Collaboration Matters: Stronger Together

Collaboration is one of our 8 #WomenEd values and is the theme for our 4th Unconference, it sums up everything our community stands for.

Bennie, my DHT, recommended (before we worked together) that I should read The Bees by Laline Paul  and she was right as it really resonated with me and how our community works. We often make reference to the ‘hive mind’ and crowd source advice and ideas from the community.

Working collaboratively has characterised my career, it has brought me a lot of joy and opened a lot of doors for me, but when things have not been collaborative it has also caused stress for me. As leaders we need to know what our own trigger points are and people who are Queen Bees and those who work in a territorial way frustrate me.

For me collaboration is about removing barriers, finding solutions to problems, sharing the workload, sharing best practice, networking, being outward facing and connecting people, ideas and projects together. Collaboration is about being part of a team, about being part of something bigger than yourself and about seeing the bigger picture but understanding how you can contribute to a shared vision and team goal.

In a time when our profession is fragmented, collaboration builds the bridges between different groups of educators. I am often that bridge builder or as Ben at Leadership Matters has called me several times I am what  Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point calls ‘The Connector’:

Connectors: “…people who link us up with the world,  who introduce us to our social circles – … people on whom we rely on more heavily than we realize – are Connectors, people with a very special gift of bringing people together.”

Connectors are fantastic at expanding your network. They will say things like:

“Oh you should talk to …”       “Have you heard about…”     “Let me introduce you to ..”

They think in nodes, not individuals, and like nothing more than to help you.  They see people first. 

Connectors have the power to spark word-of-mouth epidemics.

In other groups I am just called ‘Cilla’ as I pretty much run a free introduction service and should be on a retainer or commission for recruiting for other schools! I encourage others to be outward-facing, to network, to push out of their comfort zone and to nurture relationships with fellow professionals.

#WomenEd is that safe space for collaborations to be sown and to grow; #WomenEd is the glue that holds the jigsaw pieces pieces together.

It is great watching the Regional Leaders extend our networks, I work closely with 25 educators in the East and West Mids who are a joy to collaborate with. There is a real buzz about our activity together.

 

Some ways in which I have developed collaborations as a school leader are detailed below.

Internally face-to-face:

  • Cross-curricular projects – our STEAM team are creating some magic!
  • Cross-phase projects – our primary and secondary sibling schools
  • Leadership development – our Lead Practitioner and Spirals of Enquiry Model has been a great opportunity to collaborate
  • Cross-MAT projects – we have lots of subject networks growing across GLF Schools

Internally virtual:

  • Team drives on Google – are forging collaboration within teams

Externally face to face:

  • Local and regional partnerships of Headteachers – Didcot Headteachers collaborate on local projects, Oxfordshire Headteachers have a primary and a secondary network with annual conferences
  • GLF TSA partners – we work closely with a number of partners like VBE, SSAT and Whole Education
  • STEAM collaborations – one of our most exciting growth areas – links with STEM providers and Arts organisations enrich our curriculum
  • Cross Regional Networks – our Mental Health and Wellbeing Network has been nominated for a local community award, all funded by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust
  • National networks  like The Chartered College of Teaching enrich our Professional Learning offer
  • Cross sector networks like RSA give us perspective and links to the wider community

Externally virtual:

  • Twitter – we are slowly getting our new team on there
  • LinkedIn – we are constantly talent spotting and recruiting for the future
  • Grassroots networks – where would we be without #womened #bameed #lgbted and #disabilityed

So our challenge is to encourage those who are connected and collaborating virtually to move in the light and meet each other face to face, to strengthen those professional friendships and to take their collaborations to the next level.

We really hope that lots of the #WomenEd community who following us on Twitter book to join us on 6/10 and move those virtual connections to real time collaborations. The community will warmly welcome you – anyone who works in education, any role, any gender, any background – there really is something for everyone. Check out our event details here.

 

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The relationships I have fostered which are leading to interesting collaborations for me  and exciting collaborations for our extended teams at our Aureus sibling schools.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have written a chapter for Matt Pinkett’s book on Masculinity and I  am reviewing The Unexpected Leader by Iesha Small.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My acupuncturist who has squeezed me in on a Sunday.
  • The WM and EM #WomenEd Regional Leaders who are working together in a brilliant collaboration.

Feeling Blessed: Sibling Schools

It has been a FAB-U-LOUS start to the new academic year.

Being the founding headteacher opening a new secondary school was an exciting prospect last September. Our first year at Aureus School was full on but fantastic. We established lots, we achieved lots, we learnt lots. This September we have opened our new primary school. Our sibling school Aureus Primary School. We are just as excited a year on, opening our second school, but we are calmer, as we have a reference point for lots of the newness to build on from last year.

As an English teacher, who encourages learners to interpret the pathetic fallacy in texts, it has felt appropriate that the sun has been shining on us all week.

So Monday 3rd September was a memorable day as our Aureus team grew from 25 to 70. We can no longer fit our team into the community room nor the library for  training sessions and meetings. We now need to use the main hall to fit everyone in.

The scale up has been significant. Recruiting 45 new team members means that we interviewed in excess of 220 candidates last year. We have been inundated with applications for roles, when we long list we keep our talent pool interested in Year 2,3, opportunities as well as the live vacancies. When we shortlist we usually interview 4 candidates for operations and 6 for teaching roles. We have appointed a fantastic team and have still only paid for 3 adverts out of our 70 roles! All of the money saved goes into the staff professional learning budget. We take PLD very seriously, we are committed to our staff being life long learners.

So this year we have 17 team members based at Aureus Primary School and 53 team members based at Aureus School, but many of them are doing specialist operations roles across the two schools, such as Finance, Admissions, Catering and Site. Longer term we will have teaching roles across both schools too. As I shared the numbers of student and staff numbers over the next five years, as we grow from 25 staff and 120 students to 200+ staff and 1600+ children, I took a few deep breaths.

We spent out first day together reflecting on our values, discussing how they shape our culture and ethos, sharing how we can work together as a team on providing a holistic, values-based education for our 2-16 learners. The GLF Schools MAT is an extended family of schools, we celebrate our individuality but share our mission for education that enables our communities to grow, learn and flourish. Our Aureus Schools are siblings,  we will share our vision and values but we will interpret and embody them in a personalised way. We are not an all-through school  as we are on two sites, a 10 min walk/ 5 min drive apart, but we will come together for community events and once we have KS2 we will be able to collaborate more on the curriculum.

There has been a palpable nervous energy in  both schools all week. The 45 new staff have been understandably nervous getting their heads around new roles, new systems, new faces and a new culture. The founding team, our trail blazers have also been nervous as our small bubble, our intimate team dynamic, has changed. Everyone has a lot of change to manage, so we have taken a few moments to reflect on this.

As we welcomed our 210 Year 7s (our Class of 2023) to Aureus School on Wednesday our school began to fill busy. For those of who have come from large urban secondary schools, it began to fill like a ‘proper’ school! As we welcomed our 120 Year 8s (our Class of 2022) back on Thursday, they too were feeling apprehensive: who were all of these small people invading their space? We all have a lot of adjusting to do! My welcome back assemblies invited our learners to reflect on their Hopes, their Dreams and their Fears. We acknowledged the fact that everyone is feeling a myriad of feelings and that is okay.

