Coaching & Leadership Development
What I discovered at “Education for the Soul” 2019

What I discovered at “Education for the Soul” 2019

On Thursday 17th October 2019, we hosted our third ‘Education for the Soul’ conference. As I shared with delegates on the day; in 2016, when we hosted our very first conference, I was somewhat fearful and unsure. Not just because it was the first time, we had hosted a conference, but because I was fearful of the use of the word ‘Soul’ and how it would be perceived by others. As much as I knew that one-to-one with our coachees, there was/is a place for soul work; for conversations that go deep and beyond the surface of things, I was unsure of the degree to which this could be achieved collectively.   Could we genuinely create an environment in which Heads and school leaders could; – Safely let go of their leadership masks? – Allow themselves to be nurtured from the inside out? – Experience a space similar to that which is created in our one-to-one coaching sessions? – Be shielded from ego politics and competition? – Step out from behind personal defences and quietly and simply say, ‘I am here to be seen’? After this third conference, I am no longer afraid. I know that the answer to these questions is a simple ‘Yes’. Some-way, some-how, we have found a way to help school leaders discharge their loyal soldiers and show up more fully as themselves. Discharging the Loyal Soldier   If you have ever been in a room full of school leaders, you’ll know it doesn’t always feel comfortable. If they are being lectured at and being told about the next curriculum initiative that they need to...
My Heartfelt Letter to Every School Leader

My Heartfelt Letter to Every School Leader

  It is our belief that if we are to create a stronger, more compassionate and collegiate education system, we must demonstrate greater degrees of humanity across the profession as a whole.   Over the last few years, changes to our education system, have resulted in values that are more akin to the business world shaping many of the policies and practices in our schools today.   Some have managed to navigate the changes successfully, for others it continues to be an uphill struggle. Sadly, shrinking budgets, growing workloads and rising personal accountability, have only served to exacerbate the situation and unfortunately, there are far too many school leaders who have chosen to leave the profession or have simply ‘disappeared.’   It never ceases to amaze me, that in a profession which is for many a vocation, we still have such a long way to go in ensuring school leaders are able to maintain their vocational vitality and purpose and hence stay in the profession for the long haul.   How wonderful would it be, if for every interaction within a school day, lesson observed and OFSTED visit, School leaders could truly say,   “That experience confirmed my purpose. That experience fueled me with energy and passion to keep on going!”.   If this were the case, we’d have a huge reduction in the high rates of attrition from the profession and instead we’d have a stronger, more resilient workforce, with individuals fuelled by a deep connection to their vocation and purpose.   The profession has to get better at creating meaningful ways for school leaders to maintain their commitment to...
What I learned at “Education for the Soul” 2018

What I learned at “Education for the Soul” 2018

  On 19th October 2018, we held our second “Education for the Soul” Conference. The theme for the conference was, “Creating new narratives for the school leader’s journey”.   Perhaps not your everyday common theme for a school leader’s conference, but if there is one thing we are certain about at Integrity, it’s that we are not going to follow the standard, traditional format for our conferences.   And so it was for 2018’s conference, that we chose to further support school leaders by enabling them to consider the role their stories play in their lives as educators. Our goal was to enable them to respond with as much certitude to the challenges of their roles, as Rosa Parks did in 1955, when she refused to succumb to the racist laws of the US government and instead, assert her right to;   “No longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply on the inside. I will no longer act as if I were less than the whole person, I know myself inwardly to be.”   Creating a space to be   At a time, when being seen to be busy is still equated with levels of effectiveness, this year’s Education for the Soul Conference provided further validation to the fact that this is an unhelpful paradigm to live by.  Perhaps, this is best captured by the words of a few of this years’ attendees:   “The conference addressed my soul (and heart) it gave me time and space to reflect” “I was given time and space for reflection! No me time in my...
“Education for the Soul” 2017  – Conference Report

