How School Leadership Became a High Risk Job

It’s a job that requires years of training and experience, involves dealing with forces that are largely out of your control, and can be over in a flash because of just one instance of underperformance.

While it sounds unbelievable, or like a description of a Special Forces fighter or a brain surgeon to most people, it’s a situation that Headteachers are well familiar with — because in the face of increased scrutiny, it’s what the job has become.

“If the grades aren’t met, you’re out.”

You’re only as good as your latest results in the modern school system, which leaves Heads in the impossible position of trying to create an environment that’s great for learning while having to constantly salvage their jobs.

It takes a huge investment of time, money, and training to become a School Leader, yet many Heads can be out within a month or less of one bad report, leaving them at the mercy of compromise agreements in which they get a payout for agreeing not to talk about the circumstances surrounding their departure.

Under the school system as it stands, standards for school are rigidly uniform, and rigidly enforced .All schools must meet the same levels of performance in the same way and at the same pace, irrespective of the any differences between schools and the communities they serve…

There’s no room for flexibility, and any attempt to discuss the very real external challenges that affect some students while they’re at school and the impact that those have on grades is seen as making excuses.

Fragility and Breakdown

Where there is a perceived need to accelerate standards at any cost, Heads are moved in and out of schools, before they have been able to see the fruits of their labour.  As a result it becomes increasingly difficult to make long term changes and develop a body of actual, human beings into a vibrant, thriving Learning Community.

Instead pupils are reduced to numbers that have to look good on a spreadsheet. Schools become fragile and bunker down, making it impossible for anything to really get embedded.

This pattern continues in many Heads’ homes, where their families suffer from the normalization of extreme work patterns, divorce, and tragically, suicide are increasingly becoming the unspoken hallmarks of the profession.

It’s impossible to overstate the impact that increased scrutiny has had on schools, School Leaders, and their families. This is a system that’s lost compassion; a system that doesn’t understand that compassion and high expectations can sit together.

But it doesn’t have to be this way…

When I look back on my years as a Headteacher and now with the work that I do with School Leaders, I realise just how easy it is for School Leaders to accept tiredness, emotional overload and irritability as the norm.  

For me, the realisation came about, after a particularly challenging encounter with a parent. I had become so used to numbing out my emotions and wearing my ‘super-head’ cloak, that when my emotions did finally catch up with me, I was at a loss as to what to do.

All I could do was sit in my car and cry and cry and cry! It was only when this happened and after some deep soul searching, that I realised why I had got to this place and what had been missing from my life as a Head teacher …  Support!

I’m not talking about the type of support Headteachers get from school advisors, Governors or fellow colleagues. It was a different type of support that I realised had been missing.

I needed support that was confidential and non-judgemental. I needed a space where just for a while, I could take off my cloak and be me. A space where I could show my vulnerabilities and be supported to make sense of my own emotions in relation to the demands of the role.

Sadly, some 15 years later, there is still a woeful lack of ‘proper’ support for those who are at the helm. As a result, there are many Heads for whom emotional overload is a still hallmark of the role.

It’s for this reason, why I now offer FREE “Coaching for the Soul” Calls to provide School Leaders with a safe, non-judgemental space to  talk through the challenges of the role.

This call offers a confidential space where leaders can:
–  Talk through the challenges they’re facing and find solutions
–  Receive support and encouragement in their current situation
–  Reflect on recent events and the impact they are having
–  Gain clarity around their thoughts and plan a way forward

Book Your Call

 If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!


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