It is almost two years since the Government published its response to the Workload Challenge – and very little if anything has changed. Teachers and school leaders are still leaving the profession in droves. Only last week, the NfER published its report into Head teacher retention.
The report states that since 2012 retention rates have fallen and suggests that, ‘system instability (the pace and nature of policy changes) and mixed experiences of support may contribute to some head teachers leaving the profession.’
I doubt very much if any of the reports finding will come as a surprise to those who are the chalk face. You live and breathe the realities of school leadership and you know the toll that it has upon your health and well-being.
It is my belief that if we are to truly effect change and stop the high levels of stress, burnout and early attrition, we need to increase our understanding of the climate and culture of our schools and the corrosive impact that many of the changes have had on our school leaders. Only then will solutions for retaining our Heads have any deep and long-lasting impact.
What’s causing our Heads to lose their sense of vocation, passion and purpose?
With the changes that have taken place in the profession over the past decade or so, education has become heavily task-centred. Workload solutions have tended to focus on the management of tasks rather than looking at ‘how’ the person charged with carrying out the tasks manages themselves. From my experience, looking at this area of school leadership can provide more concrete and long-lasting solutions to addressing both the workload challenge and keeping Heads in the profession.
Whether Head Teachers are new in-post, well-established or long serving, too frequently the type of support that they receive is mainly concerned with meeting the strategic and operational aspects of their role. Their emotional and psychological needs are often neglected. Ironically, this is often where support is most needed.
Many Head Teachers sacrifice meeting their own needs to meet the needs of those they serve. It is this level of constant giving without moments to replenish, that for many leads to an impoverished sense of self, illness and in some cases complete burn-out.
Promoting and Developing Healthy Engagement
A point must be reached where commitment and activity can be separated. Head teachers need to be supported to address and engage with their roles in new ways. These new ways ought to include the prioritization of self-awareness, self-management and self-compassion.
If Head Teachers are to fulfil their ambitions for themselves, their schools, families and communities, they need holistic and balanced support that helps them to reflect on their strengths. So that they can model positive and effective behaviours, inspire them in others and create healthy, happy and enriched learning communities.
Giving Heads the break they deserve
In the frenetic life of a school leader time and space are increasingly rare commodities. With a constant flow of meetings to be held, problems to solve and fires to put out – it can be very hard for leaders to find the time and space to be still and think.
As a result, it can feel though there is rarely any time for you to take a step back and reflect on one’s leadership and more widely on the issues you’re facing. However, without this chance to stop and consider what’s working and what isn’t – many leaders find themselves repeatedly making the same mistakes or simply leading on “autopilot”.
It must be understood that when Head Teachers are appointed this is not the final destination on their leadership journey. It is the continuation of a personal development process. Occasional ‘breaks’ from the fast-paced nature of their work will need to be provided, in order to maintain high levels of emotional and psychological resilience.
That’s why we offer our “Developing Headspace” Programme, consisting of a 2 Day “Transforming Leadership” Residential in Suffolk, Group Nurture Meals, coaching calls and a half day “Review and a Reflect” session, all designed to support and enhance Headteachers’ capacity for authentic, inspiring and sustainable leadership.
The programme hopes to offer a space for reflection and active, informed listening, for Heads to renew perspective, think strategically, build lasting networks of support and refresh the vitality of their core purpose.
Spread across three school terms, the programme includes a range of activities designed to provide on-going care, support and encouragement for Heads across the school year.
Above all, it is our aim to ensure that the programme supports school leaders in 5 key areas…
Vision: Central to all aspects of the programme are processes and ways of working individually and collectively that keep individuals anchored to their vision.
Values: Heads are supported to identify ways of being that increase alignment with themselves and their key values.
Resilience: As Heads develop a deeper understanding of how they respond to the stresses of the role, individuals are supported to develop greater degrees of emotional, psychological and vocational resilience.
A Values Network: The programme design facilitates the development of new supportive and collaborative relationships with like-minded peers.
Confidence: As individuals experience a growth in self-awareness and appreciation of their core strengths, they also experience a growth in personal conviction and increased confidence in their own abilities.
If you’d like to find out more about the programme, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…