Whilst the secondary team adjusted to having triple the students and double the staff in the building, the primary team spent the week in training: a new assessment system, a new phonics programme, a whole school singing curriculum. The team bonded before my eyes, the school came to life as resources were unpacked and classrooms were prepared. On Thursday Sue Webb joined us from VBE to scope the teams values. As I dipped in and out of the session emotions were high and relationships were strengthened as the team met each other with their core values, their shared vision and their collective mission.

Everyone on our Aureus team is on the same bus, heading in the same direction. A values-based recruitment process has enabled us to attract and recruit a team who are passionate about a holistic, inclusive education model. As I sat in on training sessions and meetings, I heard our values reflected back to me, I heard our shared language used, unprompted. The time and energy we have invested in our culture and ethos makes the strategy easier to implement as our why and our what is clear, it is just the how that will evolve.

fab teams

In September, our value of the month is Wellbeing, we will nurture the students, the staff and the parents through the stress points of the transition into a new school, a new year group and a new role. Mindfulness is a core part of the inner curriculum at both schools. At the secondary 360 students will do a carousel of activities each morning to mentally and emotionally prepare them for learning, at the primary 110 pupils will have a micro mindfulness session at the start of each learning session, settling them as the come into the classroom from break, lunch and playing outside.

Friday was our history-making, legacy-building moment at Aureus Primary School as we formally welcomed our Reception, Year 1 and 2 pupils in to their new school for the first time. As parents, carers and pupils lined up outside our stunning new school to sign in, I smiled at the pride our pupils had in our lovely school uniform, I welled up at the beaming faces radiating their joy at joining us. I think there were more tears (of joy) from our team than there were from the children and their parents!  The pupils settled quickly into their new learning environment as their parents and carers settled their nerves with a cup of tea in the school hall.

More shared team training mid-week saw Ann Marie Christian joining us for a hard-hitting safeguarding session and our week ended with Mike Armiger from Pivotal Education delivering a dynamic session on our restorative culture with relentless compassion at its core. Our staff had spent their first week with us and had met our pupils so they could now reflect on how our values come to life in how we interact with our stakeholders, how we model our values and nurture hearts and minds, how we embody our high expectations and deliver our challenging curriculum in a holistic way.

aristotle

Our first week as Aureus sibling schools was a whirlwind of activity – I met myself travelling between the two schools on several occasions and I left stuff at the wrong school/ on the wrong desk more than once but that is the change for me to get my head around, how I clone myself to support two teams, how I split my time and attention to nurture both schools. This year the plan is that I will be spending a half day at each school each day so that my presence is felt and I am a constant in both schools.   Once we settle into the routine of our working days and weeks I will review this in discussion with my four Deputy Headteachers.

So I am feeling blessed. Blessed for the opportunity to be an Executive Headteacher, blessed to now be a primary school leader after leading in secondary schools for 14 of my 15 year career, blessed to have recruited a brilliant team, blessed to have attracted a parent body who are as passionate about a holistic, values-based STEAM education as we all are!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Year 2 of Aureus School and a bigger operations team to support the growing teaching team in embedding our routines and systems.
  • Year 1 of Aureus Primary School and nurturing the hearts and minds of our 2 year olds who will hopefully one day become our 16 year olds and amazing Aureus Ambassadors who are values-led global citizens.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Our new staff will be reading From the Heart by Dr Neil Hawkes this month, our trailblazing team will be reading High Challenge, Low Threat by Mary Myatt and I am going to proposed to our Aureus Leadership Team that we read Legacy by James Kerr.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The brilliant training from Ann Marie, Sue (VBE), Jo (Voices), Natalie (GLF), Gareth (RWI) and Mike (Pivotal).
  • The patience of our team as we navigate start of term issues with IT and orders!
  • My fabulous PA, Zoe, who has kept the plates spinning this week, across two sites!
  • Our brilliant Deputy Headteachers, Nicola, Kate, Bennie and Julie who are swans gliding through any chaos and keeping the calm at both schools.

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Messages from the Heart: Volunteering in Mozambique with Action Aid

We got back from Mozambique on Wednesday and it has taken a few days to catch up on ourselves and process our experience as volunteers. It is really hard to put into words how profound our trip was. It is a bit like trying to capture a picture of a beautiful sunset/ sunrise when you know the image is not going to do that moment true justice.

The opening ceremony was a full community welcome to the Condlana Primary School. As our minibus bounced down the sandy road, we could see a crowd and a group of children stood up and stepped forwards with their Choir Director. They started singing and I felt my heart pound and my eyes fill before I had even climbed off of the bus! It was also hard to get off of the bus as we were swamped by everyone eagerly wanting to welcome us with a smile and a high 5.

Community 2

The whole school and the local community had come out to see us to put on a welcome ceremony, on a Sunday afternoon, to bless the building site and project before we started the next day. We were treated to songs from the pupils, speeches from the community officials, a theatre performance from the school’s girl leadership group, and dancing from the local community. Which of course we were obliged to join in with!

Community 1

Seeing the reality for ourselves for the first time, emphasised why we were there. The school serves 450 pupils. The school has 3 classrooms. The pupils attend school in shifts, morning or afternoon sessions, or are taught outside, under the trees on the school grounds. Our fundraising and volunteering would create 2 new classrooms for the school and the community to use. More space than they currently have but still not enough in reality. Mozambique is by far the poorest African country  I have visited and the reality of how little resources the community have was stark.

We could really see and feel the difference the classrooms would make to the children and the community. We felt the pressure to rise to the challenge and do our best for them in the short time we had there. We also felt compelled to fully invest in this community and not just donate some money and leave.

Before we could start the building work we needed to pay our respects to the stakeholders invested in the project so we  visited the Action Aid Mozambique office to meet the team and went to the District Governor’s office, where we learnt about the challenges they face in the district where their budgets dictate their teacher training and deployment, where they are handcuffed by the state over school expansion, repairs and resourcing. Education is valued, but not prioritised. They expressed their sincere thanks to our team for helping to provide a better education for the children in the district.

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We could then finally head to the school site and start the building work. Our first job was digging trenches and flattening where the classroom floor will go. We also spotted the school farm/ garden area which was a patch of wilderness and we decided to help tame that by clearing the surrounding area and defining the boundary.  Our enthusiasm, spirits and energy were high and we could quickly see the fruits of our labour begin to take shape.

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As the week progressed we moved from digging and hoeing to metal work to create the supporting structures that would be concreted in to create the shape of the building and to reinforce the supporting walls. Everything was done by hand, everything was moved by hand. We developed lots of new practical skills and found muscles we did not even know we had!

It is fair to say that nothing is easy in this context, in this climate. As a team we moved truck loads of breeze blocks, sand, stones, water and concrete back and forth across the site in buckets, wheel barrows and by hand. As we did this the locals watched and followed, we communicated with smiles and hand gestures as they had no English and we had no Portugese! Despite this we operated as one team. It is funny how relationships and friendships can be built through eye contact and facial expressions alone. There was laughter, a lot of laughter, as the local women with babies tidied to their backs in a cloth, carried more water on their heads than we could carry in a bucket in two hands!  And yes we did the obligatory try and carry water on our heads in a bucket!

