Coaching & Leadership Development
Keeping school leaders
hope alive today, for
our children’s hope of a
better tomorrow.
Why Heads Leave – The 3 Key Reasons

Why Heads Leave – The 3 Key Reasons

Every time, I sit with a Headteacher as their coach, I become acutely aware of the amount of energy they expend in seeking to do what is right for them and right for their schools. It is not an easy task. Many find themselves in situations where it seems impossible to see the wood for the trees and if they are not supported to find their own way forward, they may inadvertently end up following someone else’s. More often than not, this other path can end up being the wrong path and for the reasons cited in the above quote, can lead to good people leaving the profession. To understand why this happens and why there is still such a high rate of attrition amongst Heads, we need to deepen our understanding of three key things that happen to Heads when they ‘temporarily mobilise energy in service to goals’ that are not their own…

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“Two decades as a Headteacher took its toll”

“Two decades as a Headteacher took its toll”

I applied for a place on the Integrity Coaching Headteacher programme, funded by the NEU, in 2018 at a time when I was struggling to manage the various pressures and demands of my role. I became a Headteacher in 1999, and there had inevitably been numerous occasions over the previous two decades when my job had been challenging, stressful and all consuming; but this felt different. I was three years into my third headship, running a successful school with a fantastic staff team and a very supportive school community. My life outside of teaching was also good, a happy marriage, gorgeous family and living in a beautiful part of the country.

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The 3 Steps to Surviving a School Crisis

The 3 Steps to Surviving a School Crisis

This Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.    Many things can cause a crisis in a School, more often than not – they result from a set of circumstances which are often caused by things entirely out of one’s control as a school leader.  For example, I remember once suffering from a combination of a flu’ epidemic, a shortage of supply teachers and three long-term sickness cases on my staff all happening in the space of a week and it can catch you completely off-guard.   When this pressure is combined with a shift in your personal circumstances, a bereavement, a family sickness, even something as ordinary as a home maintenance crisis can cause serious psychological upheaval, if you allow it do so.   But how can you avoid this happening and what should you do if you find yourself in a situation threatened by a crisis that feels out of control?   Well I believe there’s three three things every School Leader should do if they want to survive a crisis like this unscathed….    1. Remember Your Oxygen Mask   Firstly, I have learned that how you feel is more to do with your inner state than what’s going on out there.  When I’ve slept well and feel physically and mentally OK, I somehow feel ‘bigger’ and problems seem ‘smaller’.  They even seem to matter less, although I am still driven to solve them as best I can.  The difference is that I have some energy to do so.  Fatigue, on the other hand, makes us turn in on ourselves and it becomes... LEARN MORE
The Importance of Authentic Leadership

The Importance of Authentic Leadership

The most common frustration vexed by schools I hear is “…if only we could…” Faced with increased pressure to demonstrate progress through pupil outcomes, primary schools have developed learned behaviours, sometimes losing sight of our need to do right by students and communities. We have retro-fitted school improvement to accountability frameworks; the measurement of learning has become the proxy for success. In blunt terms, we teach pupils to read nonsense phonics words because that is what we test. The impact has normalised the view that school improvement can only be measured through outcomes, rather than interactions. It is a misguided ideal, and as we are slowly learning, it hasn’t worked. An obsession with accountability has created an environment where unethical practice has become accepted—we view students as objects and over emphasise the importance of measurement as our proxy for success, a reverse engineering which retro-fits curriculum to fit an assessment framework. Earlier this year, I was asked by a leading school improvement organisation to deliver a presentation to a group of executive leaders. Having carefully planned a session around learning-focused ethical leadership, which was warmly received by delegates, I was more than surprised to open an email from the event team, questioning the focus of my session, admonishing me for over-emphasising the leadership of teaching and learning. They wanted to know whether future sessions could possibly concentrate on the more technical aspects of school improvement, including delivery of sustainable business strategy, processes and accountability frameworks. My response was unequivocal. I asked about the messages are we giving the teaching profession if the narrative of authentic school leadership concentrates on dashboards, compliance checks and frameworks instead of the real substance of education—improving the life chances of the children within our communities?

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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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Dear New Headteachers – 7 Things You Should Know

Dear New Headteachers – 7 Things You Should Know

Dear New Headteachers, It seems a daunting task to be responsible for a large school of perhaps 1,000-plus young people, 100-plus staff, not to mention being accountable to the local authority, families, communities and inspectors – but it doesn’t have to feel that way. Here’s my advice to you. Create this vision for your school – know it, live it – and make everything you do be a step towards it. Every decision must be aligned with it. The full school community will be watching when you make a decision, therefore consistency is crucial.

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Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

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.

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How to Build a Culture of Trust in your School

How to Build a Culture of Trust in your School

“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.

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The Art of Relationships-Led Leadership

The Art of Relationships-Led Leadership

My first headship, at Bannockburn Primary School in Plumstead in 2003, saw me make more mistakes than I care to mention. It was also the period of my steepest growth and most valuable learning—starting with the headship interview. As part of the process, I was asked to lead an assembly and attempted to deliver the ‘long spoons’ story—Google it if you haven’t used it before, it’s a good one—just don’t do what I did! On this occasion, it resulted in 250 pupils scrambling for sweets across the hall, all health and safety protocols abandoned as governors watched in shock, clip-boards to hand. Remarkably, they still appointed me—something which I will be forever grateful! The first two years in post were a bit of a mess, to be honest, but they set me up to understand the power of relational leadership. Having taught through the introduction of the literacy and maths hours, I was obsessed with national strategy implementation—the flat-pack-furniture-approach to school improvement. This involved measuring anything that moved and lessons were timed to the minute. Teachers were judged and graded, depending on how slickly they could manipulate a counting stick or wave number fans around. Staff meetings were instructional—the milkman delivery method of training, rather than a design model. As for recruitment, I appointed teachers like football managers sign new players: SLEs, advanced skills teachers and expert professionals were all on my shopping list. Star signings were unveiled to parents, staff and governors with great fanfare. To my cost, I learned this doesn’t always make a cohesive team. I had unwittingly created a school culture crammed with Galácticos who didn’t want to play together! These were expert teachers who preferred to teach with doors closed and who had a similar mindset towards learning. It taught me that it is better to have a school full of open-to-learning novices than closed-to-learning gurus!

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“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.

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The Headteacher Wellbeing Crisis in our Schools

The Headteacher Wellbeing Crisis in our Schools

With the recent publication of the Leeds Beckett University report into the impact of Leadership coaching in schools, we have undoubtably reached a point where the system as a whole, needs to recognise that the personal and professional development of Headteachers go side by side. As the report and others preceding it have cited, too many good Headteachers continue to leave the profession early or burnout, because the needs of the person in the role have been ignored. Coaching, as this report reveals, is an essential life-support system for our school leaders and must be recognised as such, if we are to enable our Heads to stay in the profession for the long haul.

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