Coaching & Leadership Development
What is the role of a Headteacher?

What is the role of a Headteacher?

  Recently a colleague shared with me, that when the Masai Warriors of Kenya greet each other they ask, “How are the children?”    They ask this, because for everyone, even those without children, the response that they are seeking is, “All the children are well.” As according to their social script, things can’t be fully good for one individual or the community unless all the children are thriving.   Mac Macartney speaks of something similar when he recounts the symbolic lighting of the “Children’s Fire” amongst the indigenous people of North America. Mac says:   “I was introduced to the Children’s Fire one night as we sat outdoors by a blazing fire. Since that time, it has become the cornerstone of my thinking about leadership.  Many hundreds of years ago, wise women and men, elders of a people who had been enquiring into profound questions concerning leadership, asked the question: “How shall we govern our people?”   One of the great challenges which these elders explored was the complex relationship between the short and long term. It was understood that actions which yield short-term benefits may not always serve the interests of the tribe in the long-term.    Further understanding that the children represented the tribe’s capacity to survive into the future. They understood the necessity of ensuring that the leaders always sought to secure a safe future for the children by testing every major decision against the future wellbeing of the children.   Knowing the power of symbolism, the chiefs ordered that a small fire be kindled in the centre of their council circle. This small fire was called...
Well-being, Purpose and Community

Well-being, Purpose and Community

This blog comes from Headteacher of Brundall Primary School, Rick Stuart-Sheppard.   Having been in education for several decades now, I’ve had plenty of chance to witness what leadership at its very best looks like in our schools.   In that time, I’ve observed how great leadership often comes when individuals feel empowered from the inside out, are able to take decisions that are right for their own settings and on a personal level, they are emotionally and psychologically ok.   However, I’ve also seen how the circumstances of our education system in the last few years has begun to hinder this, such as the undercurrent of fear that now exists within our profession resulting from an accountability system – that at times, has seemed to be more punitive than supportive.   Meanwhile, there has also been rising stress levels amongst Heads, who are increasingly expected to manage change that is driven by external forces and in a direction that many feel is the wrong one, such as the imposed Curriculum a few years ago and enforced academisation more recently.   The ‘symptoms’ of stress, over-work, external judgments and demands can end up taking up so much space, that it is easy to forget to look at the aspects of life that can help us build resilience, persistence and capacity for learning and growth.   This inevitably has had an impact on our schools as after all, ‘When the Head sneezes, the whole school catches a cold’ as one education guru remarked.   I can’t remember which leader said it, but I think it really crystallises the impact of...
How to Survive as a MAT CEO

How to Survive as a MAT CEO

This blog comes from CEO of the Archway Learning Trust, Sian Hampton   Over the last few years I have moved from being the head of a single school, albeit on two sites, to CEO of a Multi Academy Trust serving over 4,000 students and employing about 700 staff.    I love my job and the fantastic staff and students I get to work with every day, but the pressures of this changed role and the ever increasing demand for more have taken their toll.   This year has probably been one of the hardest – and most rewarding – of my career.  From a place of still figuring things out, there are five key observations I would like to make about how to survive as a leader of an academy trust and what my strategies will be going forwards.   1. Recognise the symptoms   Despite the chest pains, constant headaches and sleepless nights, I ignored all the physical symptoms of anxiety and kept going.  All leaders are high functioning so it is perfectly possible to soldier on without due regard for ourselves and our well-being no matter what our bodies are telling us.  Understanding that we are struggling, recognising the signs of stress and anxiety are part of the solution to managing them.   Stress can be positive as a means of motivation and energy helping us to perform more effectively, but we are in dangerous territory when that stress becomes physically limiting and instead of dealing with it, we compartmentalise and ignore it.   2. Collaborate don’t compete   There is a building narrative around the growth...
Are you considering quitting over excessive workload?

Are you considering quitting over excessive workload?

  We all know that the role of the school leader has changed dramatically and with it too, the increased demands that many school leaders face.   Yet, I firmly believe that it would be a great loss to us all, if many of our school leaders left the profession early, before ever seeing their dreams for themselves or their schools fulfilled.   If you are considering leaving the profession early these three top tips [which I have successfully used when coaching school leaders] will help you to stop, pause and reflect and to re-consider whether throwing the towel in at this stage in your career, is really what you want to do!   1. Re-visit your Vision as a School Leader   Take some time out and reflect on the reasons why you stepped into the school leadership role. What was it that you had hoped you could achieve? What was the legacy that you had hoped to leave behind?   It takes courage to have a big vision and as a school leader, wanting to make a difference to the lives of future generations, your vision will be bigger than most! If you can find a way to re-connect with your vision, you will be able to find a way to connect with what drives you…your passion, your purpose. Often this can be enough to re-fuel a tired, worn and weary soul.   2. Reflect on your values   It is highly likely that with the challenges that have arisen as the result of the new education reforms, that there will have been times when you will have found...
4 Tips to Better Self-Care as a School Leader

4 Tips to Better Self-Care as a School Leader

This blog comes from IC Associate, executive coach and author of bestselling book “101 Playground Games and 101 Wet Playtime Games and Activities”, Thérèse Hoyle.   The press, media and study after study tells us that Headteacher recruitment and retention is in crisis, nevertheless there are many things school leaders can do to make sure they’re not another one of those burnout statistics.   The NFER survey in 2016 showed that increasing numbers of Headteachers are leaving the profession before retirement age, with many articles and leaders themselves citing the intense pressures and challenges of the job, unrealistic targets, a loss of passion and a lack of support as responsible for this.   Meanwhile, in a survey undertaken by the National Governor’s Association in September 2015, 43% of 4,383 respondents reported it was difficult to find good candidates when recruiting senior leaders for similar reasons. In light of this, perhaps it is no surprise that England could be facing a shortage of up to 19,000 senior teachers by 2022.   Most of us came into the profession because we had a vision of how we thought education should be, we loved children, had an enthusiasm for our subject and wanted to make a difference.   Sadly, with the changes that have taken place in education, many leaders and teachers can find themselves disconnected with their original reasons for coming into education.   I often think of us climbing an education mountain where we are snowed under with never ending amounts of paperwork, ambushed by parents leaping out of prickly bushes when we least expect them and  vulnerable children who sometimes need more...
What Every Headteacher should be told before they’re appointed!

What Every Headteacher should be told before they’re appointed!

  Recently, I’ve been pondering one question: How do Headteachers find the time and space to develop the aptitudes necessary to show up as their true authentic and best self, when they are in a profession that requires;   – A deeply forensic approach to the analysis of pupil outcomes – Lightning quick responses to demands of all kinds and, – Consistently high levels of visibility   The answer I most often hear in response to this question, is:   ‘There quite simply isn’t enough time to focus on me. I spend all of my time and more [i.e. evenings and weekends] focusing on school improvement, because that’s what I’m here to do – to focus on the children and teachers, not me.”   When I hear this response, I find myself thinking, that sounds just like me when I was a Head. When I was told only one side of the School Leadership Story.   It’s all about the job description, or is it?   Before I was appointed to my first post as a Headteacher around seventeen years ago, I read and believed that I fully understood the Job description and person spec. I wrote an application form that demonstrated my leadership skills, knowledge and experience.   I performed so well at interview [despite being eight and a half months pregnant], that I convinced the panel, I could do what the job was asking of me on paper and take the school out of Special Measures…   And therein lies the rub. Did you fall for it too? Did you mistakenly believe that when you applied for the Head...