2 years ago I was a DHT in London. I had resigned without a job to go to. This had initiated me moving into a role at Head Office leading Professional Learning for staff across 42 schools for a year before I left. It gave me head space to work out what the next move would be. I was being coached to recalibrate and to find my direction. I had just started my NPQH with Ambition School Leadership.
2 years on I am a Headteacher, I am an Executive Headteacher in fact as our 2nd school opens in September. I have led Aureus School for 4 terms: 1 term as an idea, 1 term as an empty building and 2 terms with a staff and student body.
2 years ago #womened was 1 year old, we are now about to turn 3 and have increased our reach to 18,000.
How things can change in a matter of time. In 2 years I have moved from frustrated and in conflict to feeling grounded and anchored. I have found my fit.
This weekend Ambition School Leadership launched their inaugural women only cohort for the NPQH in partnership with #womened and Leading Women’s Alliance. This weekend it was me delivering an after dinner speech about my leadership journey to headship, not me listening as a participant.
I am used to being the event organiser and host, doing the welcome and the housekeeping not the address. I am used to delivering assemblies with a screen so delivering ‘naked’ (clothes on but slides free!) after dinner was totally out of my comfort zone. Doing keynotes is my #10%braver challenge, it is me modelling that you need to Lean In and step beyond your comfort zone. It is me living my conviction that you say yes and you work it out later. It is me showing that you make mistakes and you learn from them, the more I do them, the more confident and comfortable I will become in the public speaking space.
I only had 15 mins to share my thoughts, reflections and advice so I did not go into detail about my leadership journey, although it would have reassured many in the room that I have had my fair share of rough seas to navigate through, they can read about this on my blog.
Instead I shared my journey to headship. I reflected on the power I have drawn from the #womened community. Both Kate and I addressed some of the barriers that women leading in education experience. The imposter syndrome, the inner critic, the fear of failure.
As well as the barriers we reflected on the crowd-sourced solutions. We both shared what could have held us back and how we pushed ourselves forward. I can remember the first time I met Kate at our inaugural #womened unconference, she spoke about the ‘taps on the shoulder’ that women need. I have been fortunate to have had peers and line managers who have tapped me, and I in turn nudge others on.
After the speeches I joined Karen Giles and her dinner table – we reflected on women who work silently and do not promote their work. I shared with them the article I had read about the strategy the women in the White House use – the illumination technique – which they came up with to amplify the ideas and work of others to ensure that credit was attributed to the owner.
Lack of role models and the absence of a support network can hold some women in education back. Part of my motivation for co-founding #womened was to find my tribe. My source of inspiration in giving so much of my time and energy to our gender equality movement over the last 3 years has been the contacts that I have made. I am surrounded by strong women, by brilliant role models, by inspiring women leading in education.
The power I have drawn from the #womened community, together with the skills and experience I gained from my NPQH with ASL, enabled me to be empowered in finding the right headship for me to be my authentic self. Following many years of school improvement in turn around schools, a start up school was a new challenge. The blank page gave us the opportunity to co-create a forward-thinking school.
The combination of all of these experience and opportunities over the last 2 years led to me being involved in initiating and steering the women’s only NPQH pathway. Had I not have been outward-facing, I would not have met these amazing women.
My motivation for contributing to and supporting this bespoke programme is the opportunity to create a ‘safe space’. There was a sense of urgency in the room that we need to change the system. There was a sense of agency in the room that these women would be the changemakers to #pressforprogress.
My final plea to them all was that when they secured their 1st headship that they would negotiate, that they would challenge the pay gap and ask for what they need, that they would hold on to their power and not give it away before they had even started.
What I did not have time to share was my recommended reading, so here it is:
This weekend there was a palpable energy in the room. Magic was being created before our eyes by the wise women sculpting the residential – facilitators Carol Jones and Karen Giles, superbly supported by ASL programme leaders Deb Fisher and Abi Brown. Thank you for being Wonder Women.
I am really excited to see what the future holds for all of the participants.
Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher
Currently feeling hopeful about:
- 31 future female Headteachers who will be leading our schools in the future including our 2 DHTs at Aureus School Julie Hunter and Bennie Kara
Currently reading and thinking about:
- We are all starting Leadership Matters as our summer read for the team at Aureus
Currently feeling grateful for:
- Ambition School Leadership for curating the women’s only cohort launch – especially Deb Fish and Abi Brown
- Melanie Renowden and Kate Chhatwal for initiating the bid for a women’s only cohort for NPQH
- The partnership between Ambition School Leadership, Leading Women’s Alliance and WomenEd
- Carol Jones and Karen Giles for facilitating the inaugural residential for this very special launch cohort of the women only NPQH