On the 19th October 2017, Head teachers & School Leaders from across the country joined us for our Inaugural “Education for the Soul” Conference.
Our purpose was to provide a different type of school leadership conference; one that would provide a space for school leaders to explore new and sustainable ways of leading that would enable them to overcome the stresses of their roles and maintain their ability to lead and inspire others.
Unlike other School Leadership conferences, the day aimed to provide a unique opportunity and space for…
Reflection – Where leaders could be themselves and reflect with like-minded colleagues on the aspects of school leadership that mattered most to them
Learning – Where leaders could deepen their personal knowledge and gain a better understanding of how wellbeing contributes to personal performance and school outcomes.
Creativity – Where leaders could explore solutions, practical ideas and suggestions for bringing their visions to life
Collegiality – Where leaders could laugh, share and have time to talk with others about how to achieve the very best for themselves and those they lead and manage
What did the Day involve?
The day was a very special one and had a very different tone from traditional education conferences. It was clear right from the very start that individuals were turning up as ‘themselves’ and not as their roles. For me personally, it was deeply humbling to see so many school leaders and education professionals who were prepared to:
– Take a risk
– Ask of themselves challenging questions
– Think about school leadership differently
– Go on a deeper learning journey with themselves and others
It was wonderful to watch these individuals drop their leadership masks and come together in service of one another, their shared hopes, dreams and ambitions for our children and our schools.
Through a range of leadership workshops focusing on values, resilience, positive-psychology and inter and intra-personal relationships individuals were able to develop a profound understanding of the key challenges facing school leaders. Our expert keynote speakers and workshop leads were able to assist them in finding bespoke and meaningful solutions for their own contexts.
Why did School Leaders attend?
It was clear that many school leaders attended the conference because it was evident that we would be providing a safe space to honestly explore the challenges of school leadership and find meaningful solutions.
The three most pressing challenges that emerged from the day were:
1. The isolation of School Leadership – Like all top leadership positions, school leadership and headship in particular brings with it the type of power that isolates: positional power. When you are ‘lower down’ the school hierarchy it is much easier to build relationships with those who are like you and to share problems with those who will have had similar experiences. However, the more your positional power means that you not only have increased pressures and responsibilities, it can also mean an increased distancing in relationships, with new boundaries having to be drawn.
2. Supporting Staff Well-being – This was a big issue with many schools now struggling with the recruitment and retention of teachers. Many were keen to find strategies and solutions that would help them to better support their staff so that they could deliver the best possible outcomes.
The conference provided school leaders with a space that helped them to consider wellbeing within the context of vocation and purpose and the provision of holistic solutions for supporting staff wellbeing.
3. Managing Increased Pressures – School Leaders highlighted the impact of increased pressures arising from heightened levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability (OFSTED etc.) and the impact of these pressures, both personally and professionally.
The conference sought to equip leaders with tools for building resilience and staying connected to what matters most in good leadership
From the keynotes, workshops, shared experiences and moments of genuine care, laughter and empathy, these three key lessons emerged from the day…
1. The Importance of Self-Care
The conference challenged the false belief that well-being is optional and only something to be considered when individuals are in crisis. Speakers shared how self-care and attention to one’s inner most needs are integral to being able to survive and thrive as a school leader.
To support School Leaders to do this, Action for Happiness author, Vanessa King shared her “10 Keys to Happier Living” and offered simple yet effective ways in which leaders can apply these to their lives and in their roles. As one Headteacher remarked on what had been shared, “the conference acted as a great reminder to be kind to myself and others; to inspire happiness and self-belief.”
2. Make Values central to your School and your Leadership
One of the key learnings from the conference was the importance of values in education today. Neil Hawkes shared how more than ever, our schools need to play a vital role in shaping the values of the pupils and staff within them. Neil also shared the hugely positive impact that a values-based education can have and how schools can help encourage the development of self-leadership in adults and children.
Executive Headteacher, Alison Kriel shared the benefits of staying true to your values in your role. She explained that decision-making becomes easier when you know what your values are; you know what has to be done, what can’t be done, and how to act in alignment with what you stand for. Her workshop emphasised how a strong connection with your values helps to build trust ,as staff are able to see and know what their leader is all about.
3. Don’t be afraid to share your Vulnerability
“You can’t get to courage without walking through vulnerability”
The conference provided a safe, non-judgemental space for delegates to truly understand what this meant for them within their own contexts.School leaders opened up about the emotional cost of leading in education and through sharing their stories were able to identify multiple moments of courage and truth from their own reflections.
To me, it became apparent once more, that if our School Leaders are to overcome the often overwhelming feelings of isolation that many feel, they must be provided with more opportunities to explore with fellow Heads or a professional how they’re feeling. Such opportunities remind us of our shared humanity and the responsibility that we all have to care for and support one another.
What was the Feedback from those who attended?
From the incredible feedback we’ve had so far, it seems clear that the 2017 “Education for Soul” Conference touched hearts as well as minds. It helped to truly connect individuals with what matters most in good leadership. It reminded them that is their soul purpose, their vision, their values that matter most. It reminded them that school leadership is not a solitary endeavour. It is something that must be carried out through positive relationships with others.
“It was a sincere and honest conference, delivered by real and caring people. It was a real delight and I would say, life-changing.”
“After today, I feel invigorated, encouraged and fired up to keep going and giving my best.”
“The space allowed me to reflect, think and make connections, leading to a truly refreshing time.”
“It was an excellent day. Totally achieved what I feel Viv speaks and leads by – energy, truth and sincerity.”
Join us for “Education for the Soul” Conference 2020
2017’s Inaugural “Education for the Soul Conference” was a deeply humbling experience. As school leaders from across the country joined with us to share experiences and engage with a range of deep and challenging questions that were posed throughout the day.
Together we explored generative and sustainable ways of leading in education today. The feedback from the day was amazing. It was clear that the conference had provided a much needed ‘watering hole’ for the profession; with many attendees reporting that they had left the day feeling refreshed and re-energised.
Following the success of “Education for the Soul” conference, I’m delighted to say that in October 2020, we will once again host Headteachers & School Leaders from across the country for our very special “Education for the Soul” conference.
This conference will feature a new selection of expert speakers and workshop hosts, who will be sharing their insights into how school leaders can look after their own well-being, get the most out of those they lead and deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.
The conference will aim to build on the outcomes of our previous “Education for the Soul” conferences and seek to explore how school leaders and teachers can learn to lead with integrity, depth and purpose.
As part of this, we will look into how individuals can stay connected to their “why” and their deepest values. Above all, “Education for the Soul” 2020 will aim to help school leaders and teachers:
– Foster a deep sense of vocation and purpose amongst all staff
– Increase their understanding of the relationship between school development and personal development
– Keep hope, joy passion, commitment and creativity at the heart of their school and relationships with self and others