Coaching & Leadership Development
Race Equality in Schools – What can leaders do?

Race Equality in Schools – What can leaders do?

  This blog comes from former teacher, Governor, MAT Trustee and Founding Member of BameEd, Penny Rabiger   On paper, schools have had a duty to ensure that they are places which are safe, happy and equitable for all staff, children and their families.   We know that in reality, this is much harder to achieve than could have been imagined when we signed up for the job as teachers and leaders.   When it comes to race, schools may have been busy with bureaucracy around racial incidents, but it seems like recent events have made many school leaders realise how deeply entrenched structural or systemic racism is in our institutions, and the real impact this has on people of colour, their life chances, access to opportunity, wellbeing, physical and mental health.   The start towards becoming an anti-racist school leader is the understanding that racism isn’t just situated in name-calling or focused attacks on individuals, but is more likely to take place in subtle and insidious ways that are the result of our implicit, inherent, learned, or as it is most commonly known, ‘unconscious’ bias.   We know that schools are microcosms of society, and schools are charged with fixing all of society’s ills. And recently, we have realised that society is very ill indeed. In short, racism is ‘in’ all of us and it resides in almost every aspect of life.   That might sound depressing but the first step to educating oneself as a leader, is to acknowledge that we all have a problem, and to understand that we all have a responsibility to be part...
Wholeness & School Leadership: Why Race and Identity Matter

Wholeness & School Leadership: Why Race and Identity Matter

  It is my belief that good school leadership has at its heart a desire for wholeness. It is a wholeness which individuals seek to see manifested through a harmonious interplay of their deepest values and beliefs, by fostering right relationships with themselves and others.   Recent events sparked by the death of George Floyd have clearly illustrated that we live in a society that is far from whole. Fault lines run through the lives of individuals and organisations, teachers and school leaders, families and their children.   We have seen how people have come together to try and repair the damage but there can be no papering over the cracks. For the dream of racial equality to be real, complete healing and transformation is needed.   A gradual dawning   I have witnessed over the past few weeks, that there has been a gradual dawning for many white school leaders of what is being asked of them. This has been a significant paradigm shift. There has been a gradual awakening of the need to review and re-shape white identity in order to accelerate the change that the black community have cried out for.   I recognise and understand that this is unfamiliar  territory and can be scary for many. Never before in the UK has the debate on race equality in our schools shifted its gaze so steadfastly onto white identity and race. For as long as I can remember, it has been the other way around. Race equality work has predominately focused on the black experience of racism and strategies for enabling the black community to overcome...
When Schools Return – How to Make Wellbeing A Priority

When Schools Return – How to Make Wellbeing A Priority

  This blog comes from Integrity Coaching Associate Coach, Steve Russell.   Much is being talked about currently of the need to make staff wellbeing a priority as schools extend their doors to more pupils – and rightly so. COVID-19 has impacted on colleagues’ emotional and psychological health significantly.   No one person’s experience has been the same – ‘we are in the same storm, but we are in different boats’. Nonetheless, every colleague will have been impacted in some shape or form and either need and/or benefit from being supported.   To consider how best to tend to staff wellbeing, I’d like to introduce you to a model called the Cycles of Development. This offers a perspective on how the trauma of COVID might impact upon individuals from a developmental perspective.   Crucially, the suggestions that arise out of this model a) do not require you to be a psychologist or psychotherapist, yet is informed from sound psychological theory and b) can be framed as supporting post-traumatic growth, rather than a medical, and perhaps more deficit based, approach.   The central premise behind the Cycles theory is that as humans we move through distinct stages of development, each stage having its own set of developmental tasks or growing up jobs that need attending to.   Having visited each stage at specific chronological points in our childhood and adolescence, we then revisit these at various points in our adult lives. In particular, times of change, including traumatic events, trigger certain developmental needs within us that connected with these stages.   Below is an outline of some of the developmental stages, together...
BLM – Why School Leaders must take the Lead

BLM – Why School Leaders must take the Lead

  When I trained as a teacher over thirty years ago, I was introduced to the work of Bernard Coard and his book on “How the West-Indian Child is made educationally sub-normal in the British School Education System.”   Ideally, it is a book that I would have wanted to be introduced to privately. As although it was not the lecturer’s intention, as the only Black student in my year, I felt a deep shame and discomfort when she read excerpts from his book that matched so closely with my own experiences of the British Education system.   For the majority of the white trainee teachers Coard’s work was simply an academic treatise. For me it was personal. I come from a Black, working class family. Social and economic deprivation and racial inequality were the backdrop for my childhood years.   Not a single person in the lecture hall shared a similar story to my own.  So when the lecturer read how the structure and design of the British education system had led to many Black children underachieving and living with a hidden, yet deep sense of inferiority, it felt as though she was shining a light on my own hurt, bruised and conflicted inner world for all to see.   I wanted to get up and leave the lecture hall. Of course I didn’t, but I spent the whole four years at Teacher Training college wanting to escape: tiring of being in the minority; tiring of being on the outside; tiring of fearing that I could never truly achieve in a system that had only ever seen Black...
I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

I Can’t Breathe – Implications for Schools

  Like many in recent weeks, the death of George Floyd, has left me almost daily swamped by waves of emotion.    I heard someone say the other day that their “mind was full and their heart heavy” and that’s just how I have been feeling. It’s as though my whole nervous system has been experiencing some kind of historical trauma.   The flagrant disregard for the life of a Black person, has surfaced many painful memories from my past and times when I had been made to feel ‘less than’ simply because of the colour of my skin.   As a young Black woman growing up in the 70’s and 80’s incidents of racism were peppered throughout my life.  When I was 15, I was told by my career’s teacher, that my aspiration of becoming a Nursery Nurse was too high and instead, I should consider becoming a cashier in the local supermarket.   On another occasion, I was reprimanded for talking in class and told to “Go outside and swing on the trees, like my friends and relatives the monkeys do.” During those times, complaining or expressing my hurt was never an option so I simply learnt to swallow the pain, some of which is undoubtedly bubbling to the surface today.   When I eventually qualified as a teacher, the weight of carrying this fear only intensified.   Throughout all of my teaching career, I taught at schools in Brixton and Stockwell. One of the schools that I taught at  was on the borders of a road that had been a flash point for the Brixton riots in the late 80’s....
How to Overcome the Stress of School Re-Openings

How to Overcome the Stress of School Re-Openings

  This week, whilst it remains open to question as to whether the five tests for easing lockdown have been met, schools have begun to re-admit pupils for certain year groups.   Understandably, against this backdrop there is a high degree of stress and anxiety. Pupils, parents and teachers alike will carry their own set of fears and worries about what a return to school might look like.   Pupils might worry about who they can play with and why it is that they can no-longer proudly carry pieces of work home to show their parents; parents in turn might worry about how well their children will adjust to the changes and teachers may worry about the limitations of social distancing on the child/teacher relationship.   And… there will be many, many more worries that will surface over the coming weeks and months.   As these worries surface, the individual who will be expected to shoulder all of these anxieties and find solutions, will be you, the Headteacher. Prior to the Covid outbreak, you already knew the heaviness of the emotional weight of the role.   You had probably become accustomed to its weight and had developed a pair of broad shoulders as a result! But.. this is different. The levels of stress and anxiety are coming at you from all angles and even though you have never experienced anything like this before, people are still expecting you to have all of the answers.   It’s at times like these that self-awareness and self-management come into their own as key survival skills. Many members of your school community may...