Note: The Link for the Video can be found at the Bottom of the Page.
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.
Rising to the Challenges of Headship
From managing excessive workloads, the impact of budget cuts and high levels of personal accountability and public scrutiny – over the years, the role of Headship has always been fraught with challenges and pressures.
However, since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic back in March 2020, sadly we’ve seen the intense demands on our school leaders grow yet further.
Not only have leaders had to rapidly adapt to quickly changing government advice and establish new practices and protocols for virtual learning and health and safety monitoring, they’ve also been expected to provide support to their communities and inspiring leadership throughout these difficult times.
Having to manage months of relentless challenge and crisis management (alongside the emotional and psychological impact of the pandemic has taken on all of us) has proven to be extremely challenging even for the most experienced and resilient Heads.
And it is now perhaps no surprise that many school leaders who are reporting feeling battle weary, beleaguered and burnt out. As a result, an NAHT poll back in November 2020 found that almost half of headteachers plan to leave prematurely – and 70% say job satisfaction has fallen in the past year.
With this, in mind – I believe there’s never been a stronger case for the need to ensure that our School Leaders are properly supported; strategically, operationally and emotionally to ensure they not only survive in the headship role, but also thrive in their attempts to deliver the best outcomes for our children.
Social workers have supervision to help them process their toughest cases, and corporate executives have space for “lessons learned” and continuous improvement between projects. Yet still, many Heads remain endemically under-supported, without spaces the need to off-load and encouragement they need as they manage the burden of the weight that they have been forced to carry.
Friends and family might offer a listening ear, but again it isn’t easy. Unless they have walked in your shoes, it can feel like no-one really fully understands what you are going through.
However, I know from my own experience as a Headteacher and now as an Executive coach that personalised support is vital, if leaders are to keep their hope alive and stay connected to their vision, passion and purpose.
That’s why I’m now offering free 1:1 Coaching calls to give senior leaders a chance to:
– Talk through and get support with the challenges they’re currently facing
– Reflect on events and the impact they’re having
– Gain clarity about their current situation and plan a way forward
If you feel like you’d benefit from a call like this or perhaps know someone who would, please follow the link above!