Planting Seeds: How Would You Grow a Culture of Wellbeing?

Last May I attended the Mental Health and Wellbeing #teachmeet at Magna Carta School, an inspiring event where I met Clare Erasmus for the first time. We stayed in touch and have become friends. Through our conversations, through tweets and blogs,  via events we have both been at like the CWMT Mental Health Conference I hosted in November, I have learnt a lot. She is a trail blazer and is paving the way for the emerging role of MH&WB leaders in our schools, around the country. Visiting her provision and experiencing  her vision in situ really helped me with my strategic vision of  #wellbeing.

A year on, I have secured a Headship. A year on, I returned to facilitate a session. A year on, I am working on bringing my vision to reality. My session was  intended as a crowd sourcing exercise, but ended up being me sharing my ideas and receiving verification I was on the right track and challenge for some of the ideas that needed developing, and/or thinking through for sustainability.

Here are the questions I asked the room and used to facilitate the discussion:

Q1. With a blank piece of paper where would you start in nurturing a school wellbeing culture where everyone can #growlearnflourish?

I know my team and I have the luxury of being able to create things from scratch and do things differently, rather than lead change, the whole staff body and the majority of the parent body are fully behind co-creating a wellbeing culture.  A clean slate is exciting and means we can create new systems from day one.

Q2. How would you define a “Wellbeing Culture”?

I was asked this recently in a group coaching session. I was challenged on using my conditioned vision of wellbeing as the frame for my current wellbeing needs. I had not considered this before – that my parents had brought me up with their wellbeing vision and that my lifestyle is very different so I need to redefine my own interpretation. Growing up in Devon, my parents semi-retired to a farm and live the ‘goodlife’. I love walks on the beach but don’t really do mud! I would rather go to a spa for a weekend and have a massage to nourish my soul – ultimately I shouldn’t feel guilty about this. Equally leading a wellbeing vision and creating a wellbeing provision is about ensuring that  a range of diverse opportunities are offered to cater for all staff needs .e.g staff sports or mindfulness are not for everyone!

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Q3. What does ‘Growing, Learning and Flourishing, Together’ mean to you?

I asked everyone to complete these 3 sentences:

  • Human beings grow best when… they have the right conditions including space and freedom.
  • Human beings learn best when… they have some ownership over their direction and the time/energy to commit to it.
  • Human beings flourish best when… they are loved, nurtured and trusted.

Q4. Does our system focus on student wellbeing at the expense of staff wellbeing?

I think this is true. My pledge is that if we look after our staff better, then our staff will look after our students. Not that they are not striving to do this already, but teachers are barely able to look after their own MH&WB with the pressures of our profession. Our staffing crisis, both recruitment and retention, is exasperated by the negative press about our profession. But there is no smoke without fire. Yes we need to talk up our profession, but we need get to the root cause and fix our system, rather than icing over the cracks.

Q5. How can we create a wellbeing culture where everyone can thrive and flourish?

For me we need to shift our focus. We need to focus on whole human beings, both staff and students, and not reduce them to statistics. We need focus on preventative strategies rather than reactive interventions.

Q6. What strategies would be on the  Action Plan for creating a Wellbeing Culture? What would you establish as your short, medium, long term goals? What would you prioritise?

  • How can we create it? We need to ensure it is embedded in our culture, vision and strategy from day 1.
  • How can we model it? We need to ensure that all of our staff live our values.
  • How can we nurture it? We need to ensure that all of our community are supported.
  • How can we sustain it? We need to review it and regularly take staff voice.
  • How can we audit it? We need to engage all stakeholders.

Q7. Reflections: How can we take our  vision and create a #wellbeing provision?  

Committed to ‘nurturing hearts and minds’  we are developing our holistic offer to include:

  • Mindfulness programme – every morning
  • Art Therapy room – in 8 week blocks
  • Thrive Room – to nurture our vulnerable students through transition
  • Sensory Room – to support our ASD students
  • Martial Arts Academy – for all of our Year 7s
  • Wellbeing Room – for all of our staff
  • Coaching Culture – for all of our staff
  • Family Dining Experience – for all of our community
  • Community Reflection – for our students each night
  • Half-day on Fridays – for our whole community

Golden Circle wellbeing

This is all a work in progress of course and I can’t wait to have the team started to drive this forward. Ask me a year how we are getting on!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Changing the language from #teachmeet to #edumeet to be more inclusive of the educators working outside of our classroom.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Kay Price gave us a MH&WB toolkit of books to read that have shaped her wellbeing provision.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Everyone who attended, facilitated and contributed to the discussions at the #MagnaMHTM17.

