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Back in 2017, I was fortunate enough to be asked to appear on Sky News to share my thoughts on the Head Teacher recruitment and retention crisis. A topic which I believe to be of fundamental importance to our education system.
In my short stint on “The Point”, I discussed that according to three Educational Leadership organisations, English Schools may face a shortage of up to 19,000 Heads by 2022, findings which were also substantiated in a recent article in the Times.
The report and the Times article, once again, underlined how schools are struggling to retain great School Leaders, with many leaving due to a lack of nurture and support from within the profession.
Things must change!
Reading these reports affirmed my belief that so much more must be done to make the role of School Leadership sustainable.
The pace and volume of change over the past decade has led to increased ambiguity, inconsistency, insecurity and staggeringly high levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability.
The system continues to perpetuate the myth of the Teflon coated Super-Head; The leader who can turn around a school at lightning speed, and sustain their performance and motivation, amidst criticism, job insecurity and the continual sacrificing of their own needs for the sake of their school.
There must come a point where all in education recognise that Head teachers are mothers, fathers, partners. They feel hurt and pain. They experience self-doubt and worry. The Super-Head does not exist. What does exist, are normal human beings who have to survive in a system that too often sees a passion for high standards as being mutually exclusive and separate from compassion and humility.
Whether Heads are new in post or well established and long serving, too often the predominate type of support they receive is concerned with meeting the strategic and operational aspects of the role. Support that is given neglects to acknowledge that it is a human being in the role and if their emotional and psychological needs are not met, all school improvement efforts are put at risk.
We must change this inhumane approach to school improvement. It is simply unsustainable. We must change this culture which fails to consider the “Soul in the Role” and learn how to properly take care of the human needs of all who take on the mantle of school leadership.
The price of continually failing to do so is one we can no longer afford to pay. As James Toop, the chief executive-designate of the merging Teaching Leaders and The Future Leaders Trust rightly says, “Great school leadership is essential for improving school performance and children’s life chances”. When we fail to adequately recognise what it takes to create ‘Great School Leaders’, we also fail our children and their hopes of a better tomorrow.
A Wake-Up Call
These reports must act as wake up call for policy makers and governing bodies.
Our children deserve the best care and education and our Head teachers deserve the best care than can be provided, so that they can remain in the profession, fulfil their vocations and meet society’s hopes and dreams for our future generations.
Transforming the Reality of School Leadership
Over the past decade, I have witnessed first-hand how high levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability have eroded the profession’s ability to care for and meet the human needs of those who are on the frontline.
I have seen many teachers and school leaders sacrificing their personal well-being to simply survive in the profession. I’ve coached Heads on the brink of a nervous breakdown. I have received desperate pleas from their partners and witnessed the inhumane treatment of those who have disappeared from the system.
I fear more and more for the loss of humanity in our education system. SAT’s and GCSE results, OFSTED grades and league tables appear to have more importance than the people behind it all.
This is not how education should be. This is not how we fulfil society’s hopes and dreams for our children. Things have to change. The humanity has to brought back into accountability and the well-being of every teacher and school leader is considered an utmost priority.
That’s why in October 2020, we’ll host our 4th “Education for the Soul” conference to help address this issue and explore how leaders can successfully manage and respond to the growing complexities and emotional demands of School Leadership.
This conference will feature a new selection of expert speakers and workshop hosts, who will be sharing their insights into how school leaders can look after their own well-being, lead with authenticity, get the most out of those they lead and above all, deliver the best outcomes for their pupils.
The conference will aim to build on the outcomes of our previous “Education for the Soul” conferences and seek to explore how school leaders and teachers can learn to lead with integrity, depth and purpose.
As part of this, we will look into how individuals can stay connected to their “why” and their deepest values. Above all, “Education for the Soul” 2020 will aim to help school leaders and teachers:
– Foster a deep sense of vocation and purpose amongst all staff
– Increase their understanding of the relationship between school development and personal development
– Keep hope, joy passion, commitment and creativity at the heart of their school and relationships with self and others