Coaching & Leadership Development
Keeping school leaders
hope alive today, for
our children’s hope of a
better tomorrow.
How to Overcome the Stress of School Re-Openings

How to Overcome the Stress of School Re-Openings

This week, whilst it remains open to question as to whether the five tests for easing lockdown have been met, schools have begun to re-admit pupils for certain year groups. Understandably, against this backdrop there is a high degree of stress and anxiety. Pupils, parents and teachers alike will carry their own set of fears and worries about what a return to school might look like. Pupils might worry about who they can play with and why it is that they can no-longer proudly carry pieces of work home to show their parents; parents in turn might worry about how well their children will adjust to the changes and teachers may worry about the limitations of social distancing on the child/teacher relationship. And… there will be many, many more worries that will surface over the coming weeks and months.

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Coronavirus – How to Protect your Mental Health in a Crisis

Coronavirus – How to Protect your Mental Health in a Crisis

After a week of self-isolating and not getting any better, this was very much the case for me. When it was confirmed over the phone, by my doctor that I had contracted Covid-19. The diagnosis didn’t surprise me. For a week I’d felt awful; sore throat, persistent cough, aching limbs, no energy and loss of appetite. By the time my family made the decision to call the doctor, those symptoms had intensified, along with stinging headaches, that seemed to go on for hours and Paracetamol had little effect. Self-isolating in my bedroom and with no energy to even read a book or watch TV, the only thing I could do was face my own interior world of thoughts and feelings. My family were worried, particularly my 93 year old mum (who struggled to understand why she couldn’t come over and take care of me) and my eldest son, who despite his best efforts, found it difficult to mask his anxiety and worry. As I slowly came back to full health ( a process that took slightly over three weeks) I realised that the sense of connectedness that I had with myself and others was a key factor in protecting my mental health. It helped me to retain a sense of hope as my body sought to recover.

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Bold Conversations about Race in Schools

Bold Conversations about Race in Schools

I don’t want to be positioned as the angry Black girl in the corner, who when she tells her truth is isolated, unheard and ignored. But, when we have discussions about race and equality with our colleagues, this is too often the reality. So, what do we do? We stop speaking, we conform and we accept the unacceptable in the hope that one day, we will make it to a level where we can influence change. Our compromise… our pact… is silence. I recently came across this tweet: ‘Calling white educators! Check out the links below… Learn something new about BAME and education. #BlackLivesMatter’. This got me thinking. Why did my fellow educators need a tweet to call them to action? Why didn’t they speak to me when they passed me in the hallway? Why didn’t they speak to me when we had lunch in the canteen or a drink in the pub? Why didn’t they speak to me when we were planning the curriculum? Why did the tweeter assume that Black educators somehow have an innate knowledge of Black history and therefore do not need to learn more? Why are we so scared of speaking to each other about race?

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Talking about Race – Letters from a Former Student

Talking about Race – Letters from a Former Student

I sit at my school desk reading an email from a former student… I am writing to you today, following the recent death of George Floyd, an African American man who was murdered at the hands of a white police officer in Minnesota on the 25th of May 2020. For the first time in my existence, I have found a confidence within me to address the distressing issues that I have felt, and am still feeling as a person of colour, due to the triggering exposure that George Floyd’s death has created within the media. I pause… wondering where this letter will take me, immediately feeling out of my depth. Though I have had a blessed career working in diverse communities such as Brick Lane in Tower Hamlets and Easton in Central Bristol and I have been a trustee for charities such as Think Global and Young Citizens which schooled me through first hand experience in fighting for justice and advocacy… I realise I am not comfortable discussing race with people of colour. It is not something I do… ever. What I do not realise, as I begin reading these emails, is what a profound impact having this conversation would have on me. When it came to my race, I was unsure as to who I could turn to when I was upset at school. All my friends were white, all my teachers were white, all my dinner ladies were white, so as a child, I felt my racial experiences couldn’t be discussed on a one to one basis. I accept now, that this was because I didn’t want to make anyone feel uncomfortable. Unfortunately, this feeling of not wanting to make anyone feel uncomfortable or embarrassed followed me through into my adult life. I think it’s rather worrying that at the age of 27, I now feel ready to talk, but I want to use my voice today, because I do not want fellow Brookside school students to feel the same way that I did at primary school.