“Education for the Soul” 2017 – Conference Report

  On the 19th October 2017, Head teachers & School Leaders from across the country joined us for our Inaugural “Education for the Soul” Conference.   Our purpose was to provide a different type of school leadership conference; one that would provide a space for school leaders to explore new and sustainable ways of leading that would enable them to overcome the stresses of their roles and maintain their ability to lead and inspire others.   Unlike other School Leadership conferences, the day aimed to provide a unique opportunity and space for…   Reflection – Where leaders could be themselves and reflect with like-minded colleagues on the aspects of school leadership that mattered most to them   Learning – Where leaders could deepen their personal knowledge and gain a better understanding of how wellbeing contributes to personal performance and school outcomes.   Creativity – Where leaders could explore solutions, practical ideas and suggestions for bringing their visions to life   Collegiality – Where leaders could laugh, share and have time to talk with others about how to achieve the very best for themselves and those they lead and manage What did the Day involve?   The day was a very special one and had a very different tone from traditional education conferences. It was clear right from the very start that individuals were turning up as ‘themselves’ and not as their roles. For me personally, it was deeply humbling to see so many school leaders and education professionals who were prepared to:   – Take a risk – Ask of themselves challenging questions – Think about school leadership differently – Go on a deeper learning journey with themselves and others...
The 3 Key Lessons of “Education for the Soul” 2017

The 3 Key Lessons of “Education for the Soul” 2017

    As a coach, I trust myself to be able to create the type of 1:1 spaces where it is safe for the soul to be seen.   Spaces where School Leaders can come out from behind their leadership masks and explore what it means to live lives of authenticity and integrity, amidst the challenges and complexities of day to day school life.   However, in hosting the ‘Education for the Soul’ Conference, I faced a new challenge.   Could a ‘conference’ setting replicate a place of safety for the deep work of school leadership and soul to come together and be seen? One rogue ego and my hopes for the conference would have failed.   One misplaced word or comment, then people would have retreated into themselves, and found no solace, comfort or acceptance in the presence of others.   But I needn’t have feared. Everyone present had bought into the message. Everyone present was prepared to take a risk.   Individuals let go of their leadership masks and allowed true humanity, companionship and hope to come together; in service of one another and in service of shared hopes, dreams and ambitions for our children and our schools.   Personally, it was a deeply humbling experience. To be in the presence of so many wonderful individuals who were prepared to:   – Take a risk – Ask of themselves challenging questions – Think about school leadership differently – Go on a deeper learning journey with themselves and others   And perhaps, most importantly, I witnessed  individuals who were prepared to let go of the belief that ‘self-care is a...
My Guardian Article – Tips for Headteachers to help prevent Burnout

My Guardian Article – Tips for Headteachers to help prevent Burnout

I was recently asked to write an article for the Guardian to offer my advice to School Leaders about what can be done to tackle the causes of burn-out and reduce some of the stress of the role. Below are the tips that I shared with them… If you would like to comment or read my original article on the Guardian website, please click here.   The stress that headteachers are under continues to be reported – with the numbers leaving the profession a growing concern. For many, headship is a role that’s beginning to feel untenable.   This echoes what I often hear from headteachers in my role as school leadership coach. The headteachers I speak to feel overwhelmed by shrinking budgets, the teacher recruitment crisis and the high-pressure inspection system. So what steps can they take to prevent burnout?   1. Don’t ignore stress and anxiety In his book Leading from the Edge, ex primary head James Hilton recounts how he fooled himself into believing that all was well, even though his body was showing signs of stress through increasingly frequent back pains and migraines.   It’s easy to normalise symptoms of stress, which can also include problems sleeping, loss of appetite and mood swings. You tell yourself it’s part of the job. This is what I did when I was headteacher and I see many others doing the same thing. But these kinds of problems can be a physiological response to stress and anxiety, and should be taken seriously.   2. Build a support system   Leading organisational psychologists Arnold Bakker and Patrícia Costa argue in their research paper on chronic burnout for tailored...