Learn how Governors can effectively support their school leaders to excel in their role and achieve the best outcomes for their pupils.
A major challenge for school governing bodies is to understand how to be a ‘critical friend’ and provide robust accounting and support systems that will ensure that Head teachers are able to remain at ‘the top of their game’ without sacrificing their own health and well-being.
The Challenge for School Governors
At Integrity Coaching, we believe that School governing bodies have an important duty of care to their school leaders to ensure that those who run our schools are properly supported to remain at ‘the top of their game’.
There are now growing numbers of Heads leaving the profession, fewer applicants for Headteacher roles and a significant proportion of headship vacancies are having to be advertised more than once.
Given the extensive costs involved in Headteacher recruitment, it makes sense for Governing Bodies to ensure they are taking active steps to retain their Heads.
To do this, Governors must ensure they provide proper support to their school leaders.
In order to do this effectively, we believe school governing bodies must understand 5 key things about supporting the needs of Headteachers:
1) All Headteachers, regardless of their career stage, need support.
2) Headteachers require different kinds of support. They need support to overcome emotional and psychological demands of the role. Additionally, they need support to meet the strategic and operational demands of the role.
3) Headteachers perform at their best when given personalised support to reflect on their leadership practice, explore the challenges they’re facing and find solutions. This also enables them to align their leadership actions to the meeting of their personal leadership vision and school vision.
4) Coaching helps Heads to increase their effectiveness and confidence. It enables longer serving heads to sustain their commitment, renew their vigour and maintain their impact on their schools.
5) In challenging and complex situations, Headteachers need personalised approaches to their CPD if they are to both survive and thrive in their roles.
“Coaching may prove to perhaps be the most single important factor in both retention and recruitment”
(Scottish Government Social Research Report: 2009)
Why is Coaching an Effective Support Strategy for Headteachers?
The answer to this question can be found in research conducted by the NFER: Mentoring and Coaching for Professionals: A study of research evidence – 2009. Their research found that when offered as a support mechanism for Headteachers the following benefits were found to be in evidence:
Supports the Well-Being of School Leaders
Coaching supports the psychological well-being and confidence of school leaders. Headship can be professionally isolating and so school leaders need opportunities where they can explore the challenges of the role. These opportunities give Heads a chance to be listened to and helps them to identify solutions that can best support them in their role.
Enhances Leadership Skills
Coaching deepens leadership knowledge, skills, practice, problem solving skills and creativity. As a result, time is used more productively for overcoming complex challenges and school improvement initiatives are able to make greater impact.
Increased Emotional Resilience
Coaching helps to build the emotional resilience of School Leaders. Coaching provides a space where Heads can explore the challenges they’re facing and identify new solutions to these issues. It also supports them to develop new ways of thinking and being that will better equip them for facing and dealing with crises and struggles when they arise.
Develops Self-Awareness and Self-Management
Coaching enhances leaders’ reflection and thinking skills and allows Heads to become more self-aware and better at self-management. This results in leaders who know how to build on their strengths and address areas for development in themselves. Leaders are then able to transfer this learning to deal with others successfully.
Improves Communication and Relationship Management
Coaching has been shown to help build Heads’ communication and relationship management skills. After coaching, Heads feel more able to handle difficult conversations. In turn, this helps to reduce conflict and promote greater harmony across all school relationships.
The Reality of Headship
Director of Integrity Coaching, Viv Grant herself experienced the difficult reality of Headship and the often deep, hidden, inner struggles which can come with school leadership. Her story and the personal cost that she had to pay in becoming one of the youngest headteachers in the country to turn around a failing primary school was featured in the Guardian (see below).
We are entering an era in which numerous reports on leadership, recruitment and retention of Headteachers [both in and outside the UK] tell us the following:
– There is an overwhelming feeling in the profession that training and support do not balance with the challenge of Headship.
– Stress, workload, accountability, work life balance and social factors beyond the school gates have a negative and accumulative effect on the performance of Headteachers
– A working week of 60+ Hours has become the norm for many school leaders and Headteachers.
As a result, many Headteachers are leading their schools without complementary support systems. These systems are needed to enable them to overcome the stresses of their roles and maintain their ability to lead and inspire others.
Many Headteachers are at risk of not fulfilling their potential or leaving the profession early due to ill health, stress or burnout. This has to be stopped if our children are to flourish and achieve their potential.
Leadership should not have to come at such a high personal cost. We believe that a passion for excellence, rigour and high standards for all should be values that are mutually compatible with hope, compassion and humanity.
In order for our children to achieve their full potential, schools must be places where structures exist that enable Headteachers to achieve their full potential too.
“I had to fight my Governing body for Support”
– Secret Headteacher
One Headteacher shares her experience of trying to get the support she needed in her role, the challenge of reaching out for help and her struggles getting her governors on board.
“I just wish other governors could see the power of coaching (like fortunately mine now have) – as I feel that everybody should have an offer of coaching from their schools.
No Head should be in the position that I was at the start of my headship, where they have to plead for the support they so badly need!”