Coaching & Leadership Development
Keeping school leaders
hope alive today, for
our children’s hope of a
better tomorrow.
Well-being, Purpose and Community

Well-being, Purpose and Community

Having been in education for several decades now, I’ve had plenty of chance to witness what leadership at its very best looks like in our schools. In that time, I’ve observed how great leadership often comes when individuals feel empowered from the inside out, are able to take decisions that are right for their own settings and on a personal level, they are emotionally and psychologically ok. However, I’ve also seen how the circumstances of our education system in the last few years has begun to hinder this, such as the undercurrent of fear that now exists within our profession resulting from an accountability system – that at times, has seemed to be more punitive than supportive. Meanwhile, there has also been rising stress levels amongst Heads, who are increasingly expected to manage change that is driven by external forces and in a direction that many feel is the wrong one, such as the imposed Curriculum a few years ago and enforced academisation more recently.

LEARN MORE
How to Survive as a MAT CEO

How to Survive as a MAT CEO

Over the last few years I have moved from being the head of a single school, albeit on two sites, to CEO of a Multi Academy Trust serving over 4,000 students and employing about 700 staff. I love my job and the fantastic staff and students I get to work with every day, but the pressures of this changed role and the ever increasing demand for more have taken their toll. This year has probably been one of the hardest – and most rewarding – of my career. From a place of still figuring things out, there are five key observations I would like to make about how to survive as a leader and what my strategies will be going forwards.

LEARN MORE
What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

If you are head teacher, then I am sure, this image will speak volumes to you! You know exactly what it takes each and every day to step into the role of Head teacher and enter a system that so often forgets that you are human. A system, which despite all the well-intentioned rhetoric, expects you to constantly withstand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. And, no matter how fast and furious they might be, requires that you always come out victorious, with an ever-present smile on your face.   However, I am sure you know as a Head, many a time life just isn’t like that. Those slings and arrows, whether from a colleague, an inspector, a parent or a Governor, can hurt. They can pierce the soul and leave you feeling utterly down-spirited and disheartened.   It is because of this fact and working closely as we do, with Head teachers, that we decided to host our termly Headteacher’s Nurture Meals. We wanted to do something, that clearly said to Head teachers,    ‘You are of value; you are of worth and you have the right to have your needs met’   We are always very clear in our purpose. This was designed not 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. We wanted to make sure this was different.   Different…. But how? Well … we create a loose framework for discussion, but in the... LEARN MORE
The 5 Characteristics of Great School Culture

The 5 Characteristics of Great School Culture

  Recently, we announced the launch of our latest cohort of our 4 Day Coaching Programme to Maximise School Performance.   In preparation for the programme, I have been reflecting on the features of school cultures that serve to grow adults and foster outstanding staff performance.   As I did so, I was reminded of research carried out by Stoll and Fink at the Institute of Education. Their research identified a number of school cultural norms that they cite as evidence for strong, positive school cultures.   They assert that if these norms are weak or non-existent within a school, then growth and development at both an individual and organisational level are severely hampered.   Out of the norms which they identified, I believe there are five that are essential, for creating genuine school cultures in which all adults and young people thrive.   As you read through these, I’d encourage you to reflect on each of the norms below and perhaps consider these questions:   – To what extent are these norms present in your school culture? – Which norms are strengths and would act as enablers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – Which norms are weaknesses/areas for development and might act as potential barriers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – What strategies could be developed for overcoming these barriers?   1. Shared Goals & Vision – We know where we’re going   When individuals are empowered to take ownership of their goals it can cause a shift in the culture of a school. As individuals learn how to work in alignment with the school’s vision and values, a new set of relationship... LEARN MORE
What is a Coaching Relationship really like?

What is a Coaching Relationship really like?

Senior school leaders are in positions where their behaviours, words, actions and relationships are on constant public display. As a result, their lives are under constant public scrutiny. This in itself brings a unique set of pressures. School leaders have to learn how to manage both their private and public personas; in a manner that ensures they are able to maintain high levels of authenticity and a deep connection with their core values and what they stand for. When faced with challenging circumstances (which often arise on a daily basis) school leaders normally respond automatically to these situations with perceived expertise and aplomb. Responding to stress, responding to crisis, small and large that are not a part of the planned daily routine, soon become an accepted part of a school leader’s daily life. However, left unchecked, and without time to reflect on causes, impact and consequences of actions taken, these automatic behaviours can result in leaders becoming disconnected from themselves and in extreme cases, disconnected at various levels from those they lead and manage.

