Coaching & Leadership Development
How to Move from Surviving to Thriving as a Headteacher

How to Move from Surviving to Thriving as a Headteacher

‘My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humour, and some style’ Maya Angelou   Every year in early autumn, we gather with a small group of school leaders for our Leadership Development Retreats in a beautiful part of the Suffolk countryside.   Every time that we run these retreats, I am left amazed at the gentle unfolding that occurs, when school leaders let go of their old leadership stories and find new and enriching ways to engage with the demands of the role. This year was no different.   As individuals explored the narratives that had shaped their present experiences of school leadership, a common, shared theme began to occur. The stories that they had inherited and were living day-to-day were of leadership as: – A battle – A fight – A struggle   A role in which you always have to be on guard, strong, invincible and ready to fight the good fight. Battle fatigue was a syndrome common to all and experienced by all.   For head teachers, archaic narratives that have served their time, can be difficult to dispel, particularly when the majority of professional relationships that you have seek to confirm ‘old war stories’ as undeniable truths. Conversation after conversation confirms the fact that school leadership is a role in which you have to do everything possible to survive.   It seems impossible to think of it as role in which you can thrive. Yet… it is! All it takes is a willingness to engage in the inner work of school...
The Learning of Happiness

The Learning of Happiness

  This Blog comes from Vanessa King, Author, Board Member, Lead Psychologist and Workplace Expert at the social movement, Action for Happiness. Vanessa was also a Keynote Speaker at our inaugural Education for the Soul Conference on the 19th October 2017.   Wellbeing and mood are catching. We’ve probably all experienced our own moods being impacted by that of people around us, whether positively or negatively or both.  But the ripple effect is even greater than that. A large study on the East Coast of the US found that positive mood states spread through our real social networks by three degrees of separation. That means we are impacting people we have never met and they are impacting us. Our health behaviours have a ripple effect too. This suggests that we have a shared responsibility for happiness and wellbeing. This doesn’t mean we have to be jumping for joy all of the time but it does suggest we perhaps need to be more aware of how we are feeling and know what we can do to manage it.   This is especially important for school leaders. You will likely be aware that very little of what we communicate is down to the words we say. How we say those words and our general demeanor count for much more. So it’s no good talking about the importance of wellbeing, we have to live it. In others words, we have to put our own oxygen mask on first in order to help those around us.   This is no longer a nice to have. As well as increasingly demanding jobs, a growing...
The 3 “Secrets” of Sustainable School Leadership

The 3 “Secrets” of Sustainable School Leadership

This Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.   Before going any further, I must confess to you that I do not write from the authority of having sustained a long period in headship.  On the contrary, after four years I gave it up in the knowledge that to carry on would not be compatible with my own good health; nor therefore, of course, that of the school.  Please don’t get me wrong.  I was perfectly healthy and very fit, physically.  I had made sure of that.   Emotionally, though, I was becoming drained.  My resilience was lower than was safe.  So, what I have to say is (I hope) wisdom gained partly through my own suffering and healing, partly through observation of some dozens of school leaders with whom I have had the privilege of working.   Secret 1: The Energy Bonfire   It follows, then, that the first ‘secret’ of sustainable school leadership is that, however easy some may make it look, it’s not!  It’s hard.  The ability to sustain effective, inspiring leadership is an art learned and honed by experience, hard graft, incredible dedication and deep reflection.  Most school leaders I know, at least some of the time, feel their whole life has been taken over by the role.   Like a bonfire, this all burns a great deal of energy.  It can be exhausting and, sadly, superheroes with unlimited energy don’t exist!   What can I do?   Keep re-fuelling the energy bonfire!  A wise counsellor once said to me, ‘As long as there is as much coming...
A Day in the Life of a Headteacher

A Day in the Life of a Headteacher

“School Leadership is a hard emotional labour, especially when fuelled by love…and/or when the school faces extremely challenging circumstances.”   A day in the life of a Headteacher can be very different, depending on your school situation, the way you lead your school and above all, what each day presents.   Not least because Heads now have to perform a myriad of responsibilities in the space of a typical day and act as social workers, psychologists, politicians, data analysts and a whole host of other roles that are conspicuously absent from any formal Headteacher job description.   Under the intense public scrutiny and personal accountability of leading in education today, you can also be faced with a whole host of emotional challenges that can push even the most headstrong leaders to their absolute limits.   Yet very few leaders are trained to deal with these challenges and the support afforded to many Heads can be minimal.   I know that back when I was a Headteacher, there were a number of days that proved to be deeply emotionally challenging – days on which I needed someone with whom I could explore openly and honestly these challenges and the impact they were having on me, as a person and a leader. Yet for me, I felt there was no-one I could turn to.   So I thought I’d share one of these challenging days with you to give something of an insight into life as a Headteacher and why I believe it’s so vital that our School Leaders are properly supported amidst such challenges…   A Day in My Life as a Headteacher  ...
The 3 Reasons why OFSTED should Scrap “Outstanding” Ratings

The 3 Reasons why OFSTED should Scrap “Outstanding” Ratings

  For more than a few school leaders, it’s going to be incredibly difficult to believe that there is anything that could be more important than being rated Outstanding. When you’re rated “Outstanding” everything is right with the world.   OFSTED loves you. Your staff, children and parents love you. Doors open for you. You’ve proven to everyone, after all, it’s been validated by the nation’s school inspectorate, you are an amazing school leader!   But if you’ve worked with as many Heads as I have, you’ll know that being rated Outstanding is not all that it seems. When you are rated “Outstanding” there is a huge pressure to remain at the top. The pressures of school life still exist, they don’t magically disappear, but everyone now assumes that you are immune to them. You are bullet proof.   There is also a danger in that some individuals equate an OFSTED “Outstanding” grade with their own sense of self-worth. If the OFSTED grade remains high, so too does their sense of self, but if it is lowered they find themselves in a tail spin, plummeting swiftly downwards.   With the appointment of the new OFSTED Head, Amanda Spielman, there has been talk of disposing of the OFSTED grade. I for one, very much hope the talks continue and that we do see a change in the way in which our schools are graded.   If this does happen, we’ll be sure to see a number of ‘academic’ arguments supporting the change. I think too, there are some basic humanitarian arguments for the change…   1. A fixed grade at...