Coaching & Leadership Development
Are our Schools Broken?

Are our Schools Broken?

  “There’s a crack in everything and that’s how the light gets in.”   This being the famous line from the Leonard Cohen song, “Anthem”   When we look at our schools today, many will argue as I have done, that there are cracks, that there are major fault lines across virtually all aspects of our education system and that that it is near to breaking point.   Yet increasingly, it would seem to me, that wherever there are cracks, there are lights, there are beacons of hope; individuals, groups and organisations who are daring to speak out, who are daring to come together to mend the cracks within our system.   These beacons of hope are asking such questions as:   – Is there another way? – How can we improve things? – What else can be done?   The Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, published by the Chartered College of Teaching at the start of the year, is in my opinion, one of these beacons of hope.   This documents’ raison d-etre is to provide a set of guiding principles for leaders in education, that can offer guidance on such questions as:   – How do we ensure that the language of values and virtues impacts our everyday decision making? – How can we ensure wisdom is modelled by leaders at the heart of our schools and colleges? – How can we revitalise the principles behind our daily work?   Working so closely as I do with school leaders, I know these are the right types of questions that we need to be asking of our...
Understanding & Managing Emotions – What I’ve Learnt

Understanding & Managing Emotions – What I’ve Learnt

This blog comes from an ex-secondary Headteacher, trainee therapist and “Education for the Soul” Conference workshop host, Tim Small.    I believe I have always been fairly sensitive to other people’s feelings.  This was confirmed once by completing the Myers Briggs Temperament Index.    Though I don’t regret it, this sensitivity made my job as a school leader more difficult, not easier, especially as I didn’t know as much about emotions then as I do now.   I see now that I was actually quite scared by very strong emotions in others, probably because, deep down, I was scared of some un-felt, un-processed emotions in myself.  I would therefore often take refuge either in rationalising or closing them down altogether.   However, through my TA psychotherapy training, I’ve learned that the purpose of emotions is to elicit understanding and evoke a response.  It’s how babies learn to survive.  How successfully we managed this in our infancy, with the vital involvement of our care-givers, will affect our attachment style (i.e. relationships) for life.   As we grow up, an essential aspect of growing into a healthy adult is learning to regulate our emotions: reflecting on them and expressing our authentic feelings safely and appropriately in the context.  This is not the served by suppressing them.   The four ‘primary emotions’, that we need to understand, regulate and express, are sadness, anger, joy and fear.   Sadness is usually about the past, involving loss of some kind.  Fear is about the future, concerning something about to happen, or something imagined.  (It is quite common knowledge that fear activates a neurological response that effectively...
Why our Schools Need Authentic Leaders

Why our Schools Need Authentic Leaders

  It truly saddens me to say this, but it is my belief that one of the unfortunate legacies of recent educational reform has been the fuelling of egocentric approaches to school improvement.   Government policy has enabled investment that has assisted the creation of personal power bases, rather than an education system in which all truly flourish.   For those heads and school leaders who have sought to maintain an altruistic approach to their roles, the constant question many have struggled with is; “How, within the current realities of the education system, can I maintain my original ideals and lead with true authenticity?”   The school leaders who ask this question are the brave and courageous ones. They are the ones who are prepared to do the ‘inner work’ of school leadership and ask the deep questions that will ensure that they remain rooted in their values and what they know to be true. They are the authentic leaders.   And, make no mistake, like never before, we need these authentic leaders. We need them at the helm of our schools for 3 key reasons:   1. Every child has the right to flourish   For this to be true our school leaders need to flourish. School leaders cannot and do not flourish when they are leading from a place that is a lesser version of their true/best self. It simply isn’t possible.   Within us all there is a desire to reach forward, to grow. However, when this is thwarted, whether through fear, the misuse of power, etc., individuals adopt behaviours that keep them and their aspirations...
The 4 Key Qualities of Authentic School Leaders

The 4 Key Qualities of Authentic School Leaders

  Recently, I’ve been considering one question that I believe is very important to our education system today…   What does it mean to be an authentic school leader?   My reflections on this question brought me to the work of author and authenticity expert, Brené Brown who defines it as “the choice to show up and be real, to be honest and let our true selves be seen”.   Yet as many school leaders often find and Brown points out, being authentic isn’t easy. It involves “choosing being real over being liked” and putting your True Self out to the world which can be both uncomfortable and daunting.   However, whilst there is a risk, there’s also a lot to gain. Brown explains that this authenticity is also crucial for building trust, believing in oneself, facilitating better communication and cultivating genuine human connection. Features which, I believe are vital in our schools as we seek to nurture within our children a healthy sense of what it means to be human.   In my time working with School Leaders, I’ve also witnessed first-hand the enormous difference greater authenticity can make to school leaders themselves; in terms of the decisions they make, the leader they have been able to become and the school cultures they’ve been able to create.   But what does an Authentic School Leader look like, what qualities would you expect to see?   Well, I believe there are four qualities that you will often find in an Authentic School Leader…   1. They are deeply connected to their passion and purpose   Authentic school leaders know themselves,...
What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

What happens when Headteachers drop the Leadership Mask?

If you are head teacher, then I am sure, this image will speak volumes to you! You know exactly what it takes each and every day to step into the role of Head teacher and enter a system that so often forgets that you are human. A system, which despite all the well-intentioned rhetoric, expects you to constantly withstand the ‘slings and arrows of outrageous fortune’. And, no matter how fast and furious they might be, requires that you always come out victorious, with an ever-present smile on your face.   However, I am sure you know as a Head, many a time life just isn’t like that. Those slings and arrows, whether from a colleague, an inspector, a parent or a Governor, can hurt. They can pierce the soul and leave you feeling utterly down-spirited and disheartened.   It is because of this fact and working closely as we do, with Head teachers, that we decided to host our termly Headteacher’s Nurture Meals. We wanted to do something, that clearly said to Head teachers,    ‘You are of value; you are of worth and you have the right to have your needs met’   We are always very clear in our purpose. This was designed not to be one of those Head teacher gathering where individuals met with their peers, but still felt the need to be to wear their leadership mask or suit of armour, for fear of being judged or criticised for anything that they might say. We wanted to make sure this was different.   Different…. But how? Well … we create a loose framework for discussion, but in the...
The 5 Characteristics of Great School Culture

The 5 Characteristics of Great School Culture

  Recently, we announced the launch of our latest cohort of our 4 Day Coaching Programme to Maximise School Performance.   In preparation for the programme, I have been reflecting on the features of school cultures that serve to grow adults and foster outstanding staff performance.   As I did so, I was reminded of research carried out by Stoll and Fink at the Institute of Education. Their research identified a number of school cultural norms that they cite as evidence for strong, positive school cultures.   They assert that if these norms are weak or non-existent within a school, then growth and development at both an individual and organisational level are severely hampered.   Out of the norms which they identified, I believe there are five that are essential, for creating genuine school cultures in which all adults and young people thrive.   As you read through these, I’d encourage you to reflect on each of the norms below and perhaps consider these questions:   – To what extent are these norms present in your school culture? – Which norms are strengths and would act as enablers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – Which norms are weaknesses/areas for development and might act as potential barriers for the development of a positive culture in your school? – What strategies could be developed for overcoming these barriers?   1. Shared Goals & Vision – We know where we’re going   When individuals are empowered to take ownership of their goals it can cause a shift in the culture of a school. As individuals learn how to work in alignment with the school’s vision and values, a new set of relationship...