Coaching & Leadership Development
Why School Leader Well-being must be taken Seriously

Why School Leader Well-being must be taken Seriously

  This blog comes from Assistant Headteacher and TeachFirst Ambassador, Michael Nott (@MrNott117)   In the last few years, the teaching profession has made great strides when it comes to wellbeing.   The rise of feedback instead of marking has undoubtedly had a dramatic impact on teacher workload in schools that have adopted it. Likewise, the accepted practice of centralised detentions has ensured teachers don’t spend their every free moment setting and chasing detentions.   But truly, one of the most significant changes has been Ofsted pushing teacher wellbeing to the top of its agenda, suggesting that as a profession we are at least trying to do something to address it. Granted, it is still nowhere near close to perfect, but I certainly think it has improved in the last few years.   However, despite these improvements, I don’t think that the wellbeing of a school’s senior leadership team has been properly considered. Now, I appreciate that there may be many people out there who are unsympathetic to the idea of senior leadership workload.   After all, to many, it is senior leaders who have led on initiatives that have ultimately increased teacher workload. But I don’t think we gain anything from vilifying senior leaders, and creating an ‘us’ versus ‘them’ mentality. I don’t think any senior leader knowingly sets out to create something that leads to an increase in workload.   Culture Setters   Nevertheless, I do believe that if school leaders are to set the correct culture in a school then it is imperative that senior leader workload is addressed.   Firstly, if a school’s senior leadership...
The 5 Warning Signs of Burnout

The 5 Warning Signs of Burnout

    This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills)   Maintaining a good work-life balance is difficult in any profession.   The wonders of technology have given us endless ways to blur the boundaries, meaning that we often take our work home, physically, emotionally and mentally.   Despite what some may think, educator don’t “own” work-related stress. But by golly we’ve earned a majority share. Given our excessive workloads, accountability measures and the fact that we work more overtime than any other industry, it’s no wonder that 67 per cent of educators describe themselves as “stressed at work”, with many showing actual symptoms of clinical anxiety and depression. The truly tragic thing is that we’re not surprised by this. To us, the language of stress, panic attacks and antidepressants has become commonplace and normalised. The risk of burnout   We accept and expect it. Some of us even seem proud of it, bragging about how little sleep we’ve had or how stressed we are, as if these things are synonymous with success. We tend to ignore the warnings from our bodies, committing ourselves wholly to the school timetable. We don’t stop when we’re tired, we stop when term ends (even if we’ve contracted a moderate version of the Black Death along the way). Of course, there will always be certain events that trigger an increase in this stress: exam time, data deadlines and OFSTED inspections. But if a bad day becomes a bad week, month or term, then you may be getting close to burnout. Here are the signs to look out for: 1. Restlessness   A racing mind, the need...
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...