 

Moreover, everything we did had an audience, as the children who were not in lessons shyly observed our every move. They grew in confidence and were desperate to help us. Again with no language, through modelling, they quickly understood what we needed and would help us collect sticks for the fence, stones for weights. They were keen to be involved, eager to please and followed our every move. Every time I turned around from doing a task, a support group of smiley faces and helping hands would appear.

The school site was littered with debris, as there is no bin collection in this area and there are no school bins, litter is a real issue throughout the country in fact. We wanted the school community to take pride in their space, so we started a litter pick. A few of us started it quietly, quickly filling bags up with food wrappers, broken glass, decaying fruit and ripped sheets from old school books. The word spread and a large group of children came running, picking up bin bags, buckets and wheel barrows, keen to help us. In less than an hour we had filled 20+ bags. The smiles on their faces as we high-fived them all to say well done and good job really touched us. As we went to take a water break, the litter picking continued in our absence and the new game became one of them being the teacher high-fiving everyone saying “good job” which made us smile.

Cement mixing to form concrete for the next layer of the floor became the next mammoth task before we could start building the walls and really see the classrooms coming together. The team of local builders said with 20 extra pairs of hands that they achieved in a week what they would have achieved in a few months. As you can imagine when they heard they had a group of 20 women coming to help them build they were a little bit alarmed, but we showed them how tenacious and hard working we are.

We might not have been skilled and we might have lacked experience on a building site but we made up for it in enthusiasm and energy! There was no whingeing from the team, no-one gave up, the resilience and the ‘can do’ attitude was testament to what a brilliant group of volunteers we had.  If anything Ant, our building project lead, a volunteer from the UK had to keep telling us to pace ourselves and take a break. We applied ourselves as we do in our schools, making every minute matter!

Alongside the building work there were also opportunities to connect with the community and understand more about the challenges they face as children and as adults. We sat in on lessons, we met the Girls’ Leadership Group, we met the local teachers and we met the Women’s Reflection Circle. It was meeting 35 adults who walk 3-7km once a week for Literacy lessons that really moved me. They were so grateful for our support in expanding the school site. Before they started the adult classes, they could not read and write to the extent that they could not catch a  bus as they did not know the destination and they could not sign paperwork. Over the 2/3 year programme they had closed the gap on the skills they had missed out on at school.

In Mozambique only 40% of children stay on for secondary school and only 10% of the country are employed. The local Women’s Circle shared their gratitude in improving the life changes for them and their families. This safe space enables to them to support each other through issues of domestic violence and learning literacy.

They were keen to show us their new skills. As they stood up and moved into a circle around the black board, they broke into song. They sang a beautiful harmony together as they passed the chalk between them and came to the board to show us they could now write. It is moments like this that we will not forget. It is moments like this that donating money to a charity without seeing how it will be spent and without appreciating the impact it has on the lives on others does not capture. It really made us realise the wider impact the classroom build will have on the wider community.

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The song was poignant and uplifting, so with tears in our eyes we went back to continue our work on the school site. The classroom walls finally began to take shape and we saw the building rise above ground level! We took it in turns joining the mortaring team to cement the gaps between the breeze blocks.

As the school’s classrooms progressed we also finished off sourcing and creating 90 meters of fencing around the school garden we had rejuvenated for the community. We planted maize, peanuts and cassava with the help of the local women.  We are proud of what we have achieved, but we are also conscious that we are just scratching the surface of the external support that this community needs.

The farewell ceremony from the community was emotional to say the least. We had arrived as a group of strangers, to do our bit, we were leaving as a team of friends, with a special place in our hearts for this humble village community in southern Mozambique. Maria, the headteacher and her school community, showed their gratitude to us through singing and dancing. The speeches from each community stakeholder group were moving. Our translator explained the heart felt thanks. The “messages from the heart” of each person who spoke heightened the emotion in the community circle, under the trees, beside our build. A teacher representative thanked us for working shoulder to shoulder as equals with the community. A community representative thanked us for not “bringing fish, but bringing fishing rods and for teaching us how to fish”. The impact of us getting our hands dirty, of teachers giving up their summer holidays, of mothers leaving their children behind to volunteer were sincerely appreciated. The legacy we had co-created was the beginning, not the end of our collaboration.

Nancy impressed everyone by learning a few words of Portugese to articulate our gratitude for the  warm welcome we had received. We then handed over our gifts of books, pens and pencils, balls. Basic school resources for us that would be treasured in their community.  Our final gift as a group was to sing. Overnight we had learnt the lyrics and the tune to ‘Lean On Me’ to perform to them in exchange for their singing and dancing for us. We gave it everything we had and sang our hearts out –  we stood and took our applause with smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes. Apparently there is video footage which we are yet to see/ hear!!

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The women of the community then gifted us all beautifully patterned wraps, which they dressed us in to sing us and dance us off to our bus to much hilarity from everyone!

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Following the closing ceremony we headed to Maputo for our final night together, and we were joined for dinner by staff from Action Aid Mozambique and the local partner Nadec. I had been too emotional on our last night in Bilene to give a speech but had promised Jill and Nancy I would say a few words after dinner. I emotionally thanked everyone for joining us on this project. When we talk about being #10%braver in the #WomenEd community this experience and journey has been more like being #100%braver for some of our group. Many of our team were totally out of their comfort zone flying alone, fundraising a large sum of money, leaving their families at home,  travelling with strangers, using a hoe/ shovel/ trowel, singing in public, eating local cuisine to name just a few of the experiences and challenges each person faced.

#10%prouder does not really encapsulate what a wonderful group of friends we have made, what brilliant memories we have made, but more importantly what a significant impact we have made on another community. We are already talking about arranging a return visit in summer 2020 so watch this space.  If you are interested in potentially joining us send me an email to wilsonh@glfschools.org and we will be in touch once we know whether it is possible to develop the connections we have made.

So a big thank you to everyone who has supported us and this project – your generosity has really helped this community. Action Aid are a brilliant charity and the work they are doing for girls’ education globally, but for us in Mozambique is significant, but it is going to take a lot of time, energy and resources to maximise their impact. We are going to continue our fundraising to ensure these classrooms are resourced and that future projects are full funded. A family in Mozambique lives on 90p a day, any contributions would be gratefully received here.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The difference that charities like Action Aid make.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I read my first fiction book in a very long time this summer – the new Dorothy Koomson.
  • I still have a pile of EduBooks to read once my head is back in work mode!

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The generosity of the volunteers who gave up time and energy to help the building project.
  • The support of our PLN who donated to fund the project.

Breaking the Mould: Creating Your Fit

Wow!

I knew the #WomenEd Breaking the Mould event was just what I needed to top up my energy reserves for the last two weeks of a long first year as the founding Headteacher of a start up school, but the speakers today have been beyond inspirational. What a amazing network of #WomenEd role models we have to draw strength from? I feel privileged to listen to, to know and to be friends with such wonderful women.

Our why for this event?

