Coaching & Leadership Development
My Reflections on “Education for the Soul” 2018

My Reflections on “Education for the Soul” 2018

  On 19th October 2018, we held our second “Education for the Soul” Conference. The theme for this year’s conference was, “Creating new narratives for the school leader’s journey”.   Perhaps not your everyday common theme for a school leader’s conference, but if there is one thing we are certain about at Integrity, it’s that we are not going to follow the standard, traditional format for our conferences.   And so it was for this year’s conference, that we chose to further support school leaders by enabling them to consider the role their stories play in their lives as educators. Our goal was to enable them to respond with as much certitude to the challenges of their roles, as Rosa Parks did in 1955, when she refused to succumb to the racist laws of the US government and instead, assert her right to;   “No longer act on the outside in a way that contradicts the truth that I hold deeply on the inside. I will no longer act as if I were less than the whole person, I know myself inwardly to be.”   Creating a space to be   At a time, when being seen to be busy is still equated with levels of effectiveness, this year’s Education for the Soul Conference provided further validation to the fact that this is an unhelpful paradigm to live by.  Perhaps, this is best captured by the words of a few of this years’ attendees:   “The conference addressed my soul (and heart) it gave me time and space to reflect” “I was given time and space for reflection! No me...
An Open Letter to Every School Leader

An Open Letter to Every School Leader

  It is our belief that over the last few years, our education system has lost sight of one of its strongest and most important assets – its humanity.   Values more akin to the business world have seeped into the system with schools encouraged to see children as data, other school leaders as competitors and results as the ultimate goal of education. We have seen  too many school leaders  ‘disappear’ with many being forced out, sometimes on the back of just one disappointing set of results.   Consequently, we’ve noticed a growing culture of fear within in our education system. Increased levels of public scrutiny and personal accountability have only served to intensify this.  As have new structures and roles which have added unnecessary layers of complexity and ambiguity. Many heads now feel they are in a constant battle to prove they know what is being asked of them in this new era and prove that they are “good enough.”   To make matters worse, leaders are now expected to “do more with less” and improve their schools with depleting school budgets.  They are expected to fill the gaps that social workers and family support systems can no-longer provide (again due to budget cuts). Amidst all these challenges, it appears very little consideration has been given to the impact that these additional expectations and pressures have had upon the mental health and well-being of those who lead our schools.   Therefore, it is no surprise that so many Headteachers struggling with the heavy emotional cost of leading and find themselves feeling isolated, stressed, exhausted, out of control and plagued with...
“Education for the Soul” 2017  – Conference Report

“Education for the Soul” 2017 – Conference Report

What was our Conference Mission?   On the 19th October 2017, Head teachers & School Leaders from across the country joined us for our Inaugural “Education for the Soul” Conference. Our purpose was to provide a different type of school leadership conference; one that would provide a space for school leaders to explore new and sustainable ways of leading that would enable them to overcome the stresses of their roles and maintain their ability to lead and inspire others.   Unlike other School Leadership conferences, the day aimed to provide a unique opportunity and space for…   Reflection – Where leaders could be themselves and reflect with like-minded colleagues on the aspects of school leadership that mattered most to them   Learning – Where leaders could deepen their personal knowledge and gain a better understanding of how wellbeing contributes to personal performance and school outcomes.   Creativity – Where leaders could explore solutions, practical ideas and suggestions for bringing their visions to life   Collegiality – Where leaders could laugh, share and have time to talk with others about how to achieve the very best for themselves and those they lead and manage What did the Day involve?   The day was a very special one and had a very different tone from traditional education conferences. It was clear right from the very start that individuals were turning up as ‘themselves’ and not as their roles. For me personally, it was deeply humbling to see so many school leaders and education professionals who were prepared to:   – Take a risk – Ask of themselves challenging questions – Think about school leadership differently – Go on a deeper learning journey...
The NEU offer Headteachers Free Coaching Support

