3 Reasons our School Leaders (Occasionally) Need Space

Today’s Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small. 

I’ll never forget the face of a dear friend one evening as he arrived for the start of a two-day retreat. 
He was in a leadership role in education.  His week so far had left him looking pale and harrowed, with the crease of a deep frown between his eyes, which were dull.  The light was out.  He looked spent.
Forty-five hours later, he was beaming.  His face was alive again, twinkling with humour and he looked ‘on top of the world’.  It was quite a remarkable transformation.

What had happened in between?

Those two days were like a ‘plunge pool’ of reflection and restoration.  Being in a Circle of Trust had made him feel safe to allow his vulnerability out, so it could be shared, honoured, treated, put into perspective.
Rising above it, like a helicopter, he saw the wood for the trees again.  A walk across fields even imprinted that image on his memory.  Nothing was quite so important as to get the better of him again, as things had started to do.
In quiet dialogue with like-minded fellow professionals, he found answers coming to him.  He had new clarity about the way forward and new energy to get there.  He regained the quiet conviction that comes from remembering the values that underlay his professional calling.

3 Reasons School Leaders occasionally need space

1. Our relationships, at work and home, can get overloaded, mostly with other people’s agendas. It’s crucial we have some precious, calm, reflective space in which we remember who we are and what really matters (and what doesn’t!) that the pace of work in school can starve us of. On top of this, we find a place where can draw on the unconditional trust and regard of our fellow professionals who understand but without any self-interest.
2. Our first responsibility is to be fully present every day, aware, attentive and ‘on form’, with ‘time for people’ and the wisdom to make snap judgements accurately. The energy required to do this on a daily basis is huge and needs regular renewal, which is exactly what we need space for!
3. However strategic we try to be, we can always benefit from renewing our ‘helicopter view’, to gain clarity on the situation we are in, the challenges for what they are and ultimately begin to see the wood for the trees.
I believe that if we model this way of looking after ourselves, so we have that much more to give, our colleagues may get the message, do the same and have that much more to offer the children and young people, whose success is our reason for being leaders.


Without a doubt the pandemic brought many unexpected challenges for us all. However, one of the silver linings of the past two years has been a heightened awareness of what matters most for all of us. We learnt:

– The value of community

– The need to stay connected

– The importance of being supported

We also learnt that deeper connections matter, none of us can survive alone and to thrive and overcome the challenges of leadership life we need real, deep, and meaningful connections with others.

That’s why we have launched our new “Heads Together”, a new School Leadership community, designed to connect like-minded school-leaders and to provide a watering hole for inspiration, encouragement and support.

Our “Heads Together” Community is designed to provide School Leaders with:

– A vital network of support to help individuals manage the emotional strains and stresses of the role

– Collaborative forums for thoughtful exploration around timely and important leadership themes

– Inspiration and encouragement throughout the year to help keep leaders’ passion and purpose alive

If you’d like to find out more about the community, and how it could help support you in your role, simply follow the link below…

Learn more


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