Coaching & Leadership Development
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...
Why Education Needs Values & Integrity more than Ever – Neil Hawkes

Why Education Needs Values & Integrity more than Ever – Neil Hawkes

  With many other people I am deeply concerned about the global turmoil that is destabilising our world. As someone I met recently in the US put it, ‘It seems as though human kind is going mad!”   We seem to be acting like lemmings about to rush over a cliff to our deaths. At a political, cultural and social level distress is clearly identifiable as the good of humanity and the world is set aside.   I notice that the level of unrest is increasing, as people feel that they do not have a voice that can be heard. Whether it is a presidential election or a referendum people of all persuasions seem discontent and have a tendency to vote from that basis.   My observation is that when individuals feel a sustained awareness of peacelessness, then this is translated into their behaviour, leading to the polarisation of political, religious, cultural and social identity.   The media is now often consumed with life-limiting messages, which encourage fear and distrust. Humanity is calling out for positive, altruistic leadership. However, where can this be found?   Although the problems seem intractable, I believe there is hope.  Many people seem to be waking up and saying, ‘enough is enough’.   To tackle this, we need schools that seek to enable children to have a moral compass based on positive human values that can form the foundations for transformational change.  We need to encourage adults and children alike to have a meaning and purpose in their lives, acting with integrity.   I have seen over the last few years how Values-based education...
Press Release – School Leadership Needs to Change

Press Release – School Leadership Needs to Change

  The last decade has seen increasing levels of pressure, public scrutiny and personal accountability begin to seriously impact on the mental health and emotional well-being of our nation’s Head teachers and school leaders.   Education commentators have noted how burnout and ‘disappearance’ from the profession are on the rise. Meanwhile, Governors are now reporting recruitment has become a “major issue”. Among those who have remained in the profession, feelings of fear, isolation and self-doubt are now widely reported.   A former Headteacher and Director of Integrity Coaching, Viv Grant who experienced first-hand the cost of school leadership (Read her story in the Guardian) and has been working with School Leaders for the last decade, has decided that something needs to change.   That’s why, on the 19th October 2017, Viv and Integrity Coaching (the company she founded to support School Leaders after she left Headship) hosted a new type of conference – an ‘Education for the Soul’ Conference in Euston, London.   The conference was designed to tackle some of the biggest questions affecting education and the experience of school leaders today and help Head teachers and senior school leaders to improve their schools without sacrificing their own well-being. Viv Grant had this to say about the conference…   “In the last decade, I’ve seen how School leaders are now forced to sacrifice their well-being on a daily basis to simply survive in the profession. I’ve coached Heads on a brink of a nervous breakdown and have witnessed the inhumane treatment of those who have been let down by the system.”   “SAT’s and GCSE results, OFSTED grades and league tables...
#WomenEd – Why it’s So Much More than a Movement

#WomenEd – Why it’s So Much More than a Movement

This week’s blog comes from Maria Alex O’Neill (@DaringOptimist), co-founder of HealthyToolkit HQ, teacher, coach, passionate Womened advocate and organiser of the upcoming WomenEd West Midlands regional event.   #WomenEd, what is it?   According to the website, ‘‘#WomenEd is a grassroots movement which connects existing and aspiring leaders in education.’’   For me, undoubtedly, it has been much more than just a movement. It has been an everlasting source of inspiration, encouragement, friendship and unconditional support. Teaching is one of the most challenging professions with significant and at times overwhelming responsibilities and pressures placed on its members.   Your teaching life can get so busy that you might lose sight of the bigger picture and unintentionally acquire a self-awareness glitch that lets you go with the flow without paying much attention to your needs or wellbeing.   You lose yourself in your current circumstances and your personal and professional journeys start to be shaped by self-doubt and fear of failure underpinned by subjective opinions brutally expressed by others. An objective perspective ceases to exist and you end up somewhere in a twilight zone relentlessly trying to figure out what is the purpose of it all?   Then there is #WomenEd, your antidote to chaos and confusion, an amazing, caring and inspirational tribe of colleagues who guide you, support you on your journey of professional and personal rediscovery, who help you regain your confidence and start believing in your dreams again.   You become empowered to be your authentic self again and the feeling of belonging, one of the natural human needs, gives you strength to carry on and shape your...
My Appearance on Sky News – “Headteachers are Suffering”

My Appearance on Sky News – “Headteachers are Suffering”

Note: The Link for the Video can be found at the Bottom of the Page.   Several weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to be asked to appear on Sky News to share my thoughts on the Head Teacher recruitment and retention crisis.  A topic which I believe to be of fundamental importance to our education system at this current moment in time.   In my short stint on “The Point”, I discussed  that according to three Educational Leadership organisations, English Schools may face a shortage of up to 19,000 Heads by 2022, findings which were also substantiated in a recent article in the Times.   The report and the Times article, once again, underlined how schools are struggling to retain great School Leaders, with many leaving due to a lack of nurture and support from within the profession. Things must change! Reading these reports affirmed my belief that so much more must be done to make the role of School Leadership sustainable.   The pace and volume of change over the past decade has led to increased ambiguity, inconsistency, insecurity and staggeringly high levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability.   The system continues to perpetuate the myth of the Teflon coated Super-Head; The leader who can turn around a school at lightning speed, and sustain their performance and motivation, amidst criticism, job insecurity and the continual sacrificing of their own needs for the sake of their school.   There must come a point where all in education recognise that Head teachers are mothers, fathers, partners. They feel hurt and pain. They experience self-doubt and worry. The Super-Head...
Coaching for the Soul – Uncovering the One Thing Missing from the life of School Leaders

Coaching for the Soul – Uncovering the One Thing Missing from the life of School Leaders

  Have you ever wondered, why in your life as a school leader, it can at times feel so hard to connect with all that is within you that still desires to flourish?   If this or similar questions have ever crossed your mind, reflect for a moment or two on the words of American Social activist and educator, Parker J Palmer:   “The soul speaks its truth only under quiet, inviting, and trustworthy conditions.”   His words may provide you with the answer you have been seeking! Your soul, that which is the very best within you, will only step out, will only step forward, when there is no fear of:   – Judgement – Criticism – Ridicule – Hurt – Misunderstanding   Does your day-to-day life as a school leader facilitate this? If it does, Hooray! Hooray, for you and hooray for the children in your school. That’s just how it should be. Schools should be a place where people feel safe, sincere warmth and appreciation are characteristic of all relationships and everyone, from the youngest child to the oldest member of staff flourishes.   Yet… we know, that as much as this is a deep [if sometimes hidden] desire for many school leaders, only a small handful every fully experience the conditions that enable their ‘souls to speak their truth’.   And yet, when we do, when we create, ‘quiet, inviting and trustworthy conditions’ a beauty and magic unfolds! We are perhaps more comfortable using such words when reading fairy tales and stories to our pupils, never becoming fully comfortable with just how applicable they are...