The NEU offer Headteachers Free Coaching Support

  It’s almost thirty years ago, when as a newly qualified teacher, I signed up to become a member of the NUT. Like many new teaching recruits, I signed up because I believed in the union’s values of equality, fairness and social justice.   These very same values are held by many Heads who still hold NUT (now NEU) membership. Yet we know with the deluge of change that has occurred over the past decade, many Heads now find themsleves struggling to hold onto their values and headship has subsequently become an increasingly difficult and lonesome task.   For many a Head, greater autonomy in decision making has led to increased levels of personal accountability and public scrutiny. A situation that has been compounded by the diminished capacity of LA’s, to offer care and support for school leaders.   As a result, there has been a marked demise in the care, trust and integrity with which Head teachers are treated.   Heads need Proper support   As the attrition rate for Head teachers leaving the profession continues to rise, it is clearly evident that new approaches need to be adopted for enabling Head teachers to rise above the challenges of their roles and maintain their ability to lead and inspire others.   It is our belief, that if things remain as they are, a passion for excellence, rigour and high standards will increasingly be seen as being mutually exclusive to compassion, humanity and hope. We do not believe that these values are distinct and separate from one another, but rather mutually supportive and symbiotic. Making the leadership load lighter to carry...
How to make Christmas special at your School

How to make Christmas special at your School

This blog comes from Headteacher of Parklands Primary School and Passionate School Well-being advocate, Chris Dyson (@ChrisDysonHT)   I am the proud Headteacher of Parklands Primary School. We are situated in the middle of one of Europe’s largest council estates. We are the most deprived Primary school in Leeds with 82% Pupil Premium Children ….. but what does that mean?   No hope? No aspirations? Poor exam results? A poor OFSTED report? On the contrary, 82% Pupil Premium means we have to get it right for these children; we have to inspire, we have to sell the dream, we have to love, respect and make sure every child is valued, listened to and believed in… and at Parklands we do just this.   Our exam results sees us as the most successful school bar none in Maths, with the school in the Top 1% (we now have visitors coming from all over the country to see how we gained 65% at Greater Depth) and Top 5% in Reading and Writing. October also saw a visit from Ofsted, a visit which we loved every second of and a visit which rewarded every child and member of staff with an OUTSTANDING grade.   I believe this is a large part down to our whole school focus on well-being, something that for us is a year-long priority, but at Christmas, we like to go that extra mile to make children, staff, parents and the community smile. So how do we make Christmas special at our school?   For starters, any member of staff who needed to see their child/grandchild in their school nativity had...
The 3 Key Lessons of “Education for the Soul” 2017

The 3 Key Lessons of “Education for the Soul” 2017

    As a coach, I trust myself to be able to create the type of 1:1 spaces where it is safe for the soul to be seen.   Spaces where School Leaders can come out from behind their leadership masks and explore what it means to live lives of authenticity and integrity, amidst the challenges and complexities of day to day school life.   However, in hosting the ‘Education for the Soul’ Conference, I faced a new challenge.   Could a ‘conference’ setting replicate a place of safety for the deep work of school leadership and soul to come together and be seen? One rogue ego and my hopes for the conference would have failed.   One misplaced word or comment, then people would have retreated into themselves, and found no solace, comfort or acceptance in the presence of others.   But I needn’t have feared. Everyone present had bought into the message. Everyone present was prepared to take a risk.   Individuals let go of their leadership masks and allowed true humanity, companionship and hope to come together; in service of one another and in service of shared hopes, dreams and ambitions for our children and our schools.   Personally, it was a deeply humbling experience. To be in the presence of so many wonderful individuals who were prepared to:   – Take a risk – Ask of themselves challenging questions – Think about school leadership differently – Go on a deeper learning journey with themselves and others   And perhaps, most importantly, I witnessed  individuals who were prepared to let go of the belief that ‘self-care is a...