Coaching & Leadership Development
Why Headteachers Need to Learn to Reflect

Why Headteachers Need to Learn to Reflect

    As a Head there are many questions that you are called to answer; questions for which you very often have to justify, defend or give account for your actions and decisions made. These questions are very much bound up in the ‘doing’ of the role, the day to day actions by which much of your role is defined.   There are however, another set of questions, which I believe many Heads are called to answer, when they step into the role. Although the reality is, that the frenetic nature of school leadership means that many never even realise this.   As a result, they trudge through the day to day, not knowing, not realising, that their inner dis-ease is a call to stop, pause and reflect and to pay attention to the deeper questions of the soul/the person in the role.   How do I know this?   When I was a Head teacher, I had constant inner ache. I believed that I had been called to be Head of the school that I was in, yet there was many a time when things just didn’t feel right. When times were tough, I had many questions that I needed to ask of others about the role, about the challenges I faced.   As time progressed, I soon came to realise, that those on hand to ‘support me’ where very skilled in providing answers for what I had to do, but no-one, not a single person, was able to offer support and guidance on who I needed to be.   And so, the inner ache remained. I got...
“How 12 Years of Headship changed me” – Headteacher Story

“How 12 Years of Headship changed me” – Headteacher Story

  This story comes from the Headteacher of Marlborough Primary School, Geraldine Foley.     I am the Headteacher of a large school (we have 535 children on role), based quite centrally in Cardiff. It serves a very diverse catchment area; with children coming from predominantly professional/affluent households, alongside a few from deprived backgrounds.   When I first heard about the NEU (then the NUT) offer of fully subsidised professional Coaching, I had been a headteacher for twelve years. I was five years into my second headship, and recently undertaken a temporary executive headship of another large primary school.   Over the past twelve years as a Head, I had given so much of myself, that it had been to the detriment of looking after my own well-being. While things professionally were going well, I was completely burnt out. I was running on empty.   Being a headteacher became everything. I had neglected my friendships, no time or energy for anything else. I had lost sight of who I was as a person, it was though the “real me” had vanished and I had become just a headteacher. I was working increasingly long hours and found myself often still working at 9 o’clock in the evening. Without realising it, it was beginning to undermine my effectiveness as a leader; things started taking me much longer than they used to, e.g. checking e-mails etc.   That’s what twelve years of headship had done to me. I became the shadow of the person I used to be. I tried to hide it from everybody, from my family to the people at school. I managed...
How to Stay Resilient as a School Leader

How to Stay Resilient as a School Leader

  With the ever increasing pace of change in schools today and heightened levels of public scrutiny and accountability, being a school leader today is hard emotional and psychological graft.   When change comes along and it is fast and furious [as has been the case in the education sector], you not only have to be able to manage the huge gamut of emotions and dissenting voices that often accompany change of this nature, you also have to be able to manage your own tangled web of thoughts and emotions as you respond to meeting the emotional needs of others and this is a far from easy process.   Day after day, you give and you give. Rarely is a balance achieved between what you give to others and what you give back to yourself.  As a result your ability to remain emotionally resilient, so that you can weather the occasional storms of life as a school leader, is weakened and so too is your ability to remain socially aware so that you can maintain those relationships that will help you through the storms.   In today’s educational climate the school leaders who will succeed in their roles, will be those who know how to stay emotionally resilient and socially aware. Those who understand that if they are going to be effective in meeting the needs of others, they will have to become expert in understanding and meeting their own needs first.   So where do you begin?   Begin by understanding that school development is also about emotional development. The ability to meet the emotional needs of others...
Can we reconcile Accountability with Humanity?

Can we reconcile Accountability with Humanity?

This Blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.     I hear and have sympathy with many complaints about the accountability system for schools in England and Wales.    They echo around our professional community: …encourages teaching to the test…; the stress of SATs…’ OFSTED paralysis…; the ‘assessment tail wagging the curriculum dog’…; you don’t fatten a pig by weighing it…   Most serious are the arguments about de-humanisation and the ‘factory culture’: if young people are only equipped to (i) assimilate, store and regurgitate information and (ii) practise easily assessable skills, whenever will they learn to know and express themselves fully and understand each other?  How will they be enabled to navigate their unpredictable futures and turn challenges into opportunities?   It’s important to recognise is that these are not arguments against accountability.  As long as education costs money (and I’d like it to cost a lot more than it currently does) then those who ‘deliver’ it must always, of course, be accountable to those who pay for it.  Many of us are on both sides of that fence.  Accountability is an essential, not an evil!   The problem lies in how accountability is interpreted, both by educators and policy makers.  There is something seriously wrong when certain symptoms become prevalent.  Here are three examples:   – When students whose progress is not critical to the data analysis receive much less attention than those whose results are of tactical or statistical importance; – When teachers spend more time processing data than designing optimal learning experiences; – When creativity, imagination and risk-taking...
7 Ways to Bring the Humanity back to our Education System

7 Ways to Bring the Humanity back to our Education System

    Education has and always will be my ‘first love’. Although I didn’t have the best experience of school growing up, l fell in love with education when I became a teacher and witnessed first-hand the difference my passion and commitment made to the children in my class. I loved it then and I still love it now. Even though, three decades on, so much has changed.   Yet, I know there are many in the profession, particularly school leaders, who struggle to keep the connection to their original passion and commitment. It is not their fault. Over the years, with a succession of educational directives, teachers and school leaders have found themselves caught in the middle of a political battlefield; where humanity has been sacrificed for the sake of political ideology.   If our teachers and school leaders are to re-claim their commitment, passion and sense of vocation, then our education system has to start really engaging with those on the ground. They must be listened to. Trust has to be re-built and ways have to be found to re-humanise the way in which our school leaders are supported to raise and maintain high standards across our schools.   Change won’t happen overnight, but the creation of more humane education system could be facilitated if politicians, policy advisors and others who work alongside our school leaders did these seven key things.   1. Stop using statistics as a sole measure of success   Teachers and school leaders understand and know how to use assessments. They know how to measure progress. They also know that numbers and statistics...
The 5 Myths of Being a Headteacher

The 5 Myths of Being a Headteacher

  Being a Head is one of those roles about which many myths abound. These myths arise primarily because we have all been to school. We have all seen Head teachers and education is rarely out of the news. As a result, a common narrative has been created about school life which is rarely questioned and many assume to be true.   Yet there are elements of this narrative that are not necessarily healthy, particularly in relation to the role of the head teacher. Which to a certain degree has been de-humanised by some of the prevailing myths about the profession.   If only more people knew the truth, they’d understand what else it is that Heads do to keep their schools running, to keep others happy and to ensure that above all else teaching and learning takes place in an environment in which all children can thrive.   So, in attempt to address this, here are some of the myths that need to be ‘busted’ for the sake of our Heads and for the sake of our schools…   1. Heads know everything   It is impossible for any one person to know everything! Yet, for some strange reason the title of Head teacher also seems to be synonymous for some, with the word ‘guru’. People expect that because you are the Head, you have the answers for everything; from how to unblock the toilets in the boy’s loos, to how to continue to raise standards and attract more pupils to your school, when your school budget’s in deficit and pupil numbers are falling.   Heads don’t know everything and...