LEARN MORE
“Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope

“Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope

As I write this it is a cool spring day during the Easter holidays and I am sat in my newly created office, carved out of a basement room at my home. I imagine a collective professional mind, paused and taking breath, recharging the batteries, enjoying time with family, friends, perhaps sneaking in a holiday abroad or counting down the weeks until the summer one. This holiday is an odd hiatus to the frenzied school year. The majority of the year is done and yet the most pressurised period of time is still to come for students, their parents and school staff alike. The time left is short and for that we are relieved, and yet the time left is short and for that we are not relieved – another example of the contradictory nature of school life in the 20teens. For many it will be a period of reflection, looking for new jobs, promotion or a different challenge, finally deciding to take the plunge and retire – or just looking for a way out. At the Headteacher’s Roundtable conference recently I spoke of the moment, just over a year ago, where, commuting to work, at the end of another testing term, the Basement Jaxx song ‘Where’s your head at?’ blasted out of the radio, the song rattling around my head like an earworm, as it has done for the most of the past 12 months.

LEARN MORE
How Headteachers can develop their Emotional Resilience

How Headteachers can develop their Emotional Resilience

With the increasing pace of change in our schools and heightened levels of public scrutiny and accountability, it takes a great deal of courage and bravery to be a school leader today.
There are many joys involved in the role, but equally as many challenges. It is not until many school leaders reach headship, that they realise that the stresses of the job are such that they need to strengthen their emotional resilience in order to both thrive and survive. One of the reasons is, the rules of the game keep changing. As a result, school leaders become unsure of which rules to play by. Imagine saying to a child, “Today I am going to teach you how to play tennis” and every time they thought they had mastered how to serve and felt confident in their own abilities [ based upon what you had told them] you then said to them “No, you’ve got it wrong. You now have to do it this way.”

LEARN MORE
Is there a place for Vulnerability as a MAT CEO?

Is there a place for Vulnerability as a MAT CEO?

People’s immediate answer to whether vulnerability is a suitable trait for a CEO would be absolutely not. Under no circumstances should a successful leader show any form of weakness. However, I feel this is too simple understanding of what ‘vulnerability’ means in the context of leadership. Rather than translating as “showing weakness”, I believe vulnerability can be better understood as a human characteristic that involves being more open, more sensitive and at times becoming a passive leader to allow the actions of others to develop and prevail. Jim Collins in his description of a Level 5 leader, describes an individual who displays both ‘humility’ and ‘will’ – both of which are key elements of vulnerability and are two traits with which I have tried to build my professional career upon. Certainly being ‘human’ and embedding empathy within our decision making could be interpreted as a softer more vulnerable side of leadership which can bring more positive change and motivation from those that we lead.

LEARN MORE
What are the habits of an Effective MAT CEO?

What are the habits of an Effective MAT CEO?

In 2013, I was appointed to the position of Headteacher having been Deputy Headteacher in the School since 2010. Following a rigorous external advert and interview process I was in the fortunate position of being able to continue the work that I had already started in changing the school in its journey to becoming Ofsted outstanding which it finally achieved in 2017. 2013 was a very important year in my career development and remains a time which I reflect upon now that I have moved from Headteacher to CEO. Two small but significant things happened. Firstly, following my appointment to my first Headship, the then retiring Headteacher came into my office smiling and through a book on my desk telling me to read it. He left chuckling to himself. The book was entitled ‘What got you here, won’t get you there’.

LEARN MORE
My Reflections on “Education for the Soul” 2018

My Reflections on “Education for the Soul” 2018

On 19th October 2018, we held our second “Education for the Soul” Conference. The theme for this year’s conference was, “Creating new narratives for the school leader’s journey”. Perhaps not your everyday common theme for a school leader’s conference, but if there is one thing we are certain about at Integrity, it’s that we are not going to follow the standard, traditional format for our conferences. And so it was for this year’s conference, that we chose to further support school leaders by enabling them to consider the role their stories play in their lives as educators.

LEARN MORE
An Open Letter to Every School Leader

An Open Letter to Every School Leader

It is our belief that over the last few years, our education system has lost sight of one of its strongest and most important assets – its humanity. Values more akin to the business world have seeped into the system with schools encouraged to see children as data, other school leaders as competitors and results as the ultimate goal of education. We have seen too many school leaders ‘disappear’ with many being forced out, sometimes on the back of just one disappointing set of results. Consequently, we’ve noticed a growing culture of fear within in our education system. Increased levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability have only served to intensify this. As have new structures and roles which have added unnecessary layers of complexity and ambiguity. Many heads now feel they are in a constant battle to prove they know what is being asked of them in this new era and prove that they are “good enough.”

LEARN MORE