Coaching & Leadership Development
Dear Ofsted…

Dear Ofsted…

This blog comes from Headteacher of Three Bridges School, Jeremy Hannay (@HannayJeremy).  To read the other blogs from Jeremy, please click here.   Dear Ofsted,   Thank you for your recent visit to our school. While your team was lovely and your impression of our school ‘outstanding’, I’d like to share with you my views on the damage your approach to school improvement is having on our system, schools, leaders, teachers and young people.   Your high stakes, ever-shifting approach to school improvement leads to that of fad diets: big promises, quick fixes and, inevitably, unsustainable lifestyles.   The improvement in schools is as long lasting as the weight loss – here today, gone tomorrow – and the schools left victims of the diet meant to help them, heavier and less confident than when they began trying to lose weight in the first place. And worst of all – just like every other crash diet – while the surface might appear slimmer, what’s happened beneath the surface is catastrophic.   Your acceptance of the role you have played in narrowing the curriculum in many schools was welcomed, but your solution is wrong.   Although I am sure we can all agree that a directional change was needed for you, surely you can see that the same diet of high stakes accountability will have the same disastrous results; this time, with curriculum.  In primary, schools are already fearing the expectations placed upon them at short notice.   Subject leaders in primary are not secondary teachers – not subject specialists – rarely with a subject-based degree – and with most teachers disappearing from the profession...
Why School Leader Well-being must be taken Seriously

Why School Leader Well-being must be taken Seriously

  This blog comes from Assistant Headteacher and TeachFirst Ambassador, Michael Nott (@MrNott117)   In the last few years, the teaching profession has made great strides when it comes to wellbeing.   The rise of feedback instead of marking has undoubtedly had a dramatic impact on teacher workload in schools that have adopted it. Likewise, the accepted practice of centralised detentions has ensured teachers don’t spend their every free moment setting and chasing detentions.   But truly, one of the most significant changes has been Ofsted pushing teacher wellbeing to the top of its agenda, suggesting that as a profession we are at least trying to do something to address it. Granted, it is still nowhere near close to perfect, but I certainly think it has improved in the last few years.   However, despite these improvements, I don’t think that the wellbeing of a school’s senior leadership team has been properly considered. Now, I appreciate that there may be many people out there who are unsympathetic to the idea of senior leadership workload.   After all, to many, it is senior leaders who have led on initiatives that have ultimately increased teacher workload. But I don’t think we gain anything from vilifying senior leaders, and creating an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. I don’t think any senior leader knowingly sets out to create something that leads to an increase in workload.   Culture Setters   Nevertheless, I do believe that if school leaders are to set the correct culture in a school then it is imperative that senior leader workload is addressed.   Firstly, if a school’s senior leadership...
How to Build a Culture of Trust in your School

How to Build a Culture of Trust in your School

This blog comes from the CEO of Dunraven Educational Trust, David Boyle. “Without respect, love is lost. Without caring, love is boring. Without honesty, love is unhappy. Without trust, love is unstable.”    The quotation is powerful for a number of reasons. Not least because we instinctively know it to be true. However, for schools it works just as well if you replace ‘love’ with ‘leadership’ (in fact, some would argue that great leadership is like love anyway – selfless, empowering, sustaining, unconditional – but that’s for another blog).   Great leadership in schools is underpinned by the ability to form great relationships with colleagues, families and children: without healthy relationships, we’re at a significant disadvantage. And, more importantly, the young people and adults with whom we work won’t get the experiences or the opportunities they need to thrive.   At the heart of any healthy relationship sits trust: and without trust, leadership is unstable, unhappy and lost.   A number of far more articulate and knowledgeable people than I have written about the power of trust: from Jim Collins to Stephen Covey to Patrick Lencioni, so there is plenty material to get hold of and reflect upon.   And yet, despite this, when things aren’t working well in school culture, very often a lack of trust is the single biggest cause of the difficulty: be it students unwilling to moderate their behaviour, families wanting to challenge necessary innovations or staff unwilling to release the ‘discretionary’ effort it takes to create a really great school.   So what can leaders do to ensure that this is not the case and to help generate...
The 5 Warning Signs of Burnout

The 5 Warning Signs of Burnout

    This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills)   Maintaining a good work-life balance is difficult in any profession.   The wonders of technology have given us endless ways to blur the boundaries, meaning that we often take our work home, physically, emotionally and mentally.   Despite what some may think, educator don’t “own” work-related stress. But by golly we’ve earned a majority share. Given our excessive workloads, accountability measures and the fact that we work more overtime than any other industry, it’s no wonder that 67 per cent of educators describe themselves as “stressed at work”, with many showing actual symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression. The truly tragic thing is that we’re not surprised by this. To us, the language of stress, panic attacks and antidepressants has become commonplace and normalised. The risk of burnout   We accept and expect it. Some of us even seem proud of it, bragging about how little sleep we’ve had or how stressed we are, as if these things are synonymous with success. We tend to ignore the warnings from our bodies, committing ourselves wholly to the school timetable. We don’t stop when we’re tired, we stop when term ends (even if we’ve contracted a moderate version of the Black Death along the way). Of course, there will always be certain events that trigger an increase in this stress: exam time, data deadlines and OFSTED inspections. But if a bad day becomes a bad week, month or term, then you may be getting close to burnout. Here are the signs to look out for: 1. Restlessness   A racing mind, the need...
Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

  This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills) The term “imposter syndrome” was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, to describe those who live with the fear of being found out and exposed as a fraud. This common phenomenon is said to have affected some of the highest achievers in the world: supposedly Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou and even Meryl Streep have experienced it. I’d wager that those feelings of self-doubt sound familiar to a large number of educators, myself included. A little anxiety and passing insecurity is natural, beneficial. Imposter syndrome is not. It’s more than that. It’s a persistent, nagging feeling that you’re somehow lacking or undeserving of the position that you find yourself in. It’s an inner monologue of “I can’t”, “I’m not X enough” and “Who am I to think I can do this?” It’s the discounting of positive feedback and the tendency to attribute achievements to luck, timing, resources or colleagues. As educators, we experience a continuous expectation to self-reflect, as well as listening to others reflect on our capabilities. These could be beneficial, if they weren’t so frequently combined with an unsustainable workload and unrelenting pressure, which can all too easily become fuel for feelings of insecurity and self-loathing. If this sounds familiar, the following could help: 1) Push back against perfectionism Imposter syndrome thrives on expectations of perfection, so a good place to begin is by recognising that this is neither helpful nor realistic. Let’s say you’ve just been promoted, so you begin comparing yourself to others in that role, picturing them to...