Coaching & Leadership Development
“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...
7 Ways to Succeed as a School Leader

7 Ways to Succeed as a School Leader

This blog comes from writer, education consultant and hypnotherapist at Oxford Family Hypnotherapy, Julia Watson.   The demands on the shoulders of our school leaders has never been greater, with inordinate demands on time and resources distracting from the essence of the role.   Amidst the heightened pressures and challenges, what steps can School Leaders take to succeed in their role? 1. Keep growing   Many SLT members forego training for the sake of saving time and money. But professional and personal development need not cost the earth: sometimes it can be as simple as finding a course that suits you, reading an article or keeping up with inspiring educationalists on social media.   After all, who wants to follow someone whose leadership has gone stale? Keep reading, learning and growing (all things we expect of pupils, lest we forget) and seek out anything that will keep you engaged. 2. Focus on solutions   Find out what is working well, and do more of it. Conversely, if something isn’t working, don’t do it!  Taking a solution-focused approach to challenges and change avoids blame, and promotes a positive culture of problem-solving. 3. Let people do their job   Leadership is not an exercise in writing your colleagues’ to-do lists. Micro-managing is important to a point but can also be demotivating and harbour feelings of resentment. Give staff the means to do their jobs, and seek support when they need to. But there’s enough to do in the day without covering someone else’s work as well as your own!   4. Stay organised   Whether it comes naturally to you or not, keeping on top of admin...
‘We must change our thinking about teacher wellbeing’

‘We must change our thinking about teacher wellbeing’

  Five years ago, in October 2014, over 44,000 teachers responded to the Department for Education’s (DfE) workload challenge survey.   As a result of feedback received, the DfE made commitments to establish key working parties to explore work-life balance and wellbeing around issues of marking, planning and resources and data management.   And herein lies the rub; there is a gap in the knowledge frameworks that inform current wellbeing policy and initiatives. Much of the research and writings around teacher workload acknowledge that there is a wellbeing issue to be addressed, but very few solutions move beyond remedies for the observable aspects of the role i.e. marking, planning, displays, data management etc.   It is my belief that discussions around teacher wellbeing do not go far enough and although well-intentioned, they will have minimal impact on increasing levels of job-satisfaction and related teacher recruitment and retention figures.  To reverse the current downward trend, the profession has to view the current crisis through a wider lens. That lens has to take into account not only what teachers do – the observable aspects of the role, but also who they are and why they are in the profession.   Surface level care   It was Einstein who famously said, that you cannot solve a problem with the same level of consciousness that created it. And yet, this is where I feel we are at with the current well-being debate. Predominant solutions for addressing the wellbeing crisis mainly focus on the public facing aspects of the role. They do not chart or address the inner landscape of teachers; their motivations, their...