Coaching & Leadership Development
“I’m Tired of Wearing a Mask” – The Impact of COVID on Headteachers

“I’m Tired of Wearing a Mask” – The Impact of COVID on Headteachers

  This blog comes from our associate coach, organisational expert and former school governor, Ben Gibbs.   “We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile” Paul Laurence Dunbar – From ‘We Wear The Mask’   It’s fair to say that we have all experienced the COVID-19 pandemic differently.   Depending on our context, our background, our character, and on the set of demands we found ourselves facing as school leaders, we each carry a different set of memories and lessons for our own practice from the last year.   In my work just over the last month, I’ve spoken to a school leader who had 20 children and 2 staff test positive on the Sunday after the June half term, another who was reeling from the COVID-related death of a parent with 4 children at her school, and another whose school has had less than a handful of cases since the pandemic began.   As I reflect back even further on the conversations I’ve had with school leaders throughout the last 12 months, there has been a common theme that has stood out for me.  It has been the theme of masks and how Heads have had to wear different ones at different times over the course of the pandemic.   By masks, I’m not talking about the protective PPE masks with which we’re all now familiar, but the metaphorical sort that leaders use to cover-up or repress their own fears when faced with anxiety and uncertainty.   Over...
3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

3 Ways to Better Tackle Racism in Schools

I recently wrote an article for the TES to mark the 12 month anniversary of the death of George Floyd. If you’d read my original article on the TES website, please click here   After George Floyd was murdered on 25 May 2020, a colleague said to me that their “mind was full and their heart heavy”. I felt the same. Throughout my teaching career, I have witnessed myriad manifestations of racism and a plethora of race equality and social justice initiatives.   Yet, despite the good intentions behind these, the single narrative of colonialism and empire still dominated our classrooms, along with deficit models for addressing the underachievement of pupils from racially marginalised groups. But over the past 12 months, I have felt a growing sense of hope.   I’ve seen that when attempts were made to silence those talking about the institutionalised racism here in the UK, people refused to acquiesce. Collective voices for social justice, equality and equity have continued to speak truth to power.   And I am hopeful because, after 30-plus years in education, things feel different. Schools that I have engaged with as part of our Race, Identity and School Leadership Programme are now recognising that new race equality narratives cannot be written overnight.   They are recognising that becoming anti-racist is a lifelong commitment, one that has as much to do with decolonising their own minds as it has to do with decolonising the curriculum.   The legacy of George Floyd: the need to tackle racism in schools   This gives me hope for the future. At long last, teachers and school leaders are beginning to see that, within...
Race, Identity and School Leadership – Podcast

Race, Identity and School Leadership – Podcast

  “This is about educating all of our children to take their rightful place in society. It really is about equipping every school leader, no matter the shade or colour of their skin, to really engage with this conversation and to do the right “inner work” so they can do the right “outer work” and make a change. ”   In this podcast, I spoke with Caroline Doherty from the Key for School Leaders and Colette Morris, Headteacher at Christ Church Primary School around our Race, Identity and School Leadership programme.   Colette and her staff at Christ Church Primary School have been working with us to explore their own racial identities, bring about long-lasting change and impact whole school leadership, learning, policy and practice with regards to race equality.   As part of this discussion, we explored:   – The history of work that has been going on in schools regarding race and how this conversation is now starting to broaden out and involve more schools   – The importance of understanding your own racial identity and how you view the world before rushing to antiracist “action”   – Why school leaders and their staff should become experts in the racial context of their schools and should seek to understand the conversations that take place both in school and outside school about race   – The need for teachers to understand and be comfortable in their own identities before they talk about race with pupils   – How Colette has taken a whole school approach to addressing race and identity, and established specific “lines of enquiry” to work on   –...
Why Reflective Spaces are Key to Growth