When Debra Rutley, Alison Rooney, Cecilia Payton, Charlotte Bishop and I met to discuss the needs of WLIE SE (we are mobilising the troops in Berks, Bucks and Oxon) we wanted to do an event about leading differently and finding our fit. The title Breaking the Mould provoked us to consider how we are confined and defined by others.

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In my opening I asked everyone to share why they had joined us in 30+ degrees heat at the end of a long and full on year. Why many of them had travelled from London, Suffolk, Wales, Leeds and Scotland! I shared my why of needing time to reflect, to re-calibrate and to re-energise. It was only a shame that Bennie and Julie, our DHTs at Aureus were unable to join us as it clashed with the #WomenEd NPQH dates as they would have got a lot out of it too.

Our 8 Cs were embodied and personified by our 8 speakers. 8 women who have broken a mould, their mould, in different ways, for different reasons. The diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives of each women built on the narratives to create a toolkit of self-worth, authenticity, conviction and integrity.

Earlier in the week we had received some flack – ‘breaking the mould’ to some suggested we had created a perfect version and the model was now being broken. To the contrast, we are breaking out of the mould to create unique forms, not cookie cutter leaders. As Germaine Greer says “women should not be wedging themselves into man-shaped holes but creating woman-shaped holes to fill instead!”

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Each speaker was humble and many struggled to own the word ‘leader’. Without a job title with leader in it, without the office sign/ parking space/ business card confirming positions in a hierarchical structure, the traditional concept of leadership can be a hard label to own. But our event was exploring the idea of leading differently, how we can extend our reach and influence others, how we are vision and though leaders in a messy educational landscape.

Our Part 1 speakers and my live notes from their thought pieces:

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Jaz Ampaw-Farr:

“I broke the mould by embracing vulnerability”.

  • Know and articulate your why.
  • Change your perspective.
  • Reclaim what is there.
  • Step into your vulnerability.
  • Tell your truth.
  • Embrace your authentic self.
  • Be comfortable, not confident!

Rae Snape:

“I broke the mould by using the resources I had”.

  • Use your imagination.
  • Be creative.
  • Use what your have.
  • “Know stuff!”
  • Do and learn the things they do not teach you on the NPQH!
  • Break the mould yourself, noone will do it for you.
  • Look for your resources in the community.
  • Be the person who taps people on the shoulder, the person who passes the baton on to others.

Lee Ryman:

“I broke the mould by opening my own school”.

  • Be innovative and creative.
  • Be resourceful and resilient.
  • Be courageous.
  • Be mutually respectful.
  • Be the change you want to see.

Debra Kidd:

“I broke the mould because I didn’t know how to fit in”.

  • Connect with one another, we need to create these spaces.
  • Embrace our vulnerability, we need to push ourselves beyond our comfort zone.
  • Take off our masks.
  • Call yourself a leader.
  • Be a thought and vision leader.
  • Embrace that walking away is also breaking the mould.
  • Exist in a rhizomatic structure – see our career paths differently and carve different routes to progress.

By lunch time there was a palpable buzz in the room as people connected, reflected, discussed and started sharing their stories.

Our Part 2 speakers and my live notes from their thought pieces:

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Alison Kriel:

“I broke the mould by choosing to be me”.

  • Embrace and share who you truly are: Who I am? Who did I choose to be?
  • Alison: “I am quiet, I am sensitive, I am introverted. I value freedom, inclusion, equality. I inherited breaking the mould from my family”.
  • Re-mould our world and how we see it.
  • Re-mould how we accept each other.
  • Be the teacher you wanted to have as a child.
  • Invite those who are opposite to you in.
  • Give licence to be different and to do things differently.
  • Be whole.
  • Be courageous.
  • We need to be us, we need to know ourselves, we need to stay true to our values, we need to make ourselves a promise, we need to be true to ourselves.

Paulina Tervo:

“I broke the mould by fighting my fears”.

  • “I am a documentary film maker, not an educationalist”.
  • Broke the mould by co-founding an edtech organisation.
  • Do not take No for answer.
  • Pick yourself up when you fail/ when you are rejected/when you are undermined for being a woman in a male dominated industry/ when you are ignored as a woman.
  • Take the rough with the smooth.
  • Challenge your preconceptions as they are based on fear and social conformity.
  • Find your role models.

Carly Waterman:

“I broke the mould by doing what no-one expected me to do”.

  • Tune in to and listen to your inner voice.
  • Is it loud? Is it positive? Is it helpful?
  • Your inner voice will change as you evolve: “I turned 40, I had my 2 children, I had spent 9 years at the same school, my voice began to chip away at me”.
  • Reflect and tune in to what it is saying: “I was surviving,  I had become narrow, I was inward facing”.
  • Be aware that your inner voice will be filtered by the fear that your dream is not going to be realised.
  • Take a risk, take a leap of faith.
  • Control your inner voice.
  • Follow your own path.
  • Tell “Doris to do one!”
  • Do not let our inner voices de-rail us!

Mary Myatt:

“I broke the mould by concentrating.”

  • “I have never had an inner voice, I have a mother who does that for me!”
  • “I have not broken any moulds, I am on the edge of the next big adventure”.
  • Never look for an easy life, seek an interesting life.
  • Nurture your concentration.
  • See your work as a gift, as a way of escaping grief and pain.
  • Be robust and  be kind at the same time.
  • Be a human being first, and a professional second.

We need to show up, we need to look up, we need to speak up, we need to team up, we need to never give up, we need to lift others up.

What an amazing day it has been.  It has been a privilege. A big thank you to this wonderful group of women for going naked and bearing their souls with us!

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We asked everyone to make a pledge, a commitment to themselves about what they were going to do differently as a consequence  of attending.

What will your gift to the world be? What is the universe telling you?

If we are going to change the world, we need to be the change we want to see.

 

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Blogs from the #WomenEd community who were in the room: Lena, Freya, Kiran

Blogs from the #WomenEd who were following from afar: Lisa 

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The opportunity #WomenEd has to break the mould, change the mould and shape the future.
  • The remarkable women who came, who connected and who will collaborate.
  • We have already pledged to run it again next year and mentor others to share their stories of leading differently.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The blogs that have started being written of the personal epiphanies yesterday has triggered.
  • I am reviewing Wholesome Leadership by Tom Rees for TES.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The 8 Wonder Women who have joined us to share their stories for breaking the mould to inspire, empower and motivate our #WomenEd community  – I love you all dearly and have so much respect for each of you as humans and as professionals.

Leading Beyond the School Gates: Liminal Leadership

Yesterday, at our #WomenEd Festival of Leadership at Warwick University, I co-facilitated a session on Leading Beyond the School Gates with Annemarie Williams, one of our #WomenEd East Midlands Regional Leaders and someone who has become a very good friend. Annemarie gets all the credit for planning a brilliant session as it fell off of my to do list this week!

We have dubbed ourselves ‘Wilson and Williams’ as we have started co-planning and co-delivering workshops on things we are passionate about as we are on the same page about education. Annemarie is a primary CEO and I am a secondary Headteacher, we are both values-led in our approaches. We both believe in authenticity and are committed to being ethical leaders, guided by our moral compasses.

