Coaching & Leadership Development
How to Develop a Reflective Practice as a Headteacher

How to Develop a Reflective Practice as a Headteacher

  This blog comes from the Headteacher of Randal Cremer Primary School, Jo Riley   As a Headteacher at an inner-city primary school, my to-do list is ever lengthening, so having enough time for strategic thinking and reflection can be rare.   Each week I try to plan time in but if a child protection issue or something urgent crops up, it can’t just be ignored. External demands – such as the pressure to meet targets, changes in the curriculum, league tables etc – can also leave you feeling pulled in too many directions.   That’s why I think one of the most significant things I’ve learnt from the training I’ve undertaken in my career is the importance of strategic thinking and reflective thinking.   In secondary schools, a headteacher or principal will have a much bigger support network in their senior leadership team, allowing them to take a more strategic view. Meanwhile, at primary level, school leaders are much more involved in the day-to-day running of the school.   However, whether you are primary or secondary Head, I believe a reflective practice should be the norm for school leaders.  Here’s why…   1) It helps you to stay connected to their values and purpose   Since I’ve been trying to improve my reflective practice, I’ve revisited my values as an educator – why I’m doing this and what I want to achieve for the children. You need to be transparent about why you do what you do, and what you need from the school community.   Teachers and senior leadership teams work extremely hard, and working on something you don’t believe in will leave you burnt out or caught out.  ...
Dear New Headteachers – 7 Things You Should Know

Dear New Headteachers – 7 Things You Should Know

  This blog comes from former Secondary Headteacher and local authority assistant chief executive in Scotland, Isabelle Boyd.   Dear New Headteachers,   It can seem a daunting task to be responsible for a large school of perhaps 1,000-plus young people, 100-plus staff, not to mention being accountable to the local authority, families, communities and inspectors.   But looking back on my experience as a Secondary Headteacher, I’ve learnt it doesn’t have to feel that way. Here’s my advice to you…   1. Be clear about what kind of school you want to lead   What defines your school? Create this vision for your school – know it, live it – and make everything you do be a step towards it. Every decision must be aligned with it. The full school community will be watching when you make a decision, therefore consistency is crucial.   Walk the corridors, be in the social area, be available. You know that you want your school to be one where people feel happy to say “yes” and where decision making is shared.   2. To make progress, you have to take risks   Ideas that teachers or pupils present may seem a little unsafe and crazy, but say “yes” and sweat the detail of how to make it work later. Policies, processes and procedures, although tedious and unexciting, are necessary drivers for innovation and change. So, devise processes and procedures to give all stakeholders confidence in the basics and in the direction of travel.   3. Being headteacher is not a one-man/one-woman show   Create and nurture alliances and networks within your school but never underestimate the authority of your office; learn to live with and accept your new persona. Ensure...
Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

Imposter Syndrome – How to Silence your Inner Critic

  This blog comes from teacher and experienced leader of SEND interventions, Jo Steer (@Skills_w_Frills) The term “imposter syndrome” was coined by clinical psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes in 1978, to describe those who live with the fear of being found out and exposed as a fraud. This common phenomenon is said to have affected some of the highest achievers in the world: supposedly Albert Einstein, Maya Angelou and even Meryl Streep have experienced it. I’d wager that those feelings of self-doubt sound familiar to a large number of educators, myself included. A little anxiety and passing insecurity is natural, beneficial. Imposter syndrome is not. It’s more than that. It’s a persistent, nagging feeling that you’re somehow lacking or undeserving of the position that you find yourself in. It’s an inner monologue of “I can’t”, “I’m not X enough” and “Who am I to think I can do this?” It’s the discounting of positive feedback and the tendency to attribute achievements to luck, timing, resources or colleagues. As educators, we experience a continuous expectation to self-reflect, as well as listening to others reflect on our capabilities. These could be beneficial, if they weren’t so frequently combined with an unsustainable workload and unrelenting pressure, which can all too easily become fuel for feelings of insecurity and self-loathing. If this sounds familiar, the following could help: 1) Push back against perfectionism Imposter syndrome thrives on expectations of perfection, so a good place to begin is by recognising that this is neither helpful nor realistic. Let’s say you’ve just been promoted, so you begin comparing yourself to others in that role, picturing them to...
An Open Letter to Boris Johnson

An Open Letter to Boris Johnson

    Dear Boris Johnson,   I am writing to you with a plea at a time when your mind may well be on other matters but my plea is quite simple; please begin to listen to those in education who are on the front line.   Our head teachers and school leaders who every day give their all as they seek to create better futures for our children.   I write this letter to you as a former head teacher, who has been in the profession for over twenty five years. Although I left headship over thirteen years ago, I am now in schools nearly every day, providing coaching support for passionate school leaders. When I am with my school leaders I hear the truth about what it takes to be a successful school leader.   To be a successful school leader today takes: – Courage – Bravery – Resilience   Within the current increasingly competitive and antagonistic narrative surrounding school improvement, school leaders are finding that these qualities are becoming harder to develop. As a key by product of your predecessors’ reforms have been heightened feelings of professional and emotional isolation. In such an environment school leaders struggle to form trusting relationships and feelings of connectedness and shared self worth diminish.   Yet the concerns of many hardworking Headteachers and the need for greater support for Heads appears to continue to fall on deaf ears and with this has come heightened feelings of professional and emotional isolation.   I ask you to listen to head teachers and school leaders, because if you did you would truly understand what it takes for our school...
How to Rebuild Your Leadership Confidence

How to Rebuild Your Leadership Confidence

    It’s an understatement to say that life as a school leader can be bruising. The impact of the responses of disgruntled staff, a poor OFSTED report, complaints from parents or conflict with governors can send even the most resilient of leaders into a downward mental spiral.   When negative events occur, your confidence can take at hit. You can begin to feel as though you are not up to the job for which you have been appointed. From my own experience working with school leaders, nothing can be further from the truth. Many, if not all, are still up to the role. It’s simply that they need to be reminded of their own power within and steps they can take to feel like their former, confident selves again.   If you are feeling at a bit of a low ebb now, because of events that you are facing as school leader, set a few minutes aside to read this short blog. See if you can identify at least one step that you can take to rebuild your leadership confidence again.   Step 1: Change your Habits   When we’re feeling low, we can get stuck in habits that were initially adopted to comfort us, but if overused, may actually inhibit our ability to grow our confidence and self-esteem. I knew of one school leader, who hid every time she saw a particularly vexatious member of staff heading along the corridor towards her.   At first, she did it because her thought process was, “I just don’t have the time to deal with her right now”. However, overtime,...
“Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope

“Why I still have hope for our Education System” – James Pope

This blog comes from former Headteacher of Marlwood School, and Director of InspirEducate, James Pope     As I write this it is a cool spring day during the Easter holidays and I am sat in my newly created office, carved out of a basement room at my home.  I imagine a collective professional mind, paused and taking breath, recharging the batteries, enjoying time with family, friends, perhaps sneaking in a holiday abroad or counting down the weeks until the summer one.   This holiday is an odd hiatus to the frenzied school year.  The majority of the year is done and yet the most pressurised period of time is still to come for students, their parents and school staff alike.  The time left is short and for that we are relieved, and yet the time left is short and for that we are not relieved – another example of the contradictory nature of school life in the 20teens.   For many it will be a period of reflection, looking for new jobs, promotion or a different challenge, finally deciding to take the plunge and retire – or just looking for a way out.   At the Headteacher’s Roundtable conference recently I spoke of the moment, just over a year ago, where, commuting to work, at the end of another testing term, the Basement Jaxx song ‘Where’s your head at?’ blasted out of the radio, the song rattling around my head like an earworm, as it has done for the most of the past 12 months.   So, it is a year since I spent Easter reflecting on that question...