Coaching & Leadership Development
Are our Schools Broken?

Are our Schools Broken?

  “There’s a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in.”   This being the famous line from the Leonard Cohen song, “Anthem”   When we look at our schools today, many will argue as I have done, that there are cracks, that there are major fault lines across virtually all aspects of our education system and that that it is near to breaking point.   Yet increasingly, it would seem to me, that wherever there are cracks, there are lights, there are beacons of hope; individuals, groups and organisations who are daring to speak out, who are daring to come together to mend the cracks within our system.   These beacons of hope are asking such questions as:   – Is there another way? – How can we improve things? – What else can be done?   The Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, published by the Chartered College of Teaching at the start of the year, is in my opinion, one of these beacons of hope.   This documents’ raison d-etre is to provide a set of guiding principles for leaders in education, that can offer guidance on such questions as:   – How do we ensure that the language of values and virtues impacts our everyday decision making? – How can we ensure wisdom is modelled by leaders at the heart of our schools and colleges? – How can we revitalise the principles behind our daily work?   Working so closely as I do with school leaders, I know these are the right types of questions that we need to be asking of our...
The 4 Skills of Authentic Leadership

The 4 Skills of Authentic Leadership

This blog comes from executive coach, mindfulness expert and “Education for the Soul” Conference workshop host, Judi Stewart “The only way to learn who we are is to sit down and listen to our minds.” Dr Tracey Stors, Professor of Behaviour and Systems Neuroscience, Rutgers University   In leadership, we often talk about the need to be authentic, but what does this mean?    At its root,  authenticity involves being true to yourself and the essence of who you are as a person. Likewise, on a leadership level, it means making daily choices and actions that are aligned to your vision, values and your sense of vocation.   Working with School Leaders, I have seen that when they lead with authenticity, integrity self-regulation and personal nourishment are hallmarks of their personal leadership style.   The challenge is that in order for leaders to learn to lead authentically, they must first understand themselves.   Because if we don’t know who we are, then how do we know when we are being authentic? Who is this person in this school leadership role and what is the basis of their decision making and relationship with others?   To answer these important questions and help leaders develop the strong self-understanding that is essential for Authentic leadership, I believe there are 4 skills they must work on:   1. Learning to pay attention 2. Clarifying and re-clarifying 3. Being able to objectively describe our direct experience 4. Working with our attitudes   1. Learning to pay attention   If we can’t focus because we are deep in worry, in our ‘to do’ lists or...
Understanding & Managing Emotions – What I’ve Learnt

Understanding & Managing Emotions – What I’ve Learnt

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and “Education for the Soul” Conference workshop host, Tim Small.    I believe I have always been fairly sensitive to other people’s feelings.  This was confirmed once by completing the Myers Briggs Temperament Index.    Though I don’t regret it, this sensitivity made my job as a school leader more difficult, not easier, especially as I didn’t know as much about emotions then as I do now.   I see now that I was actually quite scared by very strong emotions in others, probably because, deep down, I was scared of some un-felt, un-processed emotions in myself.  I would therefore often take refuge either in rationalising or closing them down altogether.   However, through my TA psychotherapy training, I’ve learned that the purpose of emotions is to elicit understanding and evoke a response.  It’s how babies learn to survive.  How successfully we managed this in our infancy, with the vital involvement of our care-givers, will affect our attachment style (i.e. relationships) for life.   As we grow up, an essential aspect of growing into a healthy adult is learning to regulate our emotions: reflecting on them and expressing our authentic feelings safely and appropriately in the context.  This is not the served by suppressing them.   The four ‘primary emotions’, that we need to understand, regulate and express, are sadness, anger, joy and fear.   Sadness is usually about the past, involving loss of some kind.  Fear is about the future, concerning something about to happen, or something imagined.  (It is quite common knowledge that fear activates a neurological response that effectively...
Developing Resilient & Authentic Leadership

Developing Resilient & Authentic Leadership

This blog comes from former Headteacher, executive coach and “Education for the Soul” 2019 workshop host, Samantha Jayasuriya. I have worked as a Head for 20 years. I was appointed to my first post of Headteacher in 1998 after covering for a year for my substantive Head who decided to take early retirement after a bout of ill health.   After 9 years, I then moved to one of the first Co-Headships in the Borough, for a period of 5 years and then onto a full-time role as Head in a different school for a further 5 year. I returned to a Co-Headship for my final year as a Head before I started working full time as a coach.   Suffice to say, overall, I did enjoy the challenges of Headship. As a teacher I had had bucketloads of creativity, but realised as time passed in the early years, as a Headteacher, that my creativity had been squeezed, year after year, dampened by reports, data, and more.   As I unpicked my thinking, I realised that I had also started to hide my authentic self. I found myself distancing myself from the staff and sharing less and less, eager to take on the perceived notion of what a Head should do. I spent more time at home working, rather than relaxing.   As a Head with young children, I did not have any time for me and any downtime was napping in front of the TV. There was a distinct lack of creative endeavour. More worryingly, over the last ten years as a Head, I had very effectively stopped giving myself...
“Education for the Soul” 2019 Conference Manifesto

“Education for the Soul” 2019 Conference Manifesto

    I feel these days, amidst the growing results-driven culture of education today (with league tables and OFSTED ratings), that there’s often little opportunity for our schools leaders to discuss and share what they believe in.   There’s very little opportunity for leaders to reflect on what drives them, what informs their decision-making, and what inspires them to keep going.   There’s also barely any chance for them to discuss what it takes to lead and have deep conversations about how education should be and how we can give children the best possible chance in life.   So I thought I’d take this chance to share what I believe, in the hope that this inspires other leaders to revisit their hope for education…   I believe that our children learn from their teachers and school leaders, more than just what is written in their textbooks….   I believe when our teachers and school leaders have hope and a positive outlook, our children learn to believe in a better future.   I believe when our teachers and school leaders value and make their well-being a priority, our children learn to look after themselves.   I believe when our teachers and school leaders have their values nurtured, our children learn to live and stand up for what they believe in.   I believe that when our teachers and leaders are supported to lead with authenticity, our children learn to be truly themselves.   Above all, I believe when our teachers and school leaders flourish, our children flourish too.   That’s why on the 17th October 2019, we will be hosting our “Education for the Soul’ Conference...
What makes a Great School Leader?

What makes a Great School Leader?

  There’s plenty of advice out there about what makes a great school leader, from text books, certifications and seminars.   Often the advice focuses around what leaders should do, how they should behave and highlighting what are deemed to be outstanding leadership examples.   However, the more I’ve worked with school leaders – the more it has become apparent that there is no one-size fits all model of leadership.   What’s more, I’ve since learned that great leadership ‘cannot be reduced to a matter of technique or style’. Rather, it comes from the very identity and integrity of every individual who has chosen to take on the mantle of school leadership.   As such, rather than our current education system trying to mould our Heads into the leaders it thinks they ought to be, I believe we should be inspiring them to lead from within, from the very heart of who they are; through ways which tap into their own unique gifts,  their values and their own internal sense of purpose.   Here’s why…   1. Leaders are more able to make wise decisions   Most leaders are capable of wise decision making. However, the combination of unstable internal and external environments, often works against this happening as frequently as it should. Instead, leaders are often forced to be reactive in their decision making; time, events, their own thoughts and emotions do not stand still for long enough to enable them to access deeper, higher levels of thought and reason that lead to wise decision making.   Most learn to live with it, an unfortunate, but accepted consequence of the...