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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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Why the NPQH fails to prepare new Heads

Why the NPQH fails to prepare new Heads

I remember one of my first school visits as an NPQH Tutor. I had been assigned as a tutor for a Deputy, who was hoping to secure headship within a year of completing her NPQH. In just a year, the expectation of the NPQH was that through study; face to face and online, peer group development days, tutor support and the completion of a school-based assignment, my aspiring Head would be fit for Headship. It took me less than 30 mins sitting with my aspiring Head to ‘assess’ that this would not be the case. She was stressed. She was tired. She had spent an inordinate amount of hours collecting and analysing data for her school based-based assignment. She’d poured over interviews with staff and pupils and extracted what she believed to be key evidence for supporting her school improvement work.

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How to Live with Uncertainty as a School Leader

How to Live with Uncertainty as a School Leader

It has now been almost two months since the country went into lockdown and now, very tentatively we are seeking to ease our way out. The future is still uncertain and there remains a huge array of unknowns. As a result, most of us are now in what I’d consider to be a “liminal space”. To clarify, if you’re not familiar with the language, liminal means threshold, it is the period of time between two concrete senses of who we are. For example, adolescence is a liminal period of time as we are no longer a child and we are also not yet an adult. It is often referred to as a “between place” and during this time, I’ve seen so many people have been commenting on how peculiar this between and betwixt place they currently feel they are in feels. This is partly because one of the important things about this liminal time is that it inevitably involves disintegration. After all, there is no way in which it is possible to be a child, undergo adolescence and be a child at the end of it. It’s just not possible! We can have a pseudo liminal process in which we think we have had a heck of a time, but we haven’t really experienced this sense of disintegration. We usually know that is happening because of a number of things: we feel the disintegration bodily, in our minds and we find that what used to make sense, no longer makes sense. Therefore, there is a real feeling of disorientation.

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Becoming an Anti-Racist School – Governor Story

Becoming an Anti-Racist School – Governor Story

Like many people, I felt a mix of horror and outrage at the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. But this time, it didn’t feel enough. It really brought home to me and to many, that racism isn’t just an issue in the States, systemic racism is alive and well and thriving in the UK. I think previously the UK has always let itself off the hook by being like, “well, we’re not as racist as America, we’re a multicultural society” but the events of last year showed that racism is part and parcel of the lived experience of people of colour here. Particularly, as I’m also a chair of governors of a large girls’ comprehensive school with large number of students of colour, the personal impact, and the extra weight of responsibility I felt was striking. It made me realise that if this has impacted so much on me as a white person, then what are the students of colour in our school feeling? If I feel that horror and outrage, what must they be feeling?’ As a school, it made us realise that we could no longer pretend that racism happens out there, but not within our school gates.

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“It Starts with You” – How to Tackle Racism in Schools

“It Starts with You” – How to Tackle Racism in Schools

Like most schools and organisations across the UK and beyond, myself and our school community were very much affected George Floyd’s death in 2020, the resulting Black Lives Matter movement and the whole worldwide condemnation of the events that took place. Like many schools, the events led us to re-examine what was happening in society, what we were doing, and how we were relating to each other. As a school, we’d always said that we absolutely don’t tolerate racism and I’d like to think that openness and transparency and generosity, are in many ways some of the defining features of our school. Yet demographically, as a school, we are overwhelmingly white, we only have a handful of students of colour and just one staff member who’s mixed race. Looking back now, I would say we probably also hadn’t always approached race, in the most honest way, despite of our culture of openness. But after George Floyd’s death, when the discussion about how organisations should respond become more pronounced that changed.

