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.

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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.

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How Coaching Transforms Staff Performance in Schools

How Coaching Transforms Staff Performance in Schools

The frustrations, pressures, and challenges teachers face test their self-esteem, energy and dedication every day. To preserve throughout their careers the vision with which the best of them started – to hold fast to the idea that the business they are in is that of setting minds on fire – is a heroic project. It is a project that all teachers and school leaders face, one that is about learning to bring out the best in themselves and others. It is a project that is as much about ensuring their pupils are emotionally intelligent, as it is about ensuring that they are numerate and literate. It is about ensuring that they leave school with levels of emotional maturity and insight that will enable them to develop positive relationships with individuals from all walks of life. It is about a human quest where the prize should not just be a ranking on government league tables, but building generations of young people who possess a healthy sense of self- worth and belief in their own capabilities and potential, ready to stride forward and to make their own dreams reality.

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The 3 Signs of Toxic School Culture

The 3 Signs of Toxic School Culture

Over the past few years, I’ve seen and heard the term “toxic school culture” or “toxic schools” being used to depict various situations in which there are qualities that negatively impact the performance, mental health or working environment in our schools. It’s a term that is a source of great debate, as what qualifies as a “toxic school culture” to one teacher or school leader is so very much dependent on context and the personalities/people involved. Having read some of the accounts from teachers and school leaders who have described their experiences of “toxic schools” and from my own experience in education, I would surmise that these experiences, are rarely caused by a wilful intent to toxify a school culture by any one party.

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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.

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How to Rebuild Your Leadership Confidence

How to Rebuild Your Leadership Confidence

It’s an understatement to say that life as a school leader can be bruising. The impact of the responses of disgruntled staff, a poor OFSTED report, complaints from parents or conflict with governors can send even the most resilient of leaders into a downward mental spiral. When negative events occur, your confidence can take at hit. You can begin to feel as though you are not up to the job for which you have been appointed. From my own experience working with school leaders, nothing can be further from the truth. Many, if not all, are still up to the role. It’s simply that they need to be reminded of their own power within and steps they can take to feel like their former, confident selves again. If you are feeling at a bit of a low ebb now, because of events that you are facing as school leader, set a few minutes aside to read this short blog. See if you can identify at least one step that you can take to rebuild your leadership confidence again.

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“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.

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3 Coaching Skills you need as a School Leader

3 Coaching Skills you need as a School Leader

Good coaches and indeed good school leaders are able to communicate a belief in people’s potential and an expectation that they can do their best. Their tacit message is… “I believe in you. I’m investing in you, and I expect your best efforts. As a result, people sense that a leader cares, so they feel motivated to uphold their own standards for performance, and they feel accountable for how well they do.” For those that line manage others, it is essential that they have the skills that will have a strong, direct, positive impact on staff levels of motivation, and improve standards for all. Many of the skills required for this type of impact stem from coaching. Coaching is a broad term for a process that is concerned with bringing out the best in others. There are a wide spectrum of skills that coaches develop over time to assist both the personal and professional growth process. For school leaders seeking to develop both their coaching competence and confidence there are three key coaching skills that are the foundations for success when working with others.

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What really is Authentic Leadership?

What really is Authentic Leadership?

e often talk about being true to ourselves, but which self are we referring to? The ego or the unconditioned/true self? The ego is what psychologists refer to as our conditioned or learned self. It is that part of us that when we were younger, helped to give us our sense of identity. As we grew older our ego helped us to navigate the world of both inter and intra-personal relationships. We took external cues from others to help determine what was acceptable and what was not. In doing so, we often made unconscious adaptations to our behaviours. When in the company of others, these adaptations often served to help us feel safe and ultimately feel accepted.

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My Heartfelt Letter to Every School Leader

My Heartfelt 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.”

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What I learned at “Education for the Soul” 2018

What I learned at “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.

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