 

 

 

School Leadership: Growing, Learning and Flourishing

Viv Grant is doing a school leaders’ blog series on how we can flourish. Below are my reflections to the questions that she posed about wellbeing, thriving and flourishing as educators, school leaders and schools.

Context:

I was appointed as a Headteacher Designate in June and started in January but am not yet in the full role as I have no staff, students or parents but I do now have a site and an office. It has been an interesting transition into my 1st Headship.

I joined GLF as the visions and the values of the trust were strong: ‘to grow, to learn, to flourish’. As a values-led leader, designing a values-based education this resonated with me. Our mission at Aureus is to educate the whole child and to ‘nurture hearts and minds’.

I relocated for the role, I now live in Oxfordshire after 12 years in London. This was part of my wellbeing commitment to myself, I wanted a change in pace, a new lifestyle and a new environment. The atmosphere in my school is calm because of the large windows framing stunning views. Seeing blue skies and green fields is very calming and I took this for granted when I grew up in Devon.

I am committed to ensuring that my staff and students grow, learn and flourish, but I also need to ensure that I have this pledge for myself as a school leader: I need to practice what I preach!

FLOURISH 2

Have you ever struggled with the reality of school leadership? If so, when and how did it affect you?

I have a strong ethical and moral code. I lead and behave based on my values. I have seen several leaders lose themselves in their role and behave in ways I do not respect.
I always strive to maintain my professional integrity and have had to fight my corner when I have been asked to do things I do not think are ethical. I have whistleblown when I feel my values are being compromised. The increasing pressures from the system need leaders to be strong, resilient and tenacious to stay true to who they are, what they believe and what they stand for.

In what ways does the role sometimes fail to support the flourishing and wellbeing of its leaders?

Teaching and leading in education can become all-consuming. I believe that a lot of the profession are struggling to survive and keep their head above the water line. Hence why we have a recruitment and retention crisis for school staffing.

We have a lot of systems in our schools which are not time nor energy efficient which need reviewing. We also have traditional practices and paperwork for paperwork’s sake which could be changed.

Our profession has a renewed focus on wellbeing, but quite often it is focused on student wellbeing at the expense of student wellbeing. We need to focus on positive mental health and wellbeing for everyone in our school community. I have appointed a brilliant Deputy Headteacher, Julie Hunter, who has done the .B mindfulness course and the MHFA accreditation. She will be leading our wellbeing strategy.

What changes have you made to your own ways of being and leading that have served you better in Headship?

I am only a term in and do not yet have a team as I am the founding Headteacher of a brand new school site and community. This has it pros and cons.

The pros are that I have had a term lead in to think about and plan how to do things differently. I have recruited a dynamic team are all aligned with my vision and values for the school. The cons are that I am the only team member and the job feels like it is 24/7. I have especially felt the impact of this with communications as I have no one to streamline the flow and interface with all of the stakeholders who want to talk to me/ meet me.

With no team to delegate to, I am accountable for everything and everything is medium to high priority. I am employed a virtual PA to support me as I could not keep all of the balls in the air at one time! From September I will have a personal plan as well as a professional plan for 2017-18 goals. I will get into more a routine once the school is opening and ring fence more time for me. With our holistic offer including yoga, mindfulness and martial arts I will build this into my working week.

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What advice would you give to those struggling with the role?

I have a very strong support network who have kept me sane – I have a professional mentor and a personal coach who I can contact to seek support and advice from. I live the #10%braver mantra of #womened – I found my voice a while back and use it. If I am overwhelmed, stressed, unhappy I articulate it.

I have recently been involved in a group coaching programme curated by Annemarie Williams and we had a session with Harriet Minter who challenged me to challenge myself about how I ensure that self-care and self-compassion are part of my professional identity. I am realistic about the fact I am a one woman band and cannot do it all, so I do what I can, when I can and do not beat myself up when I miss deadlines or make mistakes – we are humans and things go wrong, when they do I apologise and make amends.