We are both passionate about is the opportunities to lead beyond school, in our communities, which develop leadership skills which can be brought back in to our schools and our classrooms. These liminal leadership opportunities are often forgotten about or not given the value and the status on our CVs, in our applications and in our interviews that they should be.

Our group’s opening reflections and discussions about what ‘Leading Beyond the School Gates’ threw up some interesting points. We talked a lot about being human in our leadership, about the hierarchies in some of our schools and the stakeholder engagement needed by school leaders.

Below are some of the things we discussed and the questions we used to frame the discussion for your consideration.

Great Leaders Make Great Schools – what is the impact of this on leaders?

  • Vision and values – moral purpose, define the mission for all
  • Exceptional leadership – learning focused, accountable, inspiring
  • Ethic of excellence  – high expectations for all
  • Pedagogy – the craft of teaching and learning
  • Culture  – teamwork and collaboration
  • Outward facing – research, collaboration, a culture of learning, innovation
  • Joy – the enjoyment and buzz of learning, should be tangible

What is your WHY of leadership?

Simon Sinek’s ‘Start With Why’ is a book I keep going back to. We need to be articulate our why for being a teacher but also our why for stepping up to lead. The first hurdle is owning the fact that you are a leader. I anticipated that some of the people in our room did not see themselves as leaders, by the end our session they could articulate that they were leaders as they are influencing others.

Considering Servant Leadership we discussed the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats of this leadership style.

The concept of servant leadership is one that is both seductive and dangerous. The phrase “servant leadership” was coined by Robert K. Greenleaf in The Servant as Leader, an essay that he first published in 1970. In that essay, Greenleaf said:

“The servant-leader is servant first… It begins with the natural feeling that one wants to serve, to serve first. Then conscious choice brings one to aspire to lead”.

Servant leaders focus on the needs of the organisation and the communities they serve first and foremost and on developing the people within the organisation for the greater good of the whole community.

We framed our perspective as educators who have become leaders and who have used external opportunities to develop our leadership qualities, but we also shared our perspectives as recruiters, who assess candidates for what they can bring to our schools.

What other ways are there to grow as  leader?

We shared what we are passionate about, things we have done to go above and beyond outside of school and more importantly how  we can use these liminal leadership opportunities as evidence of our leadership skills.

Volunteering:

I am a School Governor, a MAT Trustee, a DFE Coach and the National Leader of #WomenEd.

Travel:

I have participated in Camp America, Raleigh International and LRTT.

Community Projects:

I am going to Mozambique with Action Aid this year.

Challenges:

Coaching has helped me overcome personal and professional challenges, which have also developed by emotional resilience.

Self-Study Courses:

I love attending, speaking at and hosting grassroots CPD. #Teachmeets, #Leadmeets and #Coachmeets have deepened by passion and my knowledge of educational leadership over the last few years.

Reading and Research:

Our school bookclub, our @WomenEdBookClub and Twitter chats like #SLTchat have helped to shape my thinking.

What is the Impact?

  • Demonstrates how you walk and talk your values
  • Opportunities to develop transferable skills such as creativity, communication and relationship building, planning and project management, problem solving etc
  • Brings new learning, content and perspective
  • Helps build future connections and relationships
  • Scientific studies show that helping others boosts happiness. It increases life satisfaction, provides a sense of meaning, increases feelings of competence, improves our mood and reduced stress.

Annemarie then made the link between community leadership, the qualities we develop and how this links to the future of  careers and employability:

The World Economic Forum recently published “The Future of Jobs” outlining the skills that will be most needed by 2020, and guess what? Social skills are leading the way. In a world where technology seems to be king and the power of social media is ever growing, it is our human connectivity and ability to build relationships, will decide who is ready for the new world.

“Overall, social skills such as persuasion, emotional intelligence and teaching others will be in higher demand across industries than narrow technical skills.”

What did we learn? How did we grow as a leaders?

  • That transferable skills can be developed anywhere, any time
  • That failure can be the stepping stone to a new pathway
  • That resilience can be developed

So we ask you to reflect and consider:

What are the experiences that have shaped you as a leader?

What are the possible new development opportunities you have yet to explore?

And more importantly, how will you harness these leadership opportunities, how will you capture them in your applications and how will you evidence they impact they have had on your leadership development?

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

On behalf of Wilson and Williams, coming to an EduEvent near you soon!

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • More people recognising that leading beyond our school gates, leading in liminal spaces and leading in our communities is a legitimate way to informally develop leadership skills.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Making brilliant friends for life through #WomenEd – another reason to volunteer your time, energy, experience and expertise!
  • Having a diverse PLN of inspiring changemakers!

Appendix:

I recommend that you read Liminal Leadership by the fabulous Stephen Tierney. Furthermore that you watch this #TEDxNorwichEd Talk by the brilliant Marianna Cantwell who also talks passionately about existing in the grey space between the black and the white.

The Trolls Under the Bridge: Leadership Resilience

As we opened our new secondary school in September 2017, we made some philosophical and some ideological decisions which we do not consider to be bold, innovative and radical, but common sense. To others it seems we are quite extreme.

No homework. No setting. No detentions. No shouting. No bells. No packed lunches.

We made a list of our non-negotiables and have stuck to them.

As a values-led school with a team who are committed to nurturing hearts and minds through an inclusive, holistic approach to education we have focused a lot on creating our culture and ethos right.

Our 12 core values shape our inner curriculum, our global citizenship and our approaches to rewards, sanctions and assemblies. Our values are developing into an ethical vocabulary for our community.

 

aureus-values-wheel-v2

Like at most schools, at the end of each assembly we have a reflection. I wrote our Homily to bring together our values into a tangible commitment to ourselves and our community:

“We strive for excellence by embodying the Aureus community values. We respect one another, ourselves and our environment. We strive to treat everyone equally. We champion diverse voices and different ideas. We are kind and we show empathy for others. We are courageous in the face of adversity. We show resilience when it is needed. We reflect on our wellbeing so that we may all be healthy and happy. We act with integrity; our actions are our values. Our hearts are full of love, for ourselves, for each other and for life. We act responsibly at all times. We encourage each other to be 10% braver and build our confidence. We live our values, every day”.

Our students speak articulately and confidently about what our values mean and how we should live them. Our students and our staff strive to embody our values in our decisions, our actions and our behaviours. We do not always all get it right, but our rewards and our sanctions speak to the value shown or contravened so that real learning takes places.

In the last few days our values of courage, resilience and integrity have been tested. But most of this has been directed at me as the figurehead of the school. I have received a lot of adversity, both professionally and personally. My resilience has really been tested as my eyes have bled reading the personal attacks. Despite this, my integrity remains in tact. I have not cried, I have not sworn, I have not lashed back at the vilification of my character, at the body shaming  nor the hashtag to have me sacked.

My roots are working really hard to hold me upright, I am bending but I am not breaking.

bend or break

It has clearly been a quiet week at the newsdesk of our National Tabloid Press that they have felt compelled to run a piece about us in every outlet. Is this really ‘hot news’ when our policy has been in place for 9 months? One anonymous parent has created quite a stir.

