Coaching & Leadership Development
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...
What MAT CEOs need – The 5 Levels of Relationships

What MAT CEOs need – The 5 Levels of Relationships

This blog comes from the Chief Executive Officer of Folio Education Trust, Jonathan Wilden   From my early memory of working in a school I was told that the most important person in the building was the person with the biggest bunch of keys.   For years, this person also proved to be my unofficial marriage counsellor as without them kicking me out of my classroom and locking the door behind me I wouldn’t have saved my marriage through those essential years; a period when building a family and a support network is often so essential for modern day professionals.   I needed that balance between the world of work which I loved and the world of those individuals away from my desk at home.   With regards the role I play today, I have come to realise that there are a range of relationship levels that a MAT CEO needs to establish to be successful…   Relationship Level 1 – Who do I look forward to?   That person with the big bunch of keys could only achieve so much with regards to marriage guidance and so sadly in the process of being promoted and taking on more and more I lost my marriage. But in the years following this regrettable event, I made sure that I did not lose sight of my children; their development and the importance they have in my life. While I don’t necessarily wake up every morning in the same house as them now, they continue to give me personal significance at the start of every day. When I leave my house  and...
The Importance of Authentic Leadership

The Importance of Authentic Leadership

This blog comes from the author of A Manifesto for Excellence in Schools and CEO of Inspire Partnership, Rob Carpenter (@carpenter_rob) The most common frustration vexed by schools I hear is “…if only we could…” Faced with increased pressure to demonstrate progress through pupil outcomes, primary schools have developed learned behaviours, sometimes losing sight of our need to do right by students and communities. We have retro-fitted school improvement to accountability frameworks; the measurement of learning has become the proxy for success. In blunt terms, we teach pupils to read nonsense phonics words because that is what we test. The impact has normalised the view that school improvement can only be measured through outcomes, rather than interactions. It is a misguided ideal, and as we are slowly learning, it hasn’t worked. An obsession with accountability has created an environment where unethical practice has become accepted—we view students as objects and over emphasise the importance of measurement as our proxy for success, a reverse engineering which retro-fits curriculum to fit an assessment framework. Earlier this year, I was asked by a leading school improvement organisation to deliver a presentation to a group of executive leaders. Having carefully planned a session around learning-focused ethical leadership, which was warmly received by delegates, I was more than surprised to open an email from the event team, questioning the focus of my session, admonishing me for over-emphasising the leadership of teaching and learning. They wanted to know whether future sessions could possibly concentrate on the more technical aspects of school improvement, including delivery of sustainable business strategy, processes and accountability frameworks. My response was unequivocal....