For me, it is all about fit. I have found myself in the wrong role, at the wrong school, in the wrong culture and I had to walk away. We are responsible for the culture of our schools and the behaviours of our teams, but we are also responsible for our own wellbeing. If we are not healthy, happy and well, then how can we look after the wellbeing of others?

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On a wider level, what needs to happen?

• To make school leadership more sustainable we need to invest in wellbeing and resilience build in activity such as coaching and mentoring.
• To support the well-being of school leaders we need to review the workload challenge and create a space and a range of opportunities in schools for staff to breath.
• To help school leaders to flourish we need to invest in the development of their leadership capacity.
• To create a happy & healthy school we need to focus on the whole person and offer holistic activities to develop the mind, the body and the soul.
• To recapture the soul and put the humanity back into education we need to remember and focus on the ‘names, not the numbers’ for our children and the ‘souls, not the roles’ for our staff.

We also need to spend more time on our values as individuals and as communities, ensuring that our values are ‘lived, not laminated’.

MLK FLOURISH QUOTE

Final Thoughts:

I am presenting at the Mental Health and Wellbeing TeachMeet at Magna Carta School this week, sponsored by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. My workshop is on MH & WB Policy and Vision: With a blank piece of paper where would you start in nurturing a school culture where everyone can #growlearnflourish?

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The Holistic offer we have at Aureus to develop the Whole Child, I now want to focus on ensuring we have an offer for the Whole Educator too!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am looking into how we can establish, develop and nurture our Mental Health and Wellbeing programme at Aureus School.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My #wellbeing contacts who I will see at the MHWB teachmeet this week – Clare Erasmus, Kathryn Lovewell, Sue Webb and Viv Grant inspire me.

 

We Are The City: Supporting The Female Pipeline

I was interviewed and profiled this week for We Are the City’s ‘Inspirational Women’.

Their mission: supporting women in their careers/helping firms attract/retain/develop their female talent.

For news/conferences/events/awards/jobs/tech/career resources follow @WATC_updates and check out their website here.

My interview:

Did you ever sit down and plan your career?

I am very goal orientated and have always had a 3-5 year professional plan. I was advised when I first qualified that the optimum time for my first few roles was 3 years so I could ascertain what sort of position, culture, line manager, context etc I needed to thrive. Career development advice is lacking in teaching and this is one of the reasons why we founded #womened – to support and nurture the leadership pipeline for women in education.

Have you faced any challenges along the way and if so, how did you deal with them?

Lots! Mainly navigating being the youngest and the only female on several teams. I had to develop a thick skin and take undue criticism on the chin. I also had to find and use my voice – there is no point sitting at the table if you are not present. I am really candid, I have found that being direct and straight talking helps you to hold your ground.

What advice would you give someone who wishes to move in to a leadership position for the first time?

Know yourself. I have spent a lot of timing being coached, reflecting and discussing who I  am as an educator and as a leader. Knowing my values, being able to articulate them, has helped me to articulate my vision and this has shaped my leadership behaviours. I make all decisions from my core values which are my compass.

When faced with two equally-qualified candidates, how would you decide who should have the role?

I have just recruited a brand new team. I long and short listed based on values. I then created a series of tasks to test each of the values. I also had to think carefully about the team dynamic and succession planning for the future. It was a balancing act. I would love to see more gender and racially blind application processes across the system.

How do you manage your own boss?

I have always led up. I am super-organised so I would lead the calendar of our line management dates/ times. I am a communicator and initiated how we would capture our agenda/ minutes/ work flow. I hold my team, myself and my line manager to account.

On a typical workday, how do you start your day and how does it end?

I start with a shower and a cup of coffee, I end with a bath and a glass of wine!

What advice can you give to our members about raising their profiles within their own organisations?

Work on your personal brand  – how do people see you and how do you want to be seen? Make sure people know what you are doing and the impact you are having. Learn to not only celebrate but to share tour successes, big and small, model this with your team. Say yes to opportunities and work out how to do it later. Find the gaps in the structure and offer to lead on projects/ initiatives that will add value. Network internally and externally, after all it is who you know not what you know that opens doors.

How have you benefited from coaching or mentoring?