I have been called a “Dictator” for being an assertive lead with a clear vision. I have been called “Draconian” for not budging on our expectations. I have been called a”lefty sandal wearer”, which would be more accurate if it was changed to “liberal pump wearer” but perhaps would not be as catchy. I have been called “fat” and my “bingo wings” have been commented on – for the record I started Couch to 5k 6 weeks ago to get in shape, and have lost a few pounds, but this will spur me on to run harder and faster.

To counter the hashtag and calls to have me sacked, surely a catchy future Headline for the Mail, the Mirror, the Star, the Express, the Metro to run could be:

Headteacher sacked for serving water.

Headteacher Dismissed for banning packed lunches. 

Headteacher removed for insisting on family dining.  

How ridiculous would that be? The masses are calling for a Headteacher to be sacked because a school has principles around their food education.

It is not that I do not have feelings, that I am not taking it personally, that words do not hurt me. It is not that I am not taking this seriously, because I am, but I will not allow the loud shouty voices nor the hateful insults sink in. My values are my shield.

Moreover, I have spent every day of the last 15 years investigating, challenging and sanctioning prejudice. I have spent considerable hours challenging bullying, on and offline.

We wonder why our children in our schools need this input from their teachers, until we see how adults act on line. In the words of one of my supporters who messaged me they are “vicious vultures”.

The 1000s of comments about us, about me, are mainly very misinformed. They are hateful. They have twisted what we are doing and why we are doing it.

If you are interested in finding out more about our Food Education you can read my article in TeachWire. There is also an article in their catalogue about our pledge to truly lean into Diversity. Moreover, our website is informative and transparent about everything we stand for. If you read our Google reviews we are complimented regularly on our inclusive culture and ethos, on our happy students, on our delicious family dining experience. If you are going to point your finger and blame or judge, please do it from an informed place.

We have an expression in the #WomenEd Steering Group to starve the trolls of their oxygen. This is what I have been doing the last few days. I have held my head up high, I have shielded myself with my values. I have drawn strength from the positive and supportive messages I have received from our school’s parents, from my friends and family. I have not been drawn in. I have kept my emotions in check. I have sat on my hands and I have bitten my tongue. We learnt the hard way when #WomenEd started that it is more powerful to say nothing. The silence is more infuriating for the aggressors than responding to their angry, loud, noisy monologues.

The article that went live a few days ago stems from one parent who complained. I am going to emphasise that one discontented parent has created this storm in a tea cup. See the original post in the Oxford Mail.

storm in a tea cup

We have met with a few of our parents this year who were not fully behind our vision. We are a start up school and it is a difficult journey to align the parents and the staff when the school is being built, ideas are forming and plans are evolving in parallel to the admissions and transition process. We have worked hard to work with our parents and carers. We have made who we are very explicit to our prospective parents – all 850 of them who came to our open event for 240 student places.

With our food education policy, we have worked with our community to get them to buy into our vision and commitment. We have  listened to our parents and to our children, we have responded and our catering offer has evolved.  We have invited our parents in to experience it first hand for themselves.

The majority of our parents are very happy with our offer and understand how important our family dining is to our culture and ethos.

This parent did not get the response they wanted, they started a conversation on Facebook, they went to our Governors and they went to our MP. At each step we have communicated and explained our stance. We introduced sandwich bags as an option as they wanted packed lunches, we have subsidised their lunches for most of the year to work with them.

We appreciate they are frustrated, but do they appreciate the potential damage they have done by going to the press? Do they appreciate the distress they have caused to my team? Do they appreciate the stress they have created for me/us during my well-earned half-term? Do they appreciate the ripple effect this could have on our school community and on our students?

I don’t think they realised when they went to the Oxford Mail that it would go viral. I don’t think they intended to make me/us a Headline in every National tabloid. I don’t think they meant to make me the victim of online abuse for the last 72 hours. I don’t think they meant to incite racist, islamophobic, xenophobic, sexist, misogynist and bigotted or to put me at the centre of this storm.

I have blocked at least 50 twitter trolls who have been hateful to me online. I have tried not to read the thousands of abusive comments from facebook trolls and keyboard warriors, what I have done is reflected about the bigger picture:

  • Most of the comments and criticisms are not from our school community.
  • Most of the comments and criticisms are not about education and do not mention children.

I care about our school. I care about our children. If this had happened to one of our community, staff, student or parent alike I would support and protect them. I hope the parent who started this, who was not prepared to put their name it, has also reflected. As if this happened to their child, our student, we would do our utmost to support and protect them, to keep them emotionally safe, because that is what a values-led school does.

So until this storm passes, my anchor is in. These quotes have never been more pertinent than they are right now:

Ships were not built to stay in the harbour.

Rough seas make the best sailor.

anchor

And on a #WomenEd note, I do wonder if the tabloid readership would have been as hateful had I been born a man? In a time when we have a teacher recruitment and retention crisis, and not enough people willing to step up to be a Headteacher online hate campaigns like this do not help!

This educational leader is converting criticism to praise, is going high instead of low and will continue to rise above the hate. The haters will make me stronger and even more committed to what I believe in.

still i rise

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Our young people – they are becoming the Values Ambassadors to shape our future society.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The 100s of DMs, emails, tweets and texts of support and love I have received from my PLN.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Having a brilliant staff team who are unshaken by this storm.
  • The love from my PLN – each message has helped.
  • The kindness of strangers – some people have reached out to me who I do not even know.
  • The following words of wisdom sent to me to keep me resilient and strong!

From Summer Turner:

low high

From Carol Campbell:

aristotle

From Ruthie Golding:

gandhi quote

From Claire Cuthbert:

difficult people 3

#WomenEd: The Ripple Effect

Saturday saw me driving to Mansfield at the crack of dawn to support the #WomenEd #LeadMeet that one of our new Regional Leaders, Natalie Aveyard, had offered to host and organise. I had supported the curation and was really excited about the line up, despite being knackered after a long week with visits to London, and a late night on Friday in Swindon for the RWBA Empowering Young People to Change the World Conference.

6am alarms on a Saturday are never welcome (the irony being today I bounced out of bed at 5am!), nor 2-3 hour drives, but I knew it would be worth it and I was not disappointed. Once again, the #WomenEd community have inspired, empowered and energised me.

Natalie Aveyard is a great example of the impact #WomenEd has had/ has on an individual and the ripple effect it has on your friends and colleagues as the interest and involvement spreads out. Natalie has been to a number of our regional and national events, each time she brings more people with her as her #WomenEd snowball picks up more people (Nottingham saw her bringing a mini-bus load). She has attended events, tweeted, volunteered to host an event, volunteered to become a Regional Leader and volunteered to join us in Mozambique with Action Aid. She has been 30% braver in the last few months. My next challenge is to get her to write a blog and to speak at an event – 40% … 50% braver?!

My opening:

We always ask a Regional or a National Leader to open our events and to deliver a #WomenEd welcome, because each time there are new educators joining us. The framing of the event is important, to remember why we exist, how far we have come and what our priorities are. It is always fab to see new faces at our events. It was also great to see more #HeForShe at the Mansfield event. Below is my opening:

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I said to the audience that I would share the links for the DFE funded Diversity and Equality regional activity: Women Leading in Education Networks and the Women Leading in Education Coaching Pledge. 

Also here are some quick links for the forthcoming #WomenEd events in the Midlands:  9/6 Warwick  & 30/6 Grantham  There is also an event at my school in Oxfordshire 7/7/18. We hope to see some of you there!

My reflections on the cracking presentations from this event are below. The line up was impressive and had a great balance of old and new faces/ voices.

Claire Cuthbert: Lead, follow, or get out of the way!

Claire was our opening key note and shared her journey from an estate in the North East to CEO in the East Midlands. She is an authentic leader and has become quite comfortable at sharing the vulnerability of  her journey. I loved that she peppered her musings with Disney clips capturing resilience, teamwork and tenacity.

Annemarie WilliamsPress for Progress: Queen Bees or Sisters in Solidarity? 

Annemarie always hits the nail on the head in an understated way. Delivering ‘naked’ she shared her thoughts on sisterly and un-sisterly conduct in schools. Embodying integrity and channelling Brene Brown, she challenged us to consider how cooperation, collaboration and community makes us stronger leaders.

John Pearce: Consensual Leadership

John has supported #WomenEd from the beginning via Twitter, but this was the first event he had attended, and when we had a few cancellations and asked for volunteers to fill the gaps on the line up, he stepped up with a provocation.  He opened with a heartfelt thank you and was quite emotional about the warm welcome he had received and the hope he felt in the room. Developing the theme of #MeToo and the heightened awareness of consent in our society, he proposed that we need consensual leadership in our schools.   He has already blogged his presentation here.

Fee Stagg: Good Leadership Eats Itself…

Fee is a National Governance Lead and brings a different leadership perspective to our events. Her presentation naturally developed the theme from John’s one on the Lead, Push, Follow dynamic of leadership. She encouraged us all to consider our contributions to the leadership of our schools and the dynamic of our relationships with others.

Jill Berry:  Moving into a new leadership role – 5 top tips

Jill completed her Doctorate research on leadership transitions and published ‘Making the Leap’ which is  a highly recommended read for not only DHTs moving to Headship but any leader making the transition to their next step on the ladder.  She has distilled her research into a chapter for the forthcoming #WomenEd book and she shared 5 of her top tips:

1. Research carefully & ensure this is the right job/right place/right time for you.

2. Use this research & focus on the match/fit in a compelling written application

3. At interview, show what you offer/bring to the role & how you will add value (esp if internal)

4. Use the lead-in time between being successful at interview & formally stepping into the role to build your knowledge & begin to establish yourself

5. Recognise that however well prepared you are you still need to ‘build the bridge as you walk on it’ & learn in the job.

Kay Fuller: Feminist Leadership: What makes you happy?

Kay shared her research as Associate Professor at Nottingham University and as Course Convener for a MA in Educational Leadership. She reflected on an interview question that a Headteacher she spoke to for her research always asks: What makes you happy and what makes you angry? She shared what makes her happy and angry as a leader, as an encouragement to us all to become more self-aware and to hold onto our values as non-negotiables in our schools.

Pran Patel: Outward Facing Leadership

Pran and I met at a TDA event at Cambridge uni a few years ago,  he has become an avid tweeter, blogger and presenter at grassroots events and willingly comes to many #womened events. He thanked the community for saving his career and for keeping him in the profession and on SLT. Last year he completed our Diverse Leaders programme and really embraced being an ‘outtie!’ He shared his thoughts on outward versus inward facing leadership and the need to find your tribe and share your why. I was delighted that he won the coaching day from Felicity too!

Krysta Parsons: Stepping up and Leaning In

Krysta has contributed to a few of our events, and has shared with us the rollercoaster of her leadership journey. She has secured the dream job, the dream job has gone sour, she has risen from the ashes and secured a different dream job. As Jill says, rough seas make the best sailors, and the ebb and flow of leadership has made Krysta a reflective and a humble leader. Her honesty and vulnerability instills hope with the audience members  who are currently not  in a school that is the right fit.  She also spoke openly about the imposter syndrome she has experienced in her career, a common motif at our events.

Felicity King: Leading from the inside out:- the infectious power of being in

Felicity joined us for her first #WomenEd event and also answered the call for contributions. I loved her prop – an empty toilet roll, with her presentation  notes on. The simplicity of her presentation picked up Kay’s theme of knowing yourself and looking in before you look out.

Laura WatkinEffective communication in leadership; why the **** sandwich doesn’t work

Laura is another new face/ new voice to our community, tapped on the shoulder by one of the Brunts team, she was gung-ho about coming and contributing. Light bulb moments went off for her throughout the event as things resonated with her and she saw her own journey mirrored by others. Her presentation on the importance of relationships and communication was spot on, as she encouraged us to not confuse nor conflate the lines between the different types of conversations needed to oil the cogs in our schools.

Book Raffle for Mozambique:

Kathryn Morgan, Natalie and I are 3/18 educators who are travelling to Mozambique with Action Aid this summer to build a library. You can find out more about our project here. We have been overwhelmed with the generosity of educators who have donated copies of their books for  us to raffle at our events. In Kathryn’s absence, Kay did a fab job in selling our raffle tickets and we raised another £100, plus 15 people went home with a new educational book to read!

Carly Waterman: Think Yourself Limitless

Carly delivered a thought-provoking closing keynote to wrap up the event. She openly challenged the self-diminishing language and self-deprecating behaviours we often see and hear in each other. She shared tips on how to control our inner chimps and manage the imposter syndrome.  Sharing how limiting her own inner voice has been on her career progression, she reflected on how #WomenEd has empowered her to control it, and then she modelled how she does it.

Enter Doris.

The room wept with laughter as a recorded voice filled the room, Carly’s inner critic Doris called her out on all of the self-doubt and limiting thoughts she has had about herself in the last few years. The dialogue that ensued of Carly telling us who she is, what she has achieved, her hopes and dreams, each time undermined by Doris revealed how we talk ourselves down and out of opportunities.

Well done Carly – no-one is going to forget your contribution – it was genius! Your pragmatic approach to leadership really resonates, as does your willingness to share your vulnerability.

I love that at our #WomenEd events we arrive as strangers and leave as friends. Moreover, that our inclusive and diverse line ups may seem contrasting on paper, but as the stories are shared, we begin to weave links between each reflection.  Thank you to all of our contributors, our hosts, the student helpers and our audience for a truly brilliant event!

Networking Lunch:

Thanks to the Brunts Academy tribe for organising a post-event lunch afterwards – it is always good to reflect, discuss and process with others. Also to plot what comes next!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The new Regional Leaders who are joining our team including Natalie and Carly
  • #HeForShe advocacy from the presenters and audience members
  • The #10%braver pledges that will come out of this event and the personal/professional changes this will bring

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The Working Class  – Ian Gilbert et al for our @WomenEdBookclub chat in a few weeks’ time

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The people I have met in the last 4 years through twitter, staffrm, events and #womened
  • The time and energy that our community invest investment in our shared vision

We are #10%braver: We now need to be #10%prouder

Four years ago today….

I was sitting in my flat in Sutton, reflecting on my Easter break, and where I was in my life and my career.

