Coaching & Leadership Development
Keeping school leaders
hope alive today, for
our children’s hope of a
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7 Ways to Care for your Well-being – COVID-19 Crisis

7 Ways to Care for your Well-being – COVID-19 Crisis

With news of coronavirus dominating the headlines and increasingly affecting our daily lives, even the most level-headed among us will be feeling worry and anxiety. The first thing to recognise is that feeling that way is normal. Considering the abnormality of this situation that seems to be playing out across the globe, it’s completely OK not to feel OK right now. Spiralling into panic, however, rarely helps anything. Or anyone. So whether you’re still in school or teaching from home, the following steps will help you to remain realistic, resourceful and calm as we move through these uncharted waters…

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4 Things School Leaders need in this Coronavirus Crisis

4 Things School Leaders need in this Coronavirus Crisis

It’s fair to say that even at the best of times being a Head is a stressful job. And now with the rapid outbreak of coronavirus across the world, the role has become far more complicated and stressful than perhaps had ever been thought possible. Today, many Heads find themselves having to sail previously uncharted waters; They are having to captain and lead ‘digital’ schools whilst simultaneously provide some type of specialised, alternative provision for children of key workers. It is schooling like many of us have never known before and it’s hard to say where it will lead. All we do know with any degree of certainty, is that at present, this is our new normal and it will require huge amounts of resilience, courage and flexibility to navigate these perilous times. It is in times such as these, when it can feel as though everyone and everything else is at sea, that Heads needs to be supported to literally keep their own heads above water and find ways to remain grounded.

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BLM – Why School Leaders must take the Lead

BLM – Why School Leaders must take the Lead

When I trained as a teacher over thirty years ago, I was introduced to the work of Bernard Coard and his book on “How the West-Indian Child is made educationally sub-normal in the British School Education System.” Ideally, it is a book that I would have wanted to be introduced to privately. As although it was not the lecturer’s intention, as the only Black student in my year, I felt a deep shame and discomfort when she read excerpts from his book that matched so closely with my own experiences of the British Education system. For the majority of the white trainee teachers Coard’s work was simply an academic treatise. For me it was personal. I come from a Black, working class family. Social and economic deprivation and racial inequality were the backdrop for my childhood years. Not a single person in the lecture hall shared a similar story to my own. So when the lecturer read how the structure and design of the British education system had led to many Black children underachieving and living with a hidden, yet deep sense of inferiority, it felt as though she was shining a light on my own hurt, bruised and conflicted inner world for all to see. I wanted to get up and leave the lecture hall. Of course I didn’t, but I spent the whole four years at Teacher Training college wanting to escape: tiring of being in the minority; tiring of being on the outside; tiring of fearing that I could never truly achieve in a system that had only ever seen Black children as a problem.

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Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

There is an ancient Persian tale about a householder who notices a bump in a rug. Whenever he tries to smooth the rug the bump reappears again, and again, and again. Finally, in frustration, he lifts the rug and out slides an angry snake. Of course, the point is that this is how we tend to try to change things in our organisations; dealing only with the symptoms and not the underlying cause – the snake under the surface. This is understandable, for we live in a rational age when we’re taught to believe only what we can see and to value only that which we can know. And so it goes for our professional development as leaders and managers, which trains us to view our colleagues as nothing more than rational actors, moving about on a surface in ways we might try to predict, and motivate with carrots and sticks. This perspective is so pervasive that we rarely question it.

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How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership

How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership

You will know, more than most, that sometimes headship can feel like the loneliest job in the world! There will be times, even when you are surrounded by a school full of children and colleagues who share the day to day tasks of leading and managing your school, when you feel as though there is absolutely no one that you can turn to. These are the times perhaps, when as a headteacher, you feel most vulnerable.

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The Conversations Every New School Leader Needs

The Conversations Every New School Leader Needs

Perhaps one of the most unenviable aspects of becoming a school leader is the fact that from day one, almost everything you either say or do comes under intense public scrutiny. The challenge of being under constant scrutiny for much of your working day is tough! It means that it becomes near impossible for you to find a quiet space where you can still your thoughts and make sense of whatever the day has thrown at you. In the hurly-burly of school life, when faced with challenging circumstances (which often arise on a daily or some-times even minute by minute basis!) you very quickly become adept at responding to events 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 your life as a school leader.

