Coaching & Leadership Development
How to Lighten the Burden of School Leadership

How to Lighten the Burden of School Leadership

  The blog comes from Emma Turner (@Emma_Turner75), who is the research and CPD lead for Discovery Schools Trust, Leicestershire.    In every headteacher or school leader’s office, there is an invisible bucket of rocks.   They may be squirrelled away under their desk near their feet or they may be up on a shelf, nestled amongst the folders and files. Sometimes, the bucket is almost empty; sometimes, the rocks can be seen spilling out over the rim of the bucket and gathering in small piles around its base.   Some of these rocks are fragile and flinty, prone to breaking in sharp shards should they be handled in the wrong way. Some are barely more than clumps of sand, on the surface, seemingly firm and strong but ready to crumble under the slightest pressure. Others are shining polished glittering pieces of stardust, twinkling with promise; among the rest of the bucket are jagged and tearing pieces of layered rock, ready to skin your hands should you reach out to help them.   Towards the bottom are endlessly heavy rocks, although small in size, dense and almost un-liftable, such is their deceptive weight. Between the bigger rocks lie multiple tiny pebbles, some beautifully smooth and polished, others spiky and rough.   The bucket is invisible, yet it is carried everywhere the leader goes. Sometimes swinging the empty invisible bucket cheerfully as they go around their daily business and other days simply staring at the bucket, almost cowed by its weight and seemingly without the strength to lift it alone.   Every time a person interacts with the school leader, they, like Hansel in the...
Why Heads Leave – The 3 Key Reasons

Why Heads Leave – The 3 Key Reasons

  “When we are doing what is wrong for us, we can temporarily mobilise energy in service to goals, and often we must, but in time such forced mobilisation leads us to irritability, anger, burnout and symptoms of all kinds” James Hollis   Every time, I sit with a Headteacher as their coach, I become acutely aware of the amount of energy they expend in seeking to do what is right for them and right for their schools.   It is not an easy task. Many find themselves in situations where it seems impossible to see the wood for the trees and if they are not supported to find their own way forward, they may inadvertently end up following someone else’s.   More often than not, this other path can end up being the wrong path and for the reasons cited in the above quote, can lead to good people leaving the profession.   To understand why this happens and why there is still such a high rate of attrition amongst Heads, we need to deepen our understanding of three key things that happen to Heads when they ‘temporarily mobilise energy in service to goals’ that are not their own…   1. Disregard for the inner journey   It is my firm and strong belief, that Headship is for many a vocation; a call not only to serve, but also a call to show up as one’s best self. The trouble is, too much of what is provided for Heads in terms of professional development and support in the role, is concerned with the outer garms and vestiges of...
“Two decades as a Headteacher took its toll”

“Two decades as a Headteacher took its toll”

  This blog comes from a secret Headteacher who undertook Integrity Coaching’s NEU 18-19 Coaching programme. The research study into the impact of this programme has since been published by Leeds Beckett University in January 2020.    I applied for a place on the Integrity Coaching Headteacher programme, funded by the NEU, in 2018 at a time when I was struggling to manage the various pressures and demands of my role.   I became a Headteacher in 1999, and there had inevitably been numerous occasions over the previous two decades when my job had been challenging, stressful and all consuming; but this felt different.   I was three years into my third headship, running a successful school with a fantastic staff team and a very supportive school community. My life outside of teaching was also good, a happy marriage, gorgeous family and living in a beautiful part of the country.   Running on an Empty Tank   There was no reason to feel the way I did as far as I could tell. There was no reason for the anxiety I felt every day on the drive into work, or the 3am worries that kept me awake, or the lack of enthusiasm I could muster for anything outside of work. There was no logical reason for these feelings, but that didn’t seem to make them any less debilitating.   Part of me felt that having been a headteacher for almost twenty years meant that I was battle hardened and resilient. Looking back it’s clear that the opposite was true. Two decades of relentless pressure (much of it self-imposed), scrutiny, fear...
3 Gifts School Leaders Need this Christmas

3 Gifts School Leaders Need this Christmas

  This blog comes from ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.   Although it’s a long time ago now, I remember vividly what it felt like being a school leader at this time of year, after the longest term, when the days are shortest and the summer sun seems so far off.    As well as fatigue, which affected everyone, I suffered from a kind of ‘over-immersion’, as if I’d been under water for too long and was starved of oxygen.   In this ‘glazed’ and unreal state, I would decide to put off such things as difficult conversations and creative challenges, if I could do so safely, until I was clearer in the New Year.   Like being caught in a thicket, I couldn’t see the wood for the trees. If I encountered negativity, I would find myself more likely to react negatively and compound the problem.  Then it felt as if everyone around me was getting agitated.   With this in mind, I believe that our school leaders need 3 gifts this Christmas and New year…   1) Courage   Having difficult conversations comes up quite regularly in coaching conversations, as you might imagine. Confronting the unacceptable, especially in a colleague, is never comfortable, but it only gets harder if it’s shirked.   The courage to initiate and manage moments like this is an essential asset.  It enables what needs to be said to be out in the open, rather than fester.   It clears the way for more positive evidence to be asked for and validated and balance restored. It also enables the relationship...
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...
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...