not respectful of each other, and in turn the students were not respectful towards the staff or each other. All of this contributed to the very high turnover of the SLT which served only to perpetuate the lack of stability within the school. The school’s poor reputation also meant that the school had 125 children spaces unfilled which had a significant impact on funding.   In spite of...
How do School Leaders Benefit from Coaching?

How do School Leaders Benefit from Coaching?

    Over the years I have had the pleasure of seeing the wonderful impact that coaching has on both school leaders and their schools. This experience has led me to believe there will come a time when all Head teachers are provided with this support as a pre-requisite for the fulfilment of their roles.   However, in spite of the fact that the business world and a growing number of schools now embrace coaching as an integral form of leadership support,  there are still many that are only now beginning to recognise the value of coaching in education.   So how do School Leaders and their schools benefit when coaching support is in place?   To answer this question, I decided to ask two Headteachers I’ve coached what lead them to seek to coaching to better support themselves in their role and more importantly, what did they get out of it for themselves and their schools…   Henry, Headteacher of Inner City London Secondary School “I had began to feel that I was leading on Autopilot…”   1. What were the main challenges you faced which made you consider Coaching?   Before I took up Coaching, I had been at the school for 15 years and I had began to feel that I was leading on autopilot. I felt like I needed to get a fresh insight on how to be a better leader and to refresh my expertise and my approach.   I also felt I was beginning to dry out and beginning to see leadership as something I had to do rather than wanted to do. So I was looking for new ways...
How School Leadership Became a High Risk Job

How School Leadership Became a High Risk Job

  It’s a job that requires years of training and experience, involves dealing with forces that are largely out of your control, and can be over in a flash because of just one instance of underperformance.   While it sounds unbelievable, or like a description of a Special Forces fighter or a brain surgeon to most people, it’s a situation that Head teachers are well familiar with — because in the face of increased scrutiny, it’s what the job has become.   “If the grades aren’t met, you’re out.”   You’re only as good as your latest results in the modern school system, which leaves Heads in the impossible position of trying to create an environment that’s great for learning while having to constantly salvage their jobs.   It takes a huge investment of time, money, and training to become a school leader, yet many Heads can be out within a month or less of one bad report, leaving them at the mercy of compromise agreements in which they get a payout for agreeing not to talk about the circumstances surrounding their departure.   Under the school system as it stands, standards for school are rigidly uniform, and rigidly enforced .All schools must meet the same levels of performance in the same way and at the same pace, irrespective of the any differences between schools and the communities they serve…   There’s no room for flexibility, and any attempt to discuss the very real external challenges that affect some students while they’re at school and the impact that those have on grades is seen as making excuses.   Fragility...
The 4 Traits of Supportive & Nurturing Schools

The 4 Traits of Supportive & Nurturing Schools

We all have emotional and psychological needs in our role.    I believe that in our roles we all have the need to feel safe and secure, the need for friendship and a sense of belonging, the need for what is physiologically necessary (e.g. sleep, food, water etc.) and a need to feel valued. It is only when these basic needs are met that we are more able to perform at our best, flourish or “self-actualise”. This may ring true to you, if you’ve ever experienced the reverse, for example, how hard it is to perform at your best when you’ve not had enough sleep or the difficulty of remaining motivated when you feel unwanted or undervalued in your role. Working with school leaders, I’ve certainly witnessed how the extent to which these needs are met can often determine our willingness to take risks, how fulfilled we feel in our role and in turn, how likely we are to stay in our role. It can also affect school performance as there’s often a connection between these emotional needs and both our cognitive function and motivation. Yet in many schools, the most visible forms of support that our leaders and staff receive is concerned solely with meeting the strategic and operational needs rather than these emotional needs.  When this is the case, schools not only fail to support the flourishing of individuals, but can become functional and soulless places rather than the nurturing and joyful places that they can be.   But how can we stop this being the case?   I believe the first step is that leaders themselves must first be able to recognise the importance of meeting their OWN needs (and the impact this has on their own performance)...
How School Leaders can Reconnect with their Passion & Purpose

How School Leaders can Reconnect with their Passion & Purpose

“A school leader’s vocational vitality, or capacity to be vital, present and deeply connected …. Is not a fixed, inedible condition, but a state that ebbs and flows with the context and challenge of leadership life.” [ Intrator & Kunzman, 2006]   As a school leader, I am sure you know this to be true. The energy that you had when you began the day at 5.30am in the morning, will not be the same as when you finish the day at 9.00pm in the evening. Your role is such that you are required to be all things to all people. In any given moment, you are expected to be:   – Productive and be seen to be productive – On ‘parade’ and on display at all times – Open to criticism/challenge and expected to be responsive [constructively so] at all times – Comfortable with conflict – Adaptable to ever-increasing and complex demands – Switch modes quickly and efficiently – Engage deeply and constructively with detail – Apply the knowledge and expertise of trained counsellors and social workers – Demonstrate political astuteness – Understand the make-up and personality traits of all those you lead and manage   And the list goes on and on and on! The problem is, you expend a huge amount of emotional, mental and physical energy as you rush around seeking to tick off every item on the list. If time isn’t made to slow down and regain some type of inner equilibrium, dissonance and a growing disconnection with your original passion and purpose can become the norm. Leadership begins to lose its joy and...