Coaching & Leadership Development
Keeping school leaders
hope alive today, for
our children’s hope of a
better tomorrow.
How to Lighten the Burden of School Leadership

How to Lighten the Burden of School Leadership

In every headteacher or school leader’s office, there is an invisible bucket of rocks. They may be squirrelled away under their desk near their feet or they may be up on a shelf, nestled amongst the folders and files. Sometimes, the bucket is almost empty; sometimes, the rocks can be seen spilling out over the rim of the bucket and gathering in small piles around its base. Some of these rocks are fragile and flinty, prone to breaking in sharp shards should they be handled in the wrong way. Some are barely more than clumps of sand, on the surface, seemingly firm and strong but ready to crumble under the slightest pressure. Others are shining polished glittering pieces of stardust, twinkling with promise; among the rest of the bucket are jagged and tearing pieces of layered rock, ready to skin your hands should you reach out to help them. Towards the bottom are endlessly heavy rocks, although small in size, dense and almost un-liftable, such is their deceptive weight. Between the bigger rocks lie multiple tiny pebbles, some beautifully smooth and polished, others spiky and rough. The bucket is invisible, yet it is carried everywhere the leader goes. Sometimes swinging the empty invisible bucket cheerfully as they go around their daily business and other days simply staring at the bucket, almost cowed by its weight and seemingly without the strength to lift it alone.

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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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What MAT CEOs need – The 5 Levels of Relationships

What MAT CEOs need – The 5 Levels of Relationships

From my early memory of working in a school I was told that the most important person in the building was the person with the biggest bunch of keys. For years, this person also proved to be my unofficial marriage counsellor as without them kicking me out of my classroom and locking the door behind me I wouldn’t have saved my marriage through those essential years; a period when building a family and a support network is often so essential for modern day professionals. I needed that balance between the world of work which I loved and the world of those individuals away from my desk at home. With regards the role I play today, I have come to realise that there are a range of relationship levels that a MAT CEO needs to establish to be successful…

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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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Why Headteachers Need Different Support to Teachers

Why Headteachers Need Different Support to Teachers

Everyone can use support in their careers. But what many people don’t realise is that the further you progress in your career, the more support you need. Many assume that once you climb to the Head teacher post that. Either support is no longer required or you require a similar level of support to that received in previous posts. However, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, the role of Head teacher is markedly different from any other teaching or leadership post that you might have held; strategically and operationally, mentally and emotionally. It is for these reasons that Heads need support that is bespoke and tailored to meet the specific personal and professional challenges of the role.

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Why Even the Best Mentor is no Replacement for a Coach

Why Even the Best Mentor is no Replacement for a Coach

When you step into the Head teacher role, it is quite common for you to be offered a Mentor. An individual who has been there before, who can show you the ropes and who will share their wisdom, knowledge and experience with you. But… a Mentor is different from a Coach. A lot of people think that they do pretty much the same thing, but actually, a coach takes care of crucial support needs that a mentor simply isn’t trained for. Even the best school leadership mentor can’t replace the support you can get from a coach — and here’s why: You’re not your role; you’re a person in a role. Mentoring is fantastic for developing yourself in the context of your role. It’s largely focused on the external things, like developing your skills for operations, navigating your first governor’s meeting, preparing your reports. But it doesn’t focus on the inner growth that’s necessary to really step into your new role and make it your own. At best, it’s a fantastic way to learn strategies and skills.

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Staying Grounded – How to Lead Positively in a Crisis

Staying Grounded – How to Lead Positively in a Crisis

In times of crisis, such as the one we are currently facing, it’s natural for our minds to become dominated by loss, or the threat of loss. In our current climate, loss has taken centre stage in our social consciousness. Depending on individual circumstances, losses might range from something as simple as missing routine stimuli, to cancelled plans or holidays, to financial losses, even to the agony of losing someone we love. With rolling media coverage heightening the removal of so much we’ve taken for granted, it is all too easy for fear, anxiety and stress to weigh us down and crush our spirits. In such times, we must hold on to what matters and be ready to let go of everything else. We must work out how to progress, from a narrow focus on our loss of normality to awareness of the opportunities that may now be open to us, which our previously overcrowded agendas might have been depriving us of. So that we can do this, here are three ways to stay grounded and positive, in our self-leadership and leadership of others…

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How to Develop a Reflective Practice as a Headteacher

How to Develop a Reflective Practice as a Headteacher

As a Headteacher at an inner-city primary school, my to-do list is ever lengthening, so having enough time for strategic thinking and reflection can be rare. Each week I try to plan time in but if a child protection issue or something urgent crops up, it can’t just be ignored. External demands – such as the pressure to meet targets, changes in the curriculum, league tables etc – can also leave you feeling pulled in too many directions. That’s why I think one of the most significant things the training I’ve undertaken in my career is the importance of strategic thinking and reflective thinking. In secondary schools, a headteacher or principal will have a much bigger support network in their senior leadership team, allowing them to take a more strategic view. Meanwhile, at primary level, school leaders are much more involved in the day-to-day running of the school. However, whether you are primary or secondary Head, I believe a reflective practice should be the norm for school leaders. Here’s why… Kamagra jelly from Kama pharmacy worked for me in 2 hours and lasted until 16 hours. It is better to take it half an hour before lunch, it will digest before you go to dinner and will not mix with food for better results.

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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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My Heartfelt Letter to Every School Leader

My Heartfelt Letter to Every School Leader

It is our belief that over the last few years, our education system has lost sight of one of its strongest and most important assets – its humanity. Values more akin to the business world have seeped into the system with schools encouraged to see children as data, other school leaders as competitors and results as the ultimate goal of education. We have seen too many school leaders ‘disappear’ with many being forced out, sometimes on the back of just one disappointing set of results. Consequently, we’ve noticed a growing culture of fear within in our education system. Increased levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability have only served to intensify this. As have new structures and roles which have added unnecessary layers of complexity and ambiguity. Many heads now feel they are in a constant battle to prove they know what is being asked of them in this new era and prove that they are “good enough.”

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What I learned at “Education for the Soul” 2018

What I learned at “Education for the Soul” 2018

On 19th October 2018, we held our second “Education for the Soul” Conference. The theme for this year’s conference was, “Creating new narratives for the school leader’s journey”. Perhaps not your everyday common theme for a school leader’s conference, but if there is one thing we are certain about at Integrity, it’s that we are not going to follow the standard, traditional format for our conferences. And so it was for this year’s conference, that we chose to further support school leaders by enabling them to consider the role their stories play in their lives as educators.

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