Coaching & Leadership Development
Wholeness & School Leadership: Why Race and Identity Matter

Wholeness & School Leadership: Why Race and Identity Matter

  It is my belief that good school leadership has at its heart a desire for wholeness. It is a wholeness which individuals seek to see manifested through a harmonious interplay of their deepest values and beliefs, by fostering right relationships with themselves and others.   Recent events sparked by the death of George Floyd have clearly illustrated that we live in a society that is far from whole. Fault lines run through the lives of individuals and organisations, teachers and school leaders, families and their children.   We have seen how people have come together to try and repair the damage but there can be no papering over the cracks. For the dream of racial equality to be real, complete healing and transformation is needed.   A gradual dawning   I have witnessed over the past few weeks, that there has been a gradual dawning for many white school leaders of what is being asked of them. This has been a significant paradigm shift. There has been a gradual awakening of the need to review and re-shape white identity in order to accelerate the change that the black community have cried out for.   I recognise and understand that this is unfamiliar  territory and can be scary for many. Never before in the UK has the debate on race equality in our schools shifted its gaze so steadfastly onto white identity and race. For as long as I can remember, it has been the other way around. Race equality work has predominately focused on the black experience of racism and strategies for enabling the black community to overcome...
BLM – Why School Leaders must take the Lead

BLM – Why School Leaders must take the Lead

  When I trained as a teacher over thirty years ago, I was introduced to the work of Bernard Coard and his book on “How the West-Indian Child is made educationally sub-normal in the British School Education System.”   Ideally, it is a book that I would have wanted to be introduced to privately. As although it was not the lecturer’s intention, as the only Black student in my year, I felt a deep shame and discomfort when she read excerpts from his book that matched so closely with my own experiences of the British Education system.   For the majority of the white trainee teachers Coard’s work was simply an academic treatise. For me it was personal. I come from a Black, working class family. Social and economic deprivation and racial inequality were the backdrop for my childhood years.   Not a single person in the lecture hall shared a similar story to my own.  So when the lecturer read how the structure and design of the British education system had led to many Black children underachieving and living with a hidden, yet deep sense of inferiority, it felt as though she was shining a light on my own hurt, bruised and conflicted inner world for all to see.   I wanted to get up and leave the lecture hall. Of course I didn’t, but I spent the whole four years at Teacher Training college wanting to escape: tiring of being in the minority; tiring of being on the outside; tiring of fearing that I could never truly achieve in a system that had only ever seen Black...
Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

Why is Change so difficult in Schools?

  This thought piece comes from executive coach, former governor and Integrity Coaching Associate, Ben Gibbs. There is an ancient Persian tale about a householder who notices a bump in a rug. Whenever he tries to smooth the rug the bump reappears again, and again, and again. Finally, in frustration, he lifts the rug and out slides an angry snake. Of course, the point is that this is how we tend to try to change things in our organisations; dealing only with the symptoms and not the underlying cause – the snake under the surface. This is understandable, for we live in a rational age when we’re taught to believe only what we can see and to value only that which we can know. And so it goes for our professional development as leaders and managers, which trains us to view our colleagues as nothing more than rational actors, moving about on a surface in ways we might try to predict, and motivate with carrots and sticks. This perspective is so pervasive that we rarely question it. Flattening the Bump We just keep on trying to flatten the bump. But – at the risk of over-extending the metaphor – the longer we leave the snake under the rug (and the more we hit it), the more disruptive it will become. Because the fact of the matter is that humans are far more complex than this impoverished view of the workplace allows. In all our beauty, we are subject to fantasies, contradictory wishes and desires, defensive and destructive behaviours, and anxieties. Put us together in groups and organise us with process and structure...
Coronavirus – The 3 Steps to Surviving a Crisis

Coronavirus – The 3 Steps to Surviving a Crisis

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and Integrity Coaching Associate, Tim Small.    Many things can cause a crisis in a School, more often than not – they result from a set of circumstances which are often caused by things entirely out of one’s control as a school leader.   This has never been true since the coronavirus outbreak caused schools to shut back in March. Today, many Heads find themselves having to sail previously uncharted waters; they are having to captain and lead ‘digital’ schools whilst simultaneously provide some type of specialised, alternative provision for children of key workers.   Given this pressure and enormous amount of change is also happening alongside many leaders’ personal circumstances, it is understandable to experience quite significant psychological upheaval.   With this upheaval leaders can begin to feel overwhelmed and helpless in the situation.   If this is the case for you, here’s three things you should do to regain a sense of agency and give yourself the best chance of surviving a crisis like this…    1. Remember Your Oxygen Mask   Firstly, I have learned that how you feel is more to do with your inner state than what’s going on out there.  When I’ve slept well and feel physically and mentally OK, I somehow feel ‘bigger’ and problems seem ‘smaller’.  They even seem to matter less, although I am still driven to solve them as best I can.  The difference is that I have some energy to do so.  Fatigue, on the other hand, makes us turn in on ourselves and it becomes even harder to face the world.   The first piece of advice,...
Coronavirus Crisis – 3 Tips for Effective School Leadership

Coronavirus Crisis – 3 Tips for Effective School Leadership

  This blog comes from leadership consultant and visiting professor at UCL Institute of Education, Steve Munby (@steve_munby)   “My NPQH didn’t prepare me for this,” said a school leader on Twitter this week.   As a leader, I have had to deal with many challenges in my career, including gangsters, the murder of children, and the death of members of staff.   But I cannot think of anything in my whole career that even comes close to requiring the amount of bravery and dedication that I am seeing now from teachers, from school leaders and from others in public service all over the country.   No development programme can possibly prepare leaders to help them to deal with the current issues and challenges that they face. We are in uncharted territory. Evidence-based strategies that can tell you which actions are likely to be more effective just don’t apply.   The impact of coronavirus means that school leaders are being required to make decisions that could save or endanger hundreds of lives, with very little guidance to help them.   Many are feeling scared, isolated, stressed and overwhelmed. But every day they are going to work and showing the leadership that is needed from them.   In 2010, I made a speech on servant leadership. I said that servant leaders don’t ask themselves, “What kind of leader do I want to be?” Instead, they ask themselves: “What kind of leadership is wanted of me?”   They lead with moral purpose. They see it as their fundamental duty to do everything in their power to act in the interests of those they serve – in...
Coronavirus – 4 Tips for Positive School Communication

Coronavirus – 4 Tips for Positive School Communication

This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills)   Uncharted waters. Unprecedented situation. Kookoo bananas. I think I’ve heard (and used) these phrases more in the last few weeks, than perhaps throughout the entire lifetime preceding it.   Like senior leadership teams (SLTs) across Britain, I am still fully processing the news that schools will almost certainly close their doors, for all but key-workers’ children, until September. To say things are uncertain does not really do it justice.   What is certain, however, is that staff, the bulk whom will be working from home, will need support.   Will it present challenges to support colleagues from behind a screen? Sure. But it’s far from impossible, especially once you’ve all had time to find your feet. After all, aren’t we simply applying what we already know about staff wellbeing to this altered mode of communication?   Really, it’s this that has changed more than anything, so this is what we need to focus on. In matters of morale – workload, relationships, routine and boundaries – we need to ask whether our communication with staff promotes mental wellness or illness. Does it support work-life balance or burnout?   Here are my tips for how we can ensure these messages help, rather than hurt, teachers during this unprecedented situation (there, I’ve said it again)…   1. Keep things inclusive   First off, with staff moving towards email, WhatsApp and whatever Google Classroom-type service you’re opting for, you must consider whether the software and services are appropriate for all of your staff, inclusively.   If the answer is no…what can you do...