Why Reflective Spaces are Key to Growth

This expert thinkpiece comes from facilitator, mediator and Integrity Coaching Associate, Joshua Okunlola. Historically, the western view of development has been very linear. We are born, we go to school, we become adults, other things happen, and we eventually die.   As a result, adults are individuals who have everything they need to be successful and take their place fully in society. As for the unlikely few who are not like this, there isn’t much that they can do.   However, I believe development is not linear, nor is it as ordered and determinist as we in western society see it. Instead, we develop in cycles. With each Cycle, there are continuing opportunities to develop and get the developmental messages that we need to grow and take our place in the world.   Growth isn’t a one-time event, where we can say ‘yep, I am fully grown’. Instead, growth is observed in stages and triggered by the different seasons we find ourselves in life, e.g., a new job, first day at school etc.   Each season is pregnant with possibility, and the use of affirmations within each season are ways we can “give permission and support our natural developmental process.” (Pam Levin)   The cycle of development is a neat framework for understanding the seasonal developmental needs individuals experience at different stages throughout their lives.   The Cycle of Development   The Cycle of development has six stages: Being, Doing, Thinking, Identity, Skills and Structure and Integration.   Each stage has varied development tasks, which give voice to what we are being invited into. Firstly, to take our place more fully in the present...
Governors – What’s Your Headteacher Wellbeing Strategy?

Governors – What’s Your Headteacher Wellbeing Strategy?

  This blog comes from ex-Secondary Headteacher, former Governor and Integrity Coaching associate, Tim Small.   As a school governor, responsible for the strategic direction and educational and financial health of your school, how much value do you place on your Headteacher or Principal?    How dependent would you say the school is on this person’s capacity to show up every day, take in information, think and articulate clearly, perform at a high level, stay calm and stay sane?   Here’s another, more scary way of putting the same question; do you know what it costs a school when a Head or Principal is unable to sustain the role due to stress-related sickness?   Thirdly, then, do you take as much care of your Headteacher’s wellbeing as you do of the school’s finances?  If not, why not?  And how might you do so?   Here’s a proposal to kickstart your Governing Body discussion of this agenda item: How do we take care of our Headteacher’s wellbeing?    Proposal   First of all, agree a four-stage plan based on these principles:   Principle 1: Assign responsibility (i.e. appoint a link governor to oversee the process)   Principle 2: Audit the current situation and monitor the future, as it develops   Principle 3: Convert information into appropriate action (i.e. agree an action plan based on your findings   Principle 4: Invest to save (i.e. allocate a budget line to ensure it happens)   What might an audit look like?   This would need to be checked out with the person concerned, but here’s a suggestion:   Two key questions need to be asked. ...
What Anti-Racist Headteachers do Differently

What Anti-Racist Headteachers do Differently

This blog comes from Professor in Education Leadership and the director of the Endeavor Antiracist & Restorative Leadership Initiative at  Columbia University, Mark Anthony Gooden.   What does anti-racist school leadership look like? And why would you, a Headteacher, want to pursue it?   These are questions at the heart of my long time work with school leaders. An anti-racist Headteacher commits to seeing how race is used to isolate, disadvantage, and make power inaccessible to Black people and other people of colour in schools.   An anti-racist Headteacher is alert to unequal outcomes since he or she knows that race or culture neutral policies are not enough to level opportunities across racial, cultural, and linguistic groups. An anti-racist school leader’s work must rest upon a strong moral foundation.   These are difficult times, yes. But in the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “The time is always right to do what is right.” With that perspective, the anti-racist Headteacher works to dismantle racism in schools.   He or she supports and shares power with her staff, youths, and families, especially people who have been deemed “minorities.” In those ways, he or she strengthens a sense of belonging and encourages contributions from across her staff, helping to make the school a place of both equity and excellence.   To have impact as an anti-racist school leader, a Headteacher must abandon the idea of merely being good and start doing good. It’s not enough to say (or think): “I am a good person because I don’t speak those nasty racial epithets like a 1960s bigot.” I call this kind of a position “non-racist” leadership.   It’s...