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Coronavirus – Why Schools Don’t Need “Superheads” in this Crisis

Coronavirus – Why Schools Don’t Need “Superheads” in this Crisis

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.   We’re all familiar with the notion of a ‘Superhead’ that is all too often projected onto Heads by the media, namely the idea of a Headteacher unmoved by any problems, and entirely impervious to criticism and job insecurity.   The truth is such a Head has never existed, yet many Heads still try to live up to this myth. Heads put on this “mask” to appear entirely in control and imply an unshakeable foundation for their school but by continually wearing this mask, it begins to alter how they perceive themselves.   Some Heads wear this “mask” so much that they begin to believe themselves to be this indestructible persona. In turn, their reputation of being able to control every situation becomes increasingly attached to their sense of identity and self-worth.   This self-concept is never more dangerous than when a crisis (like the one we are all in now) hits. Suddenly circumstances outside one’s control present themselves. In an instant it becomes clear that humanity, sincerity and compassion, triumph over acts of bravado and self-interest.   A crisis like this  demands true leadership. Leadership that is in service to the greater good. It is leadership that requires huge amounts of empathy and self-awareness. It is leadership that that fully understands what is meant by the words “We are all in this together.”   Does this make sense to you?   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.  Behaviour... LEARN MORE
The Well-being of School Leaders – Podcast

The Well-being of School Leaders – Podcast

  In an increasingly challenging environment of reduced budgets and recruitment difficulties, prioritising the health and well-being of school leaders is vital.   Higher levels of accountability and ensuring the wellbeing of staff and pupils can leave school leaders feeling stressed and isolated.   Whether you’re taking on a new school leader role, or maintaining current leadership under new challenges, this podcast looked at ways to minimise stress and maximise efficiency.   In this podcast, I explored:   – Strategies in achieving a work-life balance – How to recognise the importance of looking after your own wellbeing, as well as your team – Leading without sacrificing yourself – The importance of the relationship with the governing body in offering support     Supporting yourself in the role…   When you are working in a school, engaging day-to-day with children and their families, teachers, support staff, governors and other adults, you know that in addition to expending great amounts of mental and physical energy, you expend equal (if not more) amounts of energy meeting the emotional needs of others.   If you don’t invest the time in meeting your needs, you can end up carrying a huge emotional debt and become increasingly emotionally overdrawn, with no readily identifiable means for bringing your emotional account back into credit.   This is particularly dangerous if you’re like most Heads in our school system, you’re incredibly under-supported. There’s no one you can talk to who really gets your job and all the stresses that come with it, leaving you stuck with coping mechanisms and busy-ness to get you through the day — not a great set up... LEARN MORE
I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

In 1997, I was appointed Headteacher of St Andrew’s Primary School in South London. My school was situated just between Brixton and Stockwell. Its location bordering one of the roads that had been a flash point for the Brixton riots a decade or so before. A time, when just as we have seen in recent weeks, black people protested against the level of police brutality exhibited towards them. As a young black woman growing up in the70’s and 80’s, I never expected to be a Headteacher. Incidents of racism where peppered throughout my school career. At 15, I was told by my career’s teacher, that my aspiration of becoming a Nursery Nurse was too high and instead, I should consider becoming a cashier in the local supermarket. When I first joined St Andrew’s in 1992, I was a section 11 teacher. Back then, Section 11 funding was used in part, to deploy advisory teachers in schools. Our remit was to devise and implement strategies for raising the achievement of underperforming pupils; particularly Black Caribbean boys. There were many times in my first few years at St Andrew’s, when I felt that I too couldn’t breathe, and why? Because of the colour of my skin. At the very beginning, there were times when black children would speak down to me. Why? Because the only other black staff were cleaners and daily, pupils witnessed the derogatory ways their white teachers spoke to them (and to me). It seemed inconceivable that I could be there to teach them.

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Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

Coronavirus – How to Manage Change as a School Leader

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional” – John Maxwell Change is all around us. It happens every second, every minute of our lives. Yet in spite of this, change is not something many of us are comfortable with. As a result, we so often miss the inherent opportunities for growth that accompany any change process.   Within the context of school leadership, my belief is that the reason for this, is because very little if anything is done to prepare individuals for the emotional and psychological consequences of change.   This becomes a particular problem at times like this, when school leaders are facing a huge amount of change and uncertainty as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.   When faced with a crisis like this, when you are at the forefront and needing to manage change across your school, you also have to take stock and ask, “What is the change process  asking of you?”   This is a necessary first step if you are to develop the wherewithal to manage the crisis positively, not only for yourself, but also for those that you lead and manage.   In my work with school leaders, I have come to realise that change is managed most effectively when individuals understand that there are four distinct stages that they and their schools must successfully progress through.   Each stage requires a deep level of self-awareness and emotional maturity to avoid the fight or flight syndrome, or remaining stuck in an unhealthy comfort zone. The four stages are…   1. Letting go:   This is the stage where you have to: – Accept that some or... LEARN MORE
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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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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