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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3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

After George Floyd was murdered on 25 May 2020, a colleague said to me that their “mind was full and their heart heavy”. I felt the same. Throughout my teaching career, I have witnessed myriad manifestations of racism and a plethora of race equality and social justice initiatives. Yet, despite the good intentions behind these, the single narrative of colonialism and empire still dominated our classrooms, along with deficit models for addressing the underachievement of pupils from racially marginalised groups. But over the past 12 months, I have felt a growing sense of hope. I’ve seen that when attempts were made to silence those talking about the institutionalised racism here in the UK, people refused to acquiesce. Collective voices for social justice, equality and equity have continued to speak truth to power. And I am hopeful because, after 30-plus years in education, things feel different. Schools that I have engaged with as part of our Race, Identity and School Leadership Programme are now recognising that new race equality narratives cannot be written overnight. They are recognising that becoming anti-racist is a lifelong commitment, one that has as much to do with decolonising their own minds as it has to do with decolonising the curriculum.

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How does Coaching support School Improvement?

How does Coaching support School Improvement?

One of coaching’s greatest achievements over the last 30 years is to have moved the focus of leadership development from an over-emphasis on decision-making and rational authority, towards a model which prioritises understanding and empathy; from IQ to EQ (emotional intelligence), if you like. Arguably, one of coaching’s greatest strengths is its focus on the individual and the development of their personal and professional capacity; it’s ability to provide a space in which the soul can emerge as a guide to practice. It is possible as a coach, however, to go further than this, and to have an impact beyond the individual. Coaching can be used as a form of organisational consultancy; of school improvement. Present challenges The challenges faced by all organisations – including schools – which operate in contexts defined by the volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity of the 21st century, cannot be addressed by heroic individual leaders. In fact, the speed of technological, environmental, economic and organisational change makes a mockery of the very idea of the heroic leader; that lone ranger, setting an example through individual endeavour and inspiring followership through sheer force of personality (backed by the threat of the pistol in his holster!). Leadership is now a collective act which requires new levels of engagement, collaboration, systemic thinking and teamwork. What it requires is ‘We-Q’, or the sort of relational intelligence that enables teams, through their ‘togetherness’, to be more than just the sum of their parts.

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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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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
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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What is Values-Based Leadership – Expert Interview

What is Values-Based Leadership – Expert Interview

Values based leadership is when leaders draw on both their own core values and the negotiated and defined values of the work organisation for guidance and motivation. Values-based school leaders are transparent about sharing and communicating their values and in helping their staff and pupils to connect to their own core values and those of the community they serve and learn within. Values-based leadership is described by Richard Barrett, author of Building a Values-Driven Organisation, as “…a way of making authentic decisions that builds trust and commitment.” Research tells us that values-based leadership is most effective when these values are ‘truly lived’ by the leadership team who model these values in their everyday attitude, approach, behaviours and decision-making. This demonstrates their inherent commitment to their values in a real and observable way and encourages the whole of the organisation to make choices to internalise and act out of these values. As a consequence, these values become the “moral compass “that puts people before processes; helps our problem solving and guides our decision making about what is the right thing to do even when it might not be the easiest thing to do.

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Knowing Oneself – 3 Tips to Effective Self-Reflection

Knowing Oneself – 3 Tips to Effective Self-Reflection

It is part of the human condition to be introspective and to have a desire to gain a better understanding of ourselves. Indeed, as many great thinkers throughout history have noted, it is precisely our self-consciousness and our ability to know ourselves, that sets us apart from other species on the planet. As a professional coach, I have seen how it can be one of the most powerful tools for personal development. As British psychotherapist Alison Rickard puts it, our reflective thinking can be “the combined voice of the best teacher and supervisor we ever had”. On a personal level, it has been an essential component of my continuous learning journey. It has provided me with some valuable insights about myself and has enhanced my understanding of others both in my professional life and in my personal relationships. As I have developed my reflective practice throughout the last few decades, I have learnt three key secrets to effective self-reflection…

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“Education for the Soul” 2017  – Conference Report

“Education for the Soul” 2017 – Conference Report

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

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The 3 Key Lessons of “Education for the Soul” 2017

The 3 Key Lessons of “Education for the Soul” 2017

As a coach, I trust myself to be able to create the type of 1:1 spaces where it is safe for the soul to be seen.
Spaces where School Leaders can come out from behind their leadership masks and explore what it means to live lives of authenticity and integrity, amidst the challenges and complexities of day to day school life. However, in hosting the ‘Education for the Soul’ Conference, I faced a new challenge.

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