This blog comes from Professor Rachel Lofthouse, Director of CollectivED at Leeds Beckett University, School of Education and Viv Grant, Director of Integrity Coaching
There is growing evidence of the deterioration of wellbeing amongst teachers and school leaders and a growing recruitment and retention crisis facing the profession.
As recently as November 2019, Education Support published its Teacher Wellbeing Survey. In this survey, over 84% of senior leader respondents admitted to experiencing high-levels of stress from the role, with over 66% of senior leaders have considered leaving.
The survey also highlighted the culture of overworking in the profession; 59% of senior leaders who completed the survey indicated they typically worked more than 51 hours per week. Meanwhile, 28% of senior leaders worked more than 61 hours per week and 11% working more than 70 hours per week.
This situation further highlights the dire situation that faces the profession, which comes after the NFER report in 2017 found that headteacher retention rates have significantly fallen since 2012.
The NFER recommended that:
‘Leaders need practical and emotional support, as well as opportunities for peer support (such as coaching, mentoring and shadowing.)
In 2018, CollectivED, a research and practice centre at Leeds Beckett University, was commissioned by the NEU to undertake an evaluation of a year-long headteacher coaching programme.
This research came in response to this growing crisis in the profession and was the first of its kind to explore the relationship between coaching, wellbeing and leadership effectiveness amongst senior school leaders.
The coaching was provided by Integrity Coaching and funded in 2018-19 by the National Education Union (NEU). The lead researcher, Professor Rachel Lofthouse says:
“Headteachers give so much of themselves to support teachers and to make a positive impact on children and young people, and yet they experience some of the highest levels of stress in the system. At a time when the challenges in the education system are becoming acute it is essential that we find approaches which support school leaders and allow them to contribute to sustainable school cultures. This research demonstrates that specialist coaching can make a real difference in the professional and personal lives of headteachers.”
The research sought to examine the specific challenges and complexities associated with the Headteacher role, and the effectiveness of coaching as a support strategy for school leaders. Participants highlighted a number of key challenges which over time had eroded their resilience, wellbeing and work/life balance.
– Feelings of extreme isolation and loneliness
– Very little opportunity to reflect on decisions or plan ahead
– “Emotional weight” of having to provide emotional, pastoral and practical care to their school community
– High levels of pressure and professional scrutiny
– Insufficient school funds
The research demonstrated that Headteachers who had coaching support were able to better manage these significant demands and address the common feeling of isolation. Headteachers also reported a positive impact on their self-belief and confidence. Coaching helped them to place a greater priority on their physical and emotional health.
Viv Grant, Director of Integrity Coaching said:
“We have now reached a point in the wellbeing debate where we must recognise that the personal and professional development of Headteachers go side by side. Too many good Headteachers either leave the profession early or burnout because the needs of the person in the role are ignored. Coaching is an essential life-support system for our school leaders and must be recognised as such, if we are to enable more of our Heads to stay in the profession for the long haul”
By giving Heads the time to prioritise the issues that need resolving, participants also reported having developed:
– An improved ability for developing staff within their schools, managing difficult issues and improving working relationships, e.g. with governors
– A greater sense of work-life balance
– A heightened level of self-confidence in their leadership role
– An enhanced capacity for problem-solving, strategic thinking and the need to cope with continuing demands of the job, including emergency management
– A deeper understanding of developing teachers and systems to better support children’s learning and wellbeing
– These gains had a reciprocal benefit in managing the demands of the job and reducing the erosion of resilience.
Amidst the growing recruitment and retention crisis amongst Headteachers and school leaders, the research also provided evidence that coaching could be an effective strategy for helping to keep Heads in the profession and create greater sustainability in the school workforce.
“Sustaining a Vital Profession” – Read the Full Report
After 18 months of research and evaluation, in January 2020, Leeds Beckett University published their long-awaited research report into the impact of leadership coaching in schools.
The research is the first academic research of its kind to explore the relationship between coaching, wellbeing and leadership effectiveness amongst senior school leaders.
As part of this, the report shines light on the common emotional and psychological challenges of Headship, and the impact these can have on our Headteachers and School Leaders.
On top of this, the research report also plots a path forward and highlights the crucial role coaching can play in our schools, in particular:
– The powerful impact that leadership coaching has on both personal and in turn, school performance
– The role coaching can play in supporting well-being, professional practice and personal development
– How coaching can support Headteacher retention and the sustainability of the role
If you’d like to download the full report, please follow the link below…