Coaching & Leadership Development
How to Live with Uncertainty as a School Leader

How to Live with Uncertainty as a School Leader

  This blog post is based on the reflections of Giles Barrow, an Integrity Coaching Associate on the topic of managing uncertainty as a School Leader. To watch the full masterclass, please click here.   It has now been almost two months since the country went into lockdown and now, very tentatively we are seeking to ease our way out.   The future is still uncertain and there remains a huge array of unknowns. As a result, most of us are now in what I’d consider to be a “liminal space”.   To clarify, if you’re not familiar with the language, liminal means threshold, it is the period of time between two concrete senses of who we are. For example, adolescence is a liminal period of time as we are no longer a child and we are also not yet an adult.   It is often referred to as a “between place” and during this time,  I’ve seen so many people have been commenting on how peculiar this between and betwixt place they currently feel they are in feels.   This is partly because one of the important things about this liminal time is that it inevitably involves disintegration. After all, there is no way in which it is possible to be a child, undergo adolescence and be a child at the end of it.  It’s just not possible!   We can have a pseudo liminal process in which we think we have had a heck of a time, but we haven’t really experienced this sense of disintegration.   We usually know that is happening because of a number of things: we feel the disintegration bodily, in our minds...
Re-Opening Schools – Why Heads Must be Trusted

Re-Opening Schools – Why Heads Must be Trusted

  Since the very start of this pandemic, Teachers and school leaders have been on the frontline.   Over the past few days, the way in which they have been vilified by some politicians and  certain sections of the media, has served no one, least of all our children.   Amidst the high degrees of change and uncertainty brought about by this global crisis, it is both mis-leading and mis-guided to characterise those who work in our schools as  either “too lazy” or difficult”, when they have expressed valid concerns about the re-opening of  schools.   Unity v’s Division   The disparaging way in which their concerns have been presented has not been helpful. By belittling the very legitimate concerns held by unions, school leaders, teachers and parents alike, the discourse around school re-openings has sadly become divisive. At a time, when a spirit of unity has to be at the centre of all efforts to move the country out of lockdown.   As an accusatory finger is being pointed at teachers and school leaders, what is patently being ignored is the fact that teachers and school leaders do care! The vast majority care passionately about the profession they have chosen to be a part of. They care passionately about the communities they serve.   We need only look back over the past couple of months to see ample evidence of this: from hand-delivering food packages to their most deprived families, facilitating community initiatives (with everything from virtual choirs to helping create masks for the NHS), to of course, providing a range of online learning.   They have done...
Coronavirus – Why Schools Don’t Need “Superheads” in this Crisis

Coronavirus – Why Schools Don’t Need “Superheads” in this Crisis

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.   We’re all familiar with the notion of a ‘Superhead’ that is all too often projected onto Heads by the media, namely the idea of a Headteacher unmoved by any problems, and entirely impervious to criticism and job insecurity.   The truth is such a Head has never existed, yet many Heads still try to live up to this myth. Heads put on this “mask” to appear entirely in control and imply an unshakeable foundation for their school but by continually wearing this mask, it begins to alter how they perceive themselves.   Some Heads wear this “mask” so much that they begin to believe themselves to be this indestructible persona. In turn, their reputation of being able to control every situation becomes increasingly attached to their sense of identity and self-worth.   This self-concept is never more dangerous than when a crisis (like the one we are all in now) hits. Suddenly circumstances outside one’s control present themselves. In an instant it becomes clear that humanity, sincerity and compassion, triumph over acts of bravado and self-interest.   A crisis like this  demands true leadership. Leadership that is in service to the greater good. It is leadership that requires huge amounts of empathy and self-awareness. It is leadership that that fully understands what is meant by the words “We are all in this together.”   Does this make sense to you?   I remember once suffering from a combination of a flu’ epidemic, a shortage of supply teachers and three long-term sickness cases on my staff.  Behaviour...
The Well-being of School Leaders – Podcast

