Coaching & Leadership Development
3 Things Headteachers Should Stop Feeling Guilty About

3 Things Headteachers Should Stop Feeling Guilty About

    The weight of school leadership is not an easy load to bear. It takes a pair of broad shoulders to consistently carry the weight of expectation that is placed upon Heads and their roles.   All too often, the weight of responsibility is made that much heavier by the feelings of guilt that many Heads carry around with them. Guilt that is kept hidden from others but is not secret to the bearer.   For many a School Leader guilt is insidious and more often than not undermines your efforts to do the right thing. You know as a Head, doing the right thing is frequently the most difficult thing to do; particularly when decisions made are contrary to what ‘others’ believe is required.   Guilt knows this and rather than support your decisions, guilt works in tandem with your inner critic to tell you that you have got it wrong. That it is you that is out of step and that you are to blame for the emotional responses and behaviours of others.   In addition, because guilt has an intimate relationship with the psyche of School Leaders, it has played a key role in thwarting many School Leaders’ attempts to take care of themselves. If you are a School Leader, guilt tells you that you are in some way mistaken if you consider putting your needs ahead of the children or staff in your school.   It tells you, even when you are at breaking point, that you can’t take your foot off the peddle. Guilt just pushes you harder and harder and has little...
Why Budget Cuts hurt our Schools and their Leaders

Why Budget Cuts hurt our Schools and their Leaders

    Earlier this year, the TES quoted a report by the NAHT that revealed, ‘65% of school leaders “strongly agree” that cutbacks have already had a negative impact on the performance of their schools.”   In discussions related to the impact of spending cuts we have become used to reading about schools asking parents to contribute towards books and other essential supplies. We have become used to hearing about the pressure of increased class sizes, reduction in supply budgets and teachers taking on a raft of additional duties to cover posts that have been deleted. We hear all of this and quite naturally we understand how financial cuts have had a detrimental impact on the performance of many of our schools.   However, there is an added dimension to the debate that is often missed. Since the global financial crisis austerity has been an ever-present part of the collective mindset.   It has impacted on the way in which individuals and those charged with responsibility or, the care of our resources have discharged their duties. When it comes to money, it has resulted in many, school leaders included, adopting a scarcity mindset.   What is a scarcity mindset?   A scarcity mindset is quite simply a belief that there will never be enough. Actions and thoughts stem from a place of lack. The present, the urgent, the immediate context are all that matter. Decision making is myopic. Short term impact, with very often far-reaching long-term negative outcomes.   Why is this the case? Because when you are operating from a scarcity mindset, fear is in the driver’s seat....
5 Tips for Reducing the Stress of Headship

5 Tips for Reducing the Stress of Headship

    You would not have reached where you are today if you didn’t know how to harness the power of hope to help you overcome the stresses of school leadership.   We know that hope can be incredibly elusive. When external demands and pressures mount and crisis follows crisis, the light at the end of the tunnel can appear to be very faint and distant glimmer. In such times, hope is just as essential for your own well-being, as rain is for flowers in the desert.   As you seek to move forward in your endeavour to create brighter futures for our young people, here are five tips for keeping hope alive and reducing feelings of stress when the challenges arise…   Tip 1: Learn to keep one eye backward and another eye forward   In order to live more fully and to make progress in our lives, it is helpful to have a process in place that enables us to develop a greater understanding of our own personal/professional journeys. Such a process enables us to develop a greater understanding of where we have come from and where we are heading and to hopefully move forward with deeper levels of insight and wisdom.   When this becomes a regular pattern of behaviour, it becomes much harder for you to be knocked off course by the challenges of school life – you have a wider perspective for viewing events and understanding how they relate to the bigger picture, both personally and professionally.   Tip 2: Stay Connected   School leadership does not happen in a vacuum. Leaders need people,...
“Fight or Flight” – How to End the Leadership Struggle

“Fight or Flight” – How to End the Leadership Struggle

  In May of this year, a national newspaper headline read, ‘Three in 10 new School leaders quit in the first five years”. For those of us who work in schools this is old news. We know that draconian changes within the education sector have left many teachers and school leaders struggling …   “With a sense of despair, self-doubt and frustration that occurs when they experience themselves in ways which are incommensurate with their vision…. They experience a disjuncture between original ideas and current realities” Parker J Palmer   We know this means many teachers and school leaders simply struggle to survive – mentally, physically and emotionally. Consequently, many feel they have only two options to either fight or flight. Neither options are good for the system or the individual.   For the system, when schools are led by individuals who are in either fight or flight mode it often means:   – The hallmarks of the Ego, control, competition, fear and coercion dominate – Emotionally Intelligent styles of leadership are derided, if they do not result in fast turn arounds and accelerated results – Good people ‘disappear’ – either as a result of stress and burnout or because they have been forced out by the powers that be   For School leaders who find themselves operating from the fight or flight mode it often means:   – Being in a constant state of high alert, with stress hormones continually flooding your body and impacting adversely on how you lead both yourself and others – Playing it safe, minimising taking risks or listening to your own voice, for...
Why Public Scrutiny in Education has gone too far…

Why Public Scrutiny in Education has gone too far…

  It was the late Psychologist Carl Rogers who over forty years ago said;   “Our educational system takes the view that the nature of the individual is such that he cannot be trusted. That he must be guided, instructed and controlled by those who are wise or higher in status”   It does not matter that he was an American. His statement is just as true for the UK Education System. The evidence is clear for all to see; Guidance, instruction and control in our system has led to increased powers for some and decreased powers for others. It has led to the creation of a culture where many a school leader;   – No longer has the same level of autonomy and freedom that they once had – In spite of their reduced powers they are held to exacting accountability standards and sometimes… for decisions that are not even theirs to own – Can disappear from the system, simply because they were found to be ‘failing’ against criteria over which they had no ownership or knowledge, yet despite this, were found to be wanting and hence disposable   Quite simply, increased public scrutiny and personal accountability for school leaders has gone too far. The rules of the game have changed. The goal posts have moved (and keep moving) yet school leaders are still held accountable for the outcome of a game for which they are no longer the main players and have virtually no say in the rules.   There are many critics of what is wrong with our current education system and I amongst other educationalists...