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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How does Coaching support School Improvement?

How does Coaching support School Improvement?

One of coaching’s greatest achievements over the last 30 years is to have moved the focus of leadership development from an over-emphasis on decision-making and rational authority, towards a model which prioritises understanding and empathy; from IQ to EQ (emotional intelligence), if you like. Arguably, one of coaching’s greatest strengths is its focus on the individual and the development of their personal and professional capacity; it’s ability to provide a space in which the soul can emerge as a guide to practice. It is possible as a coach, however, to go further than this, and to have an impact beyond the individual. Coaching can be used as a form of organisational consultancy; of school improvement. Present challenges The challenges faced by all organisations – including schools – which operate in contexts defined by the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the 21st century, cannot be addressed by heroic individual leaders. In fact, the speed of technological, environmental, economic and organisational change makes a mockery of the very idea of the heroic leader; that lone ranger, setting an example through individual endeavour and inspiring followership through sheer force of personality (backed by the threat of the pistol in his holster!). Leadership is now a collective act which requires new levels of engagement, collaboration, systemic thinking and teamwork. What it requires is ‘We-Q’, or the sort of relational intelligence that enables teams, through their ‘togetherness’, to be more than just the sum of their parts.

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What does it mean to be an Anti-Racist Teacher?

What does it mean to be an Anti-Racist Teacher?

Ask black students who their favourite teacher is, and they will joyfully tell you. Ask them what it is about their favourite teacher, and most will say some version of this: “They know how to work with me”. So much is in that statement. It means that these students want to work, that they see their teachers as partners in the learning process, and that they know the teacher-student relationship is one in which they both have power. In other words, black students know that they bring intellect to the classroom, and they know when they are seen. As the principal of San Francisco’s Mission High School and an anti-racist educator for more than 30 years, I have witnessed countless black students thrive in classrooms where teachers see them accurately and show that they are happy to have them there. In these classes, students choose to sit in the front of the class, take careful notes, shoot their hands up in discussions, and ask unexpected questions that cause the teacher and other classmates to stop and think. Given the chance, they email, text, and call the teachers who believe in them. In short, these students are everything their families and community members have raised and supported them to be. I have seen some of these very same students walk into another teacher’s classroom, go to the last row of desks, and put their head down. I have seen them sit frozen in their seat, staring at an assignment—when earlier I had heard them make jokes, talk excitedly about the content of their history class, celebrate solving a vexing algebra equation, or shake a test tube with authority, waiting for a result. Their report cards often reveal this disparity in classroom experiences: A’s and B’s in classes where they feel valued and C’s, D’s, or even F’s in classes where they don’t.

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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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What is Values-Based Leadership – Expert Interview

What is Values-Based Leadership – Expert Interview

Values based leadership is when leaders draw on both their own core values and the negotiated and defined values of the work organisation for guidance and motivation. Values-based school leaders are transparent about sharing and communicating their values and in helping their staff and pupils to connect to their own core values and those of the community they serve and learn within. Values-based leadership is described by Richard Barrett, author of Building a Values-Driven Organisation, as “…a way of making authentic decisions that builds trust and commitment.” Research tells us that values-based leadership is most effective when these values are ‘truly lived’ by the leadership team who model these values in their everyday attitude, approach, behaviours and decision-making. This demonstrates their inherent commitment to their values in a real and observable way and encourages the whole of the organisation to make choices to internalise and act out of these values. As a consequence, these values become the “moral compass “that puts people before processes; helps our problem solving and guides our decision making about what is the right thing to do even when it might not be the easiest thing to do.

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Knowing Oneself – 3 Tips to Effective Self-Reflection

Knowing Oneself – 3 Tips to Effective Self-Reflection

It is part of the human condition to be introspective and to have a desire to gain a better understanding of ourselves. Indeed, as many great thinkers throughout history have noted, it is precisely our self-consciousness and our ability to know ourselves, that sets us apart from other species on the planet. As a professional coach, I have seen how it can be one of the most powerful tools for personal development. As British psychotherapist Alison Rickard puts it, our reflective thinking can be “the combined voice of the best teacher and supervisor we ever had”. On a personal level, it has been an essential component of my continuous learning journey. It has provided me with some valuable insights about myself and has enhanced my understanding of others both in my professional life and in my personal relationships. As I have developed my reflective practice throughout the last few decades, I have learnt three key secrets to effective self-reflection…

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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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