I started catching up on my notifications on Twitter and Staffrm as there had been a weekend long #slowchat about gender equality. I had recently connected with Helena Marsh who had written a blog entitled What Glass Ceiling? I was already connected with Jill Berry who had written a blog in response, and I had just met Natalie Scott via StaffRm, our stories had instantly resonated with each other.  We connected with Vivienne Porritt via the comments on the Staffrm blogs and she brought Sameena Choudry, Jules Daulby and Keziah Featherstone into the conversation.

Fast forward a few weeks’ later and 6 strangers met for tea and cake to discuss gender equality and feminism.

Over a few hours in a Hilton hotel in Bracknell, a hashtag and a twitter handle were born.

hope_balloons_small2

There have been some interesting articles, blogs and tweets today about male MPs only following male politicians, about the ‘glass cliff’ for women leaders, and about women needing to own their accomplishments. Four years on we are still having the same conversations, but they are a lot louder and we do have a lot more testimonials of what is working to share.

This blog is me sharing my pride in being involved in such a fantastic community of committed educators.

April 2015-Mar 2016 #PledgeForParity:

  • We started with 7 Co-Founders: Helena, Jules, Keziah, Natalie, Sameena, Vivienne and I
  • Unconference I was held at Microsoft HQ in Victoria: our first event and 200 women in education attended, with 1 man there by choice
  • We reduced to 5 National Leaders: Natalie and Helena stepped back
  • Our community grew from 7 to a few thousand on twitter
  • Our blogs on #womened became a regular contribution
  • We articulated our vision and our values/ our 8 Cs
  • We made a call out for Regional Leaders

April 2016-Mar2017 #BeboldForChange:

  • 30 Regional Leaders stepped up to help us get the regional networks launched
  • 12 regional networks were launched with their own handle, aligned to the DFE regions
  • We held 1st birthday parties in April to mark our 1st year
  • Unconference II was held at Microsoft  in  Reading: 250 attended and we had a #heforshe panel and contributors
  • We launched the #womened app
  • We held a series of #womened #leadmeets
  • The WiE coaching pledge was launched by DFE and we worked in partnership with them

April 2017-Mar 2018 #PressForProgress:

  • We expanded our Regional Networks and oriented more Regional Leaders – we now have more than 60 volunteers
  • We launched international handles in the US,  Netherlands, Italy, Canada, UAE, Czech Republic
  • Unconference III was held at Sheffield Hallam University: 300 attended
  • The WLIE networks were launched by the DFE and we aligned our activity to collaborate with them
  • We held a series of #womened regional events
  • We launched our #womened newsletter and our #womened blog
  • We were nominated for a National Diversity Award
  • We were named in the TES Top 10 Influencers
  • We launched @WomenedBookclub and we kicked off with Mary Beard discussing her new book with our community

April 2018-Mar 2019:

  • We have 18,000+ followers on Twitter
  • We are curating a strand at Wellington Festival
  • We are writing a book to be published by #IWD19
  • Unconference IV is being planned for the Midlands in October

Four years on….

We have achieved so much and we need to  remember that we are all volunteers, we all work full time as women leading in education.

When you stop and pause, when you reflect and think about everything we have done, we should be more than #10%prouder

So as we live and breath the #10%braver mantra. We now need need to embody the #10%prouder one too, as a community which is easier, and as individuals which is always harder.

We are much more comfortable saying “I am proud of you”.

proud of you

We need to be as comfortable in saying “I am proud of me”.

proud of me

We need to be brave, then we need to be proud, then we need to be loud!

prouder

I am proud of us #WomenEd and everything we have achieved. For everyone who has contributed in the last 4 years. Be proud, own it, celebrate it.

proud of yourself

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • What we will achieve in the next year
  • Where we will be in another 4 years time

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The Working Class  – Ian Gilbert et al for our @WomenEdBookclub chat in a few weeks’ time

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The people I have met in the last 4 years through twitter, staffrm, events and #womened
  • The time and energy that our community invest investment in our shared vision

Continue reading “We are #10%braver: We now need to be #10%prouder”

Our 200 Days Celebration: Glorious Aureus

 

Tuesday 27th March 2018, was a landmark for us in our  history at Aureus School as we celebrated our 200th day and our official opening. We opened our doors to our visitors, partners & friends who came to celebrate with us.

We reflected on how much we have achieved in our first two terms in a student-led assembly. Our CEO, Jon Chaloner, our Vice Chair of our School Strategy Board, Bogusia Wojciechowska,  our Oxfordshire County Council representative, Allyson Milward and local resident William Darley who found the Didcot Hoard that named our school,  joined us in reflecting on our journey from an idea, to a building, to a school, to a community.

IMG_7760

Our students shared their ‘Magic Moments’  from our first two terms together including Mindfulness, Family Dining, Personal Development Time, PGL, Student Council, Shakespeare for Schools and Hot Chocolate Friday!

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Our guests all had a student-led tour of our beautiful facilities to experience the Aureus Way. Our staff and students showcased our different daily activities within the  values-based education they experience at Aureus. It was great to have our Mayor, our local councillors, our community and our collaborative partners all there to share our celebration.

Being outward-facing and developing partnerships to bring value to our community is central to our shared vision and values. We were delighted that we had supporters with us from VBE, SSAT, Whole Education, TES Institute, Ambition School Leadership, Oxfordshire Teaching Schools and a number of our local primary school headteachers too.

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We celebrate Arts being at the Heart of our school and have connected with lots of local artists and art organisations. We are proud to be the home of the Didcot Art Room, an art therapy space. This was an opportunity for our guests to see for themselves our stunning Art Installations from our STEAM provision. Thank you to Lorna Carmen McNeil who created our Light Up Your Life chandelier that hangs proudly in our assembly hall from the inspiration of the Didcot Mirror, held proudly here by Sue Wright from Oxfordshire Museums.

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Dr Neil Hawkes officially opened our Sensory Room sponsored by Kitbox & our Thrive Room sponsored by McCarthy Stone. He has recently published his new book called The Inner Curriculum and he acknowledged that is exactly why we have created these 2 safe spaces at Aureus to nurture our most vulnerable students to enable them to grow learn and flourish. Sue Webb, one of the VBE consultants has been instrumental in helping us to scope and frame our values-led school.

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Thank you to our fabulous catering team for a delicious afternoon tea including Aureus cupcakes. Thank you also to EagleSSL for our stunning fruit trees to symbolise our GLF mission to grow, learn & flourish.

The last 2 terms have flown by. The momentum of opening a new school is like a whirlwind of activity as each day, each week, each half-term  there is so much for us all to do. All educators and school work hard but this really had required a new level of energy, commitment and resilience! Thank you and well done to all involved with Glorious Aureus – it is a team effort that has made us a success. The STEAM dream works because of our brilliant extended team.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Our next 200 days – where will we be/ what will we have achieved by Christmas?
  • The feedback from our School Evaluation Review today
  • Our VBE audit in the summer
  • The opening of our primary school in September
  • The brilliant team we have recruited to join us in year 2 at Aureus and in the opening year of Aureus Primary

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Our fantastic team at Aureus School
  • Our support from GLF schools
  • Our STEAM collaborations
  • Our community partners

Women Leading in Education: The NPQH Launch

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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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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.

 

 

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What I did not have time to share was my recommended reading, so here it is:

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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.

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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