Coaching & Leadership Development
The 3 Signs of a School Coaching Culture

The 3 Signs of a School Coaching Culture

    Coaching very much seems to be a school improvement strategy that is in vogue at the moment.   Considering the amount of coverage it gets across social media and other platforms, many would be forgiven for believing that it was some kind of miracle cure for all that is wrong with our current ailing school system. As much as I am an advocate for coaching in schools, the first thing that I will quite openly and honestly say is, ‘it is not a cure-all!”   If, however, you are serious about creating a culture in which the professional ailments of some parts of our system can be constructively addressed, then along with other personalised approaches to staff development/school improvement, it’s a good place to start.   And … why is it a good place to start? It’s a good place to start because coaching is quite simply about building connections; building connections both with self and with others. And surely this is what school improvement is about. When adult to adult connections are weak a similar fragility is witnessed within school structures and systems. Conversely, when they are strong, school improvement feels that much less arduous.   Schools which are adept at using coaching to support school improvement through strengthening relationships and connections, are often those which are characterised by the three signs of a coaching culture.   They are schools which are characterised by a heightened ability to use coaching (formally and informally) to:   1. Deepen levels of communication and understanding   These schools understand that the first response to a question is not necessarily...
The 3 Steps to Surviving a School Crisis

The 3 Steps to Surviving a School Crisis

This Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.    Many things can cause a crisis in a School, more often than not – they result from a set of circumstances which are often caused by things entirely out of one’s control as a school leader.  For example, I remember once suffering from a combination of a flu’ epidemic, a shortage of supply teachers and three long-term sickness cases on my staff all happening in the space of a week and it can catch you completely off-guard.   When this pressure is combined with a shift in your personal circumstances, a bereavement, a family sickness, even something as ordinary as a home maintenance crisis can cause serious psychological upheaval, if you allow it do so.   But how can you avoid this happening and what should you do if you find yourself in a situation threatened by a crisis that feels out of control?   Well I believe there’s three three things every School Leader should do if they want to survive a crisis like this unscathed….    1. Remember Your Oxygen Mask   Firstly, I have learned that how you feel is more to do with your inner state than what’s going on out there.  When I’ve slept well and feel physically and mentally OK, I somehow feel ‘bigger’ and problems seem ‘smaller’.  They even seem to matter less, although I am still driven to solve them as best I can.  The difference is that I have some energy to do so.  Fatigue, on the other hand, makes us turn in on ourselves and it becomes...
Dear Ofsted…

Dear Ofsted…

This blog comes from Headteacher of Three Bridges School, Jeremy Hannay (@HannayJeremy).  To read the other blogs from Jeremy, please click here.   Dear Ofsted,   Thank you for your recent visit to our school. While your team was lovely and your impression of our school ‘outstanding’, I’d like to share with you my views on the damage your approach to school improvement is having on our system, schools, leaders, teachers and young people.   Your high stakes, ever-shifting approach to school improvement leads to that of fad diets: big promises, quick fixes and, inevitably, unsustainable lifestyles.   The improvement in schools is as long lasting as the weight loss – here today, gone tomorrow – and the schools left victims of the diet meant to help them, heavier and less confident than when they began trying to lose weight in the first place. And worst of all – just like every other crash diet – while the surface might appear slimmer, what’s happened beneath the surface is catastrophic.   Your acceptance of the role you have played in narrowing the curriculum in many schools was welcomed, but your solution is wrong.   Although I am sure we can all agree that a directional change was needed for you, surely you can see that the same diet of high stakes accountability will have the same disastrous results; this time, with curriculum.  In primary, schools are already fearing the expectations placed upon them at short notice.   Subject leaders in primary are not secondary teachers – not subject specialists – rarely with a subject-based degree – and with most teachers disappearing from the profession...
Why School Leader Well-being must be taken Seriously

