Coaching & Leadership Development
An Open Invitation to Every School Leader

An Open Invitation to Every School Leader

  I think it is fair to say that as a result of the current COVID-19 crisis, the challenge and complexity of role of a School Leader  has grown exponentially.   Every school leader in the country has faced an enormous amount of change; personally and professionally. These are unprecedented times, for which there are no rule or guide-books. Everything has changed! Relationships with families, pupils and staff have changed. The speed of change has been swift, with little or no time for school leaders to make sense of both the here and now and also what the ‘new order’ might bring. Whilst many Heads are doing their best in an impossible situation, many are struggling to navigate the uncertainty that has accompanied this global pandemic. The old norms have been stripped away and this can lead to feelings of discomfort, disorientation and anxiety about the current situation in which we have found ourselves. This situation has further exacerbated feelings of overwhelm, isolation and stress that prior to the pandemic, were already prevalent in the teaching profession. All we do know with any degree of certainty – is that for now, this is our new normal and it will require huge amounts of resilience, courage and flexibility to navigate these perilous times. In order for school leaders to be able to navigate through this time successfully, it is important that leaders are offered support that will help them address the emotional and psychological fallout from this pandemic. They need safe relational spaces to explore, question and reflect on how events are impacting on them, on others and their school. Without such spaces, we know that this crisis could prove to be both overwhelming and isolating for those who lead our schools.   Leaders also run the...
“Sustaining a Vital Profession” – Research Report

“Sustaining a Vital Profession” – Research Report

  This blog comes from Professor Rachel Lofthouse, Director of CollectivED at Leeds Beckett University, School of Education and Viv Grant, Director of Integrity Coaching   There is growing evidence of the deterioration of wellbeing amongst teachers and school leaders and a growing recruitment and retention crisis facing the profession.   As recently as November 2019, Education Support published its Teacher Wellbeing Survey. In this survey, over 84% of senior leader respondents admitted to experiencing high-levels of stress from the role, with over 66% of senior leaders have considered leaving.   The survey also highlighted the culture of overworking in the profession; 59% of senior leaders who completed the survey indicated they typically worked more than 51 hours per week. Meanwhile, 28% of senior leaders worked more than 61 hours per week and 11% working more than 70 hours per week.   This situation further highlights the dire situation that faces the profession, which comes after the NFER report in 2017 found that headteacher retention rates have significantly fallen since 2012.   The NFER recommended that:   ‘Leaders need practical and emotional support, as well as opportunities for peer support (such as coaching, mentoring and shadowing.)   Overview   In 2018, CollectivED, a research and practice centre at Leeds Beckett University, was commissioned by the NEU to undertake an evaluation of a year-long headteacher coaching programme.   This research came in response to this growing crisis in the profession and was the first of its kind to explore the relationship between coaching, wellbeing and leadership effectiveness amongst senior school leaders.   The coaching was provided by Integrity Coaching and...
The Headteacher Wellbeing Crisis in our Schools

The Headteacher Wellbeing Crisis in our Schools

  With the recent publication of the Leeds Beckett University report into the impact of Leadership coaching in schools, we have undoubtedly reached a point where the system as a whole, needs to recognise that the personal and professional development of Headteachers go side by side.   As the report and others preceding it have cited, too many good Headteachers continue to leave the profession early or burnout, because the needs of the person in the role have been ignored.   Coaching, as this report reveals, is an essential life-support system for our school leaders and must be recognised as such, if we are to enable our Heads to stay in the profession for the long haul.   Understanding what it means to be a Head today   To understand the impact of coaching as identified by the Heads in this report, we have to understand something more about what it means to be a Headteacher today; particularly amidst cuts to school budgets and public services. Increasingly, schools are now expected to pick up the slack, with no regard to the mental health and care of those involved.   As a result, schools have found themselves on the frontline, having to address the many levels of social inequality that these policies have further amplified.   In the most disadvantaged areas, these challenges are acutely felt; as too is OFSTED’s sword of Damocles when results are not in line with or above national averages.   A daily battleground   For many Heads, education has become a battle ground. Regularly, they find themselves not only fighting for the rights of the...
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...