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Tackling Race Equality in Schools – Press Release

Tackling Race Equality in Schools – Press Release

Integrity Coaching, the UK’s leading provider of coaching services for school leaders established by Viv Grant in 2008, has launched a new programme designed to help schools and trusts address institutional bias and drive social change. Nearly one-year on from the death of George Floyd and inspired by the subsequent work of the Black Lives Matter movement, Integrity’s ‘Race, Identity & School Leadership’ programme is designed for senior leaders who wish to engage in conversations about race equality and achievement, supporting them to create change for their schools, themselves and their communities. Despite the efforts of school leaders and politicians, inequalities remain a key barrier to the success of many schools. Black Caribbean children remain consistently the lowest performing group in the country (Demie & McLean, 2017). More than half of BAME teachers report experiencing discrimination and harassment as a result of their ethnicity (Visible Minorities, Invisible Teachers report, NASUWT, 2015). The Timpson Review of school exclusion concluded that institutional racism in schools results in discriminatory practice and shapes teachers’ expectations of behaviour (Timpson Review, 2019). 85.9% of teachers and 92.9% of headteachers in state-funded schools in England are White British, compared to 78.5% of the working age population (Institutional racial discrimination in schools report, Social Market Foundation, 2020).

“Sustaining a Vital Profession” – Research Report

“Sustaining a Vital Profession” – Research Report

There is growing evidence of the deterioration of wellbeing amongst teachers and school leaders and a growing recruitment and retention crisis facing the profession. As recently as November 2019, Education Support published its Teacher Wellbeing Survey. In this survey, over 84% of senior leader respondents admitted to experiencing high-levels of stress from the role, with over 66% of senior leaders have considered leaving. The survey also highlighted the culture of overworking in the profession; 59% of senior leaders who completed the survey indicated they typically worked more than 51 hours per week. Meanwhile, 28% of senior leaders worked more than 61 hours per week and 11% working more than 70 hours per week. This situation further highlights the dire situation that faces the profession, which comes after the NFER report in 2017 found that headteacher retention rates have significantly fallen since 2012.

An Open Invitation to Every School Leader

An Open Invitation to Every School Leader

I think it is fair to say that as a result of the current COVID-19 crisis, the challenge and complexity of the Headteacher role has grown exponentially. Every school leader in the country has faced an enormous amount of change; personally and professionally. These are unprecedented times, for which there are no rule or guide-books. Everything has changed! Relationships with families, pupils and staff have changed. The speed of change has been swift, with little or no time for school leaders to make sense of both the here and now and also what the ‘new order’ might bring. Whilst many Heads are doing their best in an impossible situation, many are struggling to navigate the uncertainty that has accompanied this global pandemic. The old norms have been stripped away and this can lead to feelings of discomfort, disorientation and an understandable anxiety about the current situation in which we all find ourselves. On top of this, feelings of overwhelm, isolation and stress that Heads often report have also been further intensified. All we do know with any degree of certainty during these times – is that for now, this is our new normal and it will require huge amounts of resilience, courage and flexibility to navigate these perilous times. Therefore, this is a time when we need to be deliberate in pressing the pause button and finding time to reflect. This is a time, when different types of conversation and leadership support are needed.

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What I discovered at “Education for the Soul” 2019

What I discovered at “Education for the Soul” 2019

On 17th October 2019, we hosted our third ‘Education for the Soul’ conference. As I shared with delegates on the day; in 2016, when we hosted our very first conference, I was somewhat fearful and unsure. Not just because it was the first time, we had hosted a conference, but because I was fearful of the use of the word ‘Soul’ and how it would be perceived by others. As much as I knew that one-to-one with our coachees, there was/is a place for soul work; for conversations that go deep and beyond the surface of things, I was unsure of the degree to which this could be achieved collectively. Could we genuinely create an environment in which Heads and school leaders could safely let go of their leadership masks?

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