Why School Leader Well-being must be taken Seriously

  This blog comes from Assistant Headteacher and TeachFirst Ambassador, Michael Nott (@MrNott117)   In the last few years, the teaching profession has made great strides when it comes to wellbeing.   The rise of feedback instead of marking has undoubtedly had a dramatic impact on teacher workload in schools that have adopted it. Likewise, the accepted practice of centralised detentions has ensured teachers don’t spend their every free moment setting and chasing detentions.   But truly, one of the most significant changes has been Ofsted pushing teacher wellbeing to the top of its agenda, suggesting that as a profession we are at least trying to do something to address it. Granted, it is still nowhere near close to perfect, but I certainly think it has improved in the last few years.   However, despite these improvements, I don’t think that the wellbeing of a school’s senior leadership team has been properly considered. Now, I appreciate that there may be many people out there who are unsympathetic to the idea of senior leadership workload.   After all, to many, it is senior leaders who have led on initiatives that have ultimately increased teacher workload. But I don’t think we gain anything from vilifying senior leaders, and creating an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. I don’t think any senior leader knowingly sets out to create something that leads to an increase in workload.   Culture Setters   Nevertheless, I do believe that if school leaders are to set the correct culture in a school then it is imperative that senior leader workload is addressed.   Firstly, if a school’s senior leadership...
How to Build a Culture of Trust in your School

How to Build a Culture of Trust in your School

This blog comes from the CEO of Dunraven Educational Trust, David Boyle. “Without respect, love is lost. Without caring, love is boring. Without honesty, love is unhappy. Without trust, love is unstable.”    The quotation is powerful for a number of reasons. Not least because we instinctively know it to be true. However, for schools it works just as well if you replace ‘love’ with ‘leadership’ (in fact, some would argue that great leadership is like love anyway – selfless, empowering, sustaining, unconditional – but that’s for another blog).   Great leadership in schools is underpinned by the ability to form great relationships with colleagues, families and children: without healthy relationships, we’re at a significant disadvantage. And, more importantly, the young people and adults with whom we work won’t get the experiences or the opportunities they need to thrive.   At the heart of any healthy relationship sits trust: and without trust, leadership is unstable, unhappy and lost.   A number of far more articulate and knowledgeable people than I have written about the power of trust: from Jim Collins to Stephen Covey to Patrick Lencioni, so there is plenty material to get hold of and reflect upon.   And yet, despite this, when things aren’t working well in school culture, very often a lack of trust is the single biggest cause of the difficulty: be it students unwilling to moderate their behaviour, families wanting to challenge necessary innovations or staff unwilling to release the ‘discretionary’ effort it takes to create a really great school.   So what can leaders do to ensure that this is not the case and to help generate...
The 5 Warning Signs of Burnout

The 5 Warning Signs of Burnout

    This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills)   Maintaining a good work-life balance is difficult in any profession.   The wonders of technology have given us endless ways to blur the boundaries, meaning that we often take our work home, physically, emotionally and mentally.   Despite what some may think, educator don’t “own” work-related stress. But by golly we’ve earned a majority share. Given our excessive workloads, accountability measures and the fact that we work more overtime than any other industry, it’s no wonder that 67 per cent of educators describe themselves as “stressed at work”, with many showing actual symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression. The truly tragic thing is that we’re not surprised by this. To us, the language of stress, panic attacks and antidepressants has become commonplace and normalised. The risk of burnout   We accept and expect it. Some of us even seem proud of it, bragging about how little sleep we’ve had or how stressed we are, as if these things are synonymous with success. We tend to ignore the warnings from our bodies, committing ourselves wholly to the school timetable. We don’t stop when we’re tired, we stop when term ends (even if we’ve contracted a moderate version of the Black Death along the way). Of course, there will always be certain events that trigger an increase in this stress: exam time, data deadlines and OFSTED inspections. But if a bad day becomes a bad week, month or term, then you may be getting close to burnout. Here are the signs to look out for: 1. Restlessness   A racing mind, the need...