Coaching & Leadership Development
The Conversations Every New School Leader Needs

The Conversations Every New School Leader Needs

  Perhaps one of the most unenviable aspects of becoming a school leader is the fact that from day one, almost everything you either say or do comes under intense public scrutiny.   The challenge of being under constant scrutiny for much of your working day is tough! It means that it becomes near impossible for you to find a quiet space where you can still your thoughts and make sense of whatever the day has thrown at you.   In the hurly-burly of school life, when faced with challenging circumstances (which often arise on a daily or some-times even minute by minute basis!) you very quickly become adept at responding to events with perceived expertise and aplomb. Responding to stress, responding to crisis, small and large that are not a part of the planned daily routine, soon become an accepted part of your life as a school leader.   However, left unchecked, and without time to reflect on causes, their impact and consequences of actions taken, your automatic behaviours can result in you not being fully cognizant of what your new role is really asking of you and the changes that are required to ensure you succeed.   And so the question arises,   ‘If you are a new school leader, what types of conversations can you have that simply allow you to breathe and make sense of your new emerging identity?   I believe that conversations that are held out of the leadership spotlight are not just helpful additions to the life of a new school leader, they are vital as their inclusion supports long-term professional sustainability...
Why Headteachers Need Different Support to Teachers

Why Headteachers Need Different Support to Teachers

    Everyone can use support in their careers. But what many people don’t realise is that the further you progress in your career, the more support you need. Many assume that once you climb to the Head teacher post that; – Either support is no longer required or, – You require a similar level of support to that received in previous posts   However, nothing could be further from the truth. The truth is, the role of Head teacher is markedly different from any other teaching or leadership post that you might have held; strategically and operationally, mentally and emotionally. It is for these reasons that Heads need support that is bespoke and tailored to meet the specific personal and professional challenges of the role.   When you are a Head there are a myriad of challenges that you will face; challenges that require you to receive support that is different from your teachers and others that you lead and manage…   1. Isolation   Like all top leadership positions, school leadership and headship in particular brings with it the type of power that isolates: positional power. The higher up you are in an organisation, the more your positional power means that you not only have increased pressures and responsibilities, it also means an increased distancing in relationships. Learning how to balance the need for human connection, with the need to maintain the integrity of the leadership role, is a challenge many school leaders face. Individuals have to decide where their personal and professional boundaries lie and the degree to which they will give of themselves.   When...
Why Even the Best Mentor is no Replacement for a Coach

Why Even the Best Mentor is no Replacement for a Coach

  When you step into the Head teacher role, it is quite common for you to be offered a Mentor. An individual who has been there before, who can show you the ropes and who will share their wisdom, knowledge and experience with you.   But… a Mentor is different from a Coach.   A lot of people think that they do pretty much the same thing, but actually, a coach takes care of crucial support needs that a mentor simply isn’t trained for. Even the best school leadership mentor can’t replace the support you can get from a coach — and here’s why:   You’re not your role; you’re a person in a role.   Mentoring is fantastic for developing yourself in the context of your role. It’s largely focused on the external things, like developing your skills for operations, navigating your first governor’s meeting, preparing your reports. But it doesn’t focus on the inner growth that’s necessary to really step into your new role and make it your own. At best, it’s a fantastic way to learn strategies and skills.   At worst, you end up with a mentor who’s just there to inform, and not to guide. Mentors have typically been very successful in their own schools — that’s why your governors or others, chose them to be your mentor. But the thing is, the skills, techniques, and leadership style that worked in their school during their Headship may not be suitable for your school, now.   Most mentors simply don’t have the skills to address the doubts and internal turmoil that come up during Headship,...
“Returning from Maternity Leave was my Hardest Challenge”

“Returning from Maternity Leave was my Hardest Challenge”

  *The author of this blog has asked to remain anonymous I have been a Head teacher in a North London Primary school for 13 years now. In that time, like most Heads – I’ve had to endure some very challenging circumstances, with the rise of personal accountability, frequent changes to the curriculum and depleting school budgets.   However, perhaps one of the biggest challenge I’ve ever faced in my role was when I came back to my Headship after my maternity leave.   My Deputy head had just had a taste of being a Head teacher. As a result, she decided to leave to take up her own headship and so I found myself having to form a new School Leadership team.   To make matters worse, not long after I returned, we were inspected by OFSTED and we went into “required improvement”. Before I even had chance to settle back into my role, I was suddenly having to deal with the extra stress and challenges of improving our school’s rating.   It felt as though everything had changed in the five months, I’d been away and that the job was un-recognisable from the one I left. Before I went on maternity leave I was quite confident about my Headship, but when I returned I suddenly felt like I had lost the conviction with which I used to lead.   As a leader, losing your self-confidence can be one of the hardest things. I began to second-guess my decisions, question whether I could do the job anymore and I constantly felt that I couldn’t cope. To have to...
What every Headteacher needs to know about Overcoming Stress

What every Headteacher needs to know about Overcoming Stress

  It is my belief that more Headteachers would remain in the profession if, on appointment, it was made explicit to them the link between school improvement and their own personal development.   Unfortunately, however, in today’s world of high public scrutiny and personal accountability, they are not and as a result far too many Heads become victims of stress and burn out, unable to cope with the intense psychological and emotional demands of the role.   The Irish author and poet David Whyte works with large organisations and businesses across the globe. He has an acute understanding of the interplay between self and work. He says,   “We must have a relationship with our work that is larger than any individual job description we are given. Real work, like a real person, grows and changes and surprises us, asking constantly for recommitment.”   Whyte’s words foretell the trajectory of a Head’s life. They point to a life that will stretch and grow the individual. A life that will be accompanied by an array of ‘surprises’. New circumstances that will force Heads way beyond the confines of their comfort zones and to come to know themselves in new and unexpected ways.   Because of this, it is vital that one of the first things that any Headteacher must learn to do, in order to overcome the stresses of their role, is to ask for help.   Learning to ask for help, I believe, is an act of courage as much as it is an act of kindness and compassion towards oneself. In the headship role, vulnerability and fear of...
How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership

How to Overcome the Isolation of School Leadership

You will know, more than most, that sometimes headship can feel like the loneliest job in the world! There will be times, even when you are surrounded by a school full of children and colleagues who share the day to day tasks of leading and managing your school, when you feel as though there is absolutely no one that you can turn to.   These are the times perhaps, when as a headteacher, you feel most vulnerable. You may feel:   – Desperately alone – That you have no one to turn to – There is no one within your work context with whom you can share exactly how you feel   To make matters worse, when you try to talk to friends and family outside of school, many may offer a sympathetic ear, but you soon realise that sympathy is not always what you need and sometimes their well meaning responses, leave you wishing you hadn’t bothered to ‘burden’ them with your problems after all.   So what do you do? Do you, like many headteachers, find ways to cope on your own? Do you increasingly find yourself …   – Thinking that you are the only one that has the answer? – Moving further inside your office, your thoughts and your concerns? – Becoming detached from relationships with colleagues, friends and family? – Relying more upon what you can do to address a situation rather than seeking help from other others?   These strategies for dealing with the loneliness of headship may appear to work in the short term, but in the long term they will only...