The Well-being of School Leaders – Podcast

  In an increasingly challenging environment of reduced budgets and recruitment difficulties, prioritising the health and well-being of school leaders is vital.   Higher levels of accountability and ensuring the wellbeing of staff and pupils can leave school leaders feeling stressed and isolated.   Whether you’re taking on a new school leader role, or maintaining current leadership under new challenges, this podcast looked at ways to minimise stress and maximise efficiency.   In this podcast, I explored:   – Strategies in achieving a work-life balance – How to recognise the importance of looking after your own wellbeing, as well as your team – Leading without sacrificing yourself – The importance of the relationship with the governing body in offering support     Supporting yourself in the role…   When you are working in a school, engaging day-to-day with children and their families, teachers, support staff, governors and other adults, you know that in addition to expending great amounts of mental and physical energy, you expend equal (if not more) amounts of energy meeting the emotional needs of others.   If you don’t invest the time in meeting your needs, you can end up carrying a huge emotional debt and become increasingly emotionally overdrawn, with no readily identifiable means for bringing your emotional account back into credit.   This is particularly dangerous if you’re like most Heads in our school system, you’re incredibly under-supported. There’s no one you can talk to who really gets your job and all the stresses that come with it, leaving you stuck with coping mechanisms and busy-ness to get you through the day — not a great set up...
Staying Grounded – How to Lead Positively in a Crisis

Staying Grounded – How to Lead Positively in a Crisis

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small   In times of crisis, such as the one we are currently facing, it’s natural for our minds to become dominated by loss, or the threat of loss.     In our current climate, loss has taken centre stage in our social consciousness. Depending on individual circumstances, losses might range from something as simple as missing routine stimuli, to cancelled plans or holidays, to financial losses, even to the agony of losing someone we love.   With rolling media coverage heightening the removal of so much we’ve taken for granted, it is all too easy for fear, anxiety and stress to weigh us down and crush our spirits.   In such times, we must hold on to what matters and be ready to let go of everything else.   We must work out how to progress, from a narrow focus on our loss of normality to awareness of the opportunities that may now be open to us, which our previously overcrowded agendas might have been depriving us of.   So that we can do this, here are three ways to stay grounded and positive, in our self-leadership and leadership of others…   1) Focus on the Here and Now   For the foreseeable future, most of us will be putting some cherished dreams and plans on hold, because we can no longer be sure of what’s possible, or when.   What that can give us in return is a narrowing of focus, permission to prioritise what must be done and what can be done, today...
How to Develop a Reflective Practice as a Headteacher

How to Develop a Reflective Practice as a Headteacher

  This blog comes from the Headteacher of Randal Cremer Primary School, Jo Riley   As a Headteacher at an inner-city primary school, my to-do list is ever lengthening, so having enough time for strategic thinking and reflection can be rare.   Each week I try to plan time in but if a child protection issue or something urgent crops up, it can’t just be ignored. External demands – such as the pressure to meet targets, changes in the curriculum, league tables etc – can also leave you feeling pulled in too many directions.   That’s why I think one of the most significant things I’ve learnt from the training I’ve undertaken in my career is the importance of strategic thinking and reflective thinking.   In secondary schools, a headteacher or principal will have a much bigger support network in their senior leadership team, allowing them to take a more strategic view. Meanwhile, at primary level, school leaders are much more involved in the day-to-day running of the school.   However, whether you are primary or secondary Head, I believe a reflective practice should be the norm for school leaders.  Here’s why…   1) It helps you to stay connected to their values and purpose   Since I’ve been trying to improve my reflective practice, I’ve revisited my values as an educator – why I’m doing this and what I want to achieve for the children. You need to be transparent about why you do what you do, and what you need from the school community.   Teachers and senior leadership teams work extremely hard, and working on something you don’t believe in will leave you burnt out or caught out.  ...