Coaching & Leadership Development
Why Public Scrutiny in Education has gone too far…

Why Public Scrutiny in Education has gone too far…

  It was the late Psychologist Carl Rogers who over forty years ago said;   “Our educational system takes the view that the nature of the individual is such that he cannot be trusted. That he must be guided, instructed and controlled by those who are wise or higher in status”   It does not matter that he was an American. His statement is just as true for the UK Education System. The evidence is clear for all to see; Guidance, instruction and control in our system has led to increased powers for some and decreased powers for others. It has led to the creation of a culture where many a school leader;   – No longer has the same level of autonomy and freedom that they once had – In spite of their reduced powers they are held to exacting accountability standards and sometimes… for decisions that are not even theirs to own – Can disappear from the system, simply because they were found to be ‘failing’ against criteria over which they had no ownership or knowledge, yet despite this, were found to be wanting and hence disposable   Quite simply, increased public scrutiny and personal accountability for school leaders has gone too far. The rules of the game have changed. The goal posts have moved (and keep moving) yet school leaders are still held accountable for the outcome of a game for which they are no longer the main players and have virtually no say in the rules.   There are many critics of what is wrong with our current education system and I amongst other educationalists...
Why Heads must NOT see fellow Leaders as Competitors

Why Heads must NOT see fellow Leaders as Competitors

    Over the last few years, it’s fair to say that many changes have taken place in our education system that have transformed relationships between Headteachers.    I remember back when I was a Headteacher in a local authority (LA), whilst it was by no means a perfect institution – they understood the importance of creating structures that fostered a strong sense of collegiality and camaraderie amongst its Head teachers.   Yet sadly over the last few years, now many (if not most) LA’s have been dismantled. The increased emphasis on results and league tables has meant that Heads are now encouraged at every stage to compare and compete with local schools, in much the same way as businesses would.   Unsurprisingly, this has led to decreased levels of trust between Heads. The continuing academisation of our schools and the battle for funding has only served to compound the situation. If our school leaders continue to see and treat each other as rivals, it is unlikely that there will be any real winners in this battle. As in reality, we all lose when ego and grandiose expressions of success are put ahead of the humanitarian needs of all who work in our schools.   Relationships Matter   The truth is, in the context of the ever-increasing challenges and the ever-decreasing support afforded to school leaders, relationships with fellow Heads are vital.   Headship is a lonely job and the role brings with it the type of power that often isolates: positional power. The higher up you are in an organisation, the more your positional power means that you not only...
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...
Why Headteachers need Nurturing Relationships

Why Headteachers need Nurturing Relationships

This blog comes from Integrity Coaching Associate, transactional analysis expert and Headteacher Nurture Meal facilitator, Giles Barrow.     About five years ago I became acutely aware of the troubles presented by the head teachers I worked with. It was an especially bad time in terms of education policy. The Con-Dem coalition was in power and Micheal Gove was in his ascendancy at the DfE. The shift in policy reflected a fundamental move toward a very different understanding of not just what schools should be doing, but also radically changing how they should go about their work.   This was the time of mass academisation, free-school proliferation and the withdrawal of initiatives such as Every Child Matters and the national strategies. There was also a move in Ofsted to a much more data-reliant approach in determining judgements and head teachers across the country dreaded the wait until Wednesday lunchtime at which point the inspectors would have notified them of an intention to visit that week.   I have been working with Headteachers for over twenty years now. I am familiar with the term-by-term cycles of school life and the stresses and strains that invariably ebb and flow from year-to-year. But during this recent past, I was not only aware of a dramatic shift in stress amongst school leaders, but I was also feeling close to being overwhelmed myself in the face of such anxiety across the dozen or so schools that I was working with.   I began to notice a sense of impotence – not knowing quite what to do, or how to help these colleagues. I became increasingly aware that I...