I have received a lot of coaching in the last year as I made the transition to Headteacher. I now have a mentor to grow as a professional and a coach to grow as a human. I cannot recommend values based coaching enough. I am also a coach for other women in education who aspire to lead or who are leading but stuck in a rut to help them get that foot up the ladder.

Do you think networking is important and if so, what 3 tips would you give to a newbee networker?

Networking is key. Join twitter and linked in. Go to events and meet your virtual connections in real time. Stay connected and engage in professional dialogue. My #womened tribe inspire and empower me every day.

What does the future hold for you?

I started my Headship in January and will open my first school in September, with a second one opening the year after. I have been asked to become a Trustee and to write a book.  All of this has happened due to coaching and networking so get out there and start connecting.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The dynamic pipeline of leaders I have recruited for Aureus School.
  • The promotions I have heard about in the #womened community.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have not had much chance to read recently but have enjoyed delving through the WATC archive.
  • I have just written a blog for Viv Grant so am thinking how to create a culture of wellbeing for all of my staff but also for all of my leaders with a focus on the female leaders in the pipeline.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My contacts in the #womened #edtech emerging network who are coming to Aureus for a planning meeting this week.
  • My TSA contacts who are coming to Aureus for a planning meeting after half-term for a Return to Work/ Maternity/ KIT programme.
  • My #wellbeing contacts who I will see at the MHWB teachmeet this week.

Gender Equality: The State of the World’s Mothers

On Tuesday 11/4 I represented the UK in a panel debate, in front of a mixed audience of 1200 international school leaders, about women in leadership. I had the pleasure and the privilege of being on this leadership panel at #uLead17, chaired by Carol Campbell (Canada/ Scotland), alongside Pasi Sahlberg (Finland), Gillian Hamilton (Scotland), Shelley Magnusson (Canada) and Jane Danvers (Australia).

We had launched @WomenEdCanada at the preconference on Sunday 9/4 with 100 delegates. This was an opportunity to amplify the discussions to a larger, mixed audience and take the discussions to the next level.

In our preparation for the panel I had discovered that our panel was composed of all white women and I had expressed my concerns and challenged the organisers to include more diversity. Pasi Sahlberg was invited to join us as a #HeForShe champion as at #uLead15 he had been disgruntled at finding himself on an all male panel so he had given his seat up for a woman in the audience.

Unfortunately, a diverse voice was not found to join us, but we have raised this as a target for the event organisers for their next event and we did discuss diversity as part of the wider debate around Inclusion & representation on this panel and others – it was a recurring theme in fact.

In our opening position statements, Pasi shared some interesting data with us to ensure that everyone in the audience recognised gender quality as a human issue and not a women’s issue. He explained the Mothers’ Index and asked us all to guess where we would place our own country when considering the political empowerment of women and the quality of motherhood around the world.

Many of us were not familiar with the Save the Children’s  ‘State of the World’s Mothers report’ (SOWM) which is an annual global report compiling statistics on the health of mothers and children. The report produces an annual ranking of more than 170 countries, showing where mothers fare best and where they face the greatest hardships.

The Scandinavian countries have dominated the top 3 spots in the world rankings since the report was launched in 2000, Norway was number 1 in 2012/13/15 but the 2014 report which Pasi referred to had ranked Finland as the number one place to be a mother with Somalia ranking as the worst place in the world to be a mother at 178th.

mothers index 2015

The following maps on governmental seats and income may be of interest:

Many of the audience were not surprised that the USA was relatively low, but the British and Canadian delegates anticipated we would be a little higher than we were!

The data framed our reflections and dialogue around the context, challenges and solutions facing women leading in education, and emphasised that by removing the glass ceiling, by empowering women, by striving for gender equality & social equity, that we all benefit.

At the end of the discussion the panel asked everyone at #uLead17 to make a #pledgeforparity. This was a powerful way to involve everyone and ensure that we all intentionally do our bit to affect change for all, to improve our school system & to ultimately impact our society.

Check them out on Twitter.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • A very receptive mixed audience of 1200 global educational leaders all recognising and committing to #beboldforchange.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am still going through all of the #pledgeforparity #uLead17 #womened tweets!

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Jeff Johnson, ATA, inviting me to join #uLead17 and Carol Campbell doing a brilliant job of chairing the keynote leadