Coaching & Leadership Development
7 Ways to Succeed as a School Leader

7 Ways to Succeed as a School Leader

This blog comes from writer, education consultant and hypnotherapist at Oxford Family Hypnotherapy, Julia Watson.   The demands on the shoulders of our school leaders has never been greater, with inordinate demands on time and resources distracting from the essence of the role.   Amidst the heightened pressures and challenges, what steps can School Leaders take to succeed in their role? 1. Keep growing   Many SLT members forego training for the sake of saving time and money. But professional and personal development need not cost the earth: sometimes it can be as simple as finding a course that suits you, reading an article or keeping up with inspiring educationalists on social media.   After all, who wants to follow someone whose leadership has gone stale? Keep reading, learning and growing (all things we expect of pupils, lest we forget) and seek out anything that will keep you engaged. 2. Focus on solutions   Find out what is working well, and do more of it. Conversely, if something isn’t working, don’t do it!  Taking a solution-focused approach to challenges and change avoids blame, and promotes a positive culture of problem-solving. 3. Let people do their job   Leadership is not an exercise in writing your colleagues’ to-do lists. Micro-managing is important to a point but can also be demotivating and harbour feelings of resentment. Give staff the means to do their jobs, and seek support when they need to. But there’s enough to do in the day without covering someone else’s work as well as your own!   4. Stay organised   Whether it comes naturally to you or not, keeping on top of admin...
‘We must change our thinking about teacher wellbeing’

‘We must change our thinking about teacher wellbeing’

  Five years ago, in October 2014, over 44,000 teachers responded to the Department for Education’s (DfE) workload challenge survey.   As a result of feedback received, the DfE made commitments to establish key working parties to explore work-life balance and wellbeing around issues of marking, planning and resources and data management.   And herein lies the rub; there is a gap in the knowledge frameworks that inform current wellbeing policy and initiatives. Much of the research and writings around teacher workload acknowledge that there is a wellbeing issue to be addressed, but very few solutions move beyond remedies for the observable aspects of the role i.e. marking, planning, displays, data management etc.   It is my belief that discussions around teacher wellbeing do not go far enough and although well-intentioned, they will have minimal impact on increasing levels of job-satisfaction and related teacher recruitment and retention figures.  To reverse the current downward trend, the profession has to view the current crisis through a wider lens. That lens has to take into account not only what teachers do – the observable aspects of the role, but also who they are and why they are in the profession.   Surface level care   It was Einstein who famously said, that you cannot solve a problem with the same level of consciousness that created it. And yet, this is where I feel we are at with the current well-being debate. Predominant solutions for addressing the wellbeing crisis mainly focus on the public facing aspects of the role. They do not chart or address the inner landscape of teachers; their motivations, their...
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...