Coaching & Leadership Development
The Evolving Role of an Executive Headteacher

The Evolving Role of an Executive Headteacher

  This article was written by former head of impact at NFER, Karen Wespieser.    What is an executive headteacher? Unlike the term “headteacher”, which is defined under section 35 and 36 of the Education Act 2002, there is currently no legal definition of what an “executive headteacher” (EHT) is or what they should do.   To understand better this emerging role at NFER, we looked at the application packs of leadership jobs advertised in the national press, as well as 12 in-depth case studies. Using this qualitative data we were able to investigate the duties and skills that distinguish the Executive Headteacher.   A Department for Education (DfE) definition considers that the “post of executive headteacher should be used for a headteacher who directly leads two or more schools in a federation or other partnership arrangement” (DfE, 2015). Our research largely supports this though we found that it does not wholly reflect the picture on the ground. In practice, EHTs can:   – Lead formal groups of schools (multi-academy trusts or federations). – Be the substantive leader of one school and have a contractual arrangement with one or more other schools (maybe on an interim basis). – Lead a school with more than one phase or site (that is, not necessarily two separate schools). – Have management responsibilities which go beyond that of a single phase school (such as managing a Teaching School Alliance).   It is therefore helpful to think of an Executive Headteachers as the strategic leader of more than one school or equivalent responsibility. It is a complex role that is deployed in a range of contexts and structures to address...
See the Light! – The Power of Story

See the Light! – The Power of Story

This blog comes from inspirational storyteller and “Education for the Soul” Conference keynote speaker, Kevin Graal.   Once upon a time the legendary wise fool Nasrudin was resting on a river bank, when somebody shouted to him from the opposite side: “Hey! How do I get across?”   Nasrudin shouted back: “You ARE across!”   Educational theories and statutory frameworks come and go. But one thing doesn’t change: school leaders and teachers are achieving miracles on a daily basis. They know what to do. They understand what needs to be done. They ARE across – despite the obstacles and external pressures put on them.   Once upon a time the nail said to the hammer:“Hey! Don’t hit me so hard.”   The hammer replied: “Hard? If only you knew how hard the carpenter is holding ME!”   Storytelling has an immense value in its own right – not just as a means of developing language skills or improving literacy. If we think of stories as merely a means to an end, we undervalue their true power and significance.   And just because a story isn’t true doesn’t mean it lacks truth. I never ever say, ‘Well it’s JUST a story.’ It’s MORE than a story!   The stories we tell each other have the power to change our lives.   But what about the stories we sometimes tell to ourselves? Like the one about not having this or that skill; about not being up to the task ahead; about being good at this but not at that; about being this or that kind of person – stories that can leave us feeling anxious...
The Inner Work of a School Leader

The Inner Work of a School Leader

This blog comes from International speaker, writer and “Education for the Soul” Conference keynote speaker, Mac Macartney.   Contained within the wisdom traditions of North America’s First Nation people are many teachings that relate directly to leadership. A central teaching is that of the Twin Trail.   Like so many other threads of wisdom emerging from indigenous peoples, the Twin Trail reflects a deep understanding of our human psychology. The Twin Trail refers to the inner life; that we all must attend to if we are to lead ourselves (and others) with integrity, authenticity and purpose.  It also speaks to our capacity as humans to make moral choices.   In a challenging encounter that I had with my First Nation mentors in 1998, the Twin Trail was described to me in this manner:      “We would not trust any leader who is not committed to the Twin Trail – the inner trail of self-understanding, self-unfolding and deepening; as this is a necessary companion for the outer trail.   The outer trail concerns how we show up as leaders. It is the barometer for the depth of our inner work. The Twin Trail of leadership is built upon the knowledge that very few humans can survive the accumulation of power without becoming corrupted by it.   Hubris is the greatest challenge of all successful leaders and it grows most powerful where there is no valuing of the inner trail. The outer trail, where our behaviours impact on the world is hugely important, but without the on-going wisdom path of the inner trail, both our conscious and unconscious endeavours, may not...
How Coaching Transforms Staff Performance in Schools

How Coaching Transforms Staff Performance in Schools

  The frustrations, pressures, and challenges teachers face test their self-esteem, energy and dedication every day. To preserve throughout their careers the vision with which the best of them started – to hold fast to the idea that the business they are in is that of setting minds on fire – is a heroic project. [Branden, 1994: 226] It is a project that all teachers and school leaders face, one that is about learning to bring out the best in themselves and others. It is a project that is as much about ensuring their pupils are emotionally intelligent, as it is about ensuring that they are numerate and literate.   It is about ensuring that they leave school with levels of emotional maturity and insight that will enable them to develop positive relationships with individuals from all walks of life. It is about a human quest where the prize should not just be a ranking on government league tables, but building generations of young people who possess a healthy sense of self- worth and belief in their own capabilities and potential, ready to stride forward and to make their own dreams reality.   Where do we begin?   For a school to realise its potential of being a place in which humanity is at its best, and by extension a place where all human beings flourish, a school has to be an emotionally healthy place where all adults within the community possess a positive sense of self and a robust emotional maturity. Yet sadly, we know this is very hard to achieve. Why? Because very few adults, leaders included,...
The 3 Signs of Toxic School Culture

The 3 Signs of Toxic School Culture

  Over the past few years, I’ve seen and heard the term “toxic school culture” or “toxic schools” being used to depict various situations in which there are qualities that negatively impact the performance, mental health or working environment in our schools.    It’s a term that is a source of great debate, as what qualifies as a “toxic school culture” to one teacher or school leader is so very much dependent on context and the personalities/people involved.   Having read some of the accounts from teachers and school leaders who have described their experiences of “toxic schools” and from my own experience in education, I would surmise that these experiences, are rarely caused by a wilful intent to toxify a school culture by any one party.   Rather they are a result of behaviours and habits (of staff and leaders alike) that left un-checked have become negative norms. Very often, initially, these behaviours and habits may not even be immediately obvious or even appear to be a huge problem.   However, in a delicate school ecosystem where emotions are contagious and behaviours can easily impact one another; these limiting behaviours, attitudes or habits can gradually become endemic and slowly hinder both staff performance and the culture of the school.   I am certain that in-spite of the stories that abound, the vast majority of teachers and school leaders do not want to either create or be a part of such cultures. So, what are the early warning signs and how can teachers and school leaders be better prepared to address them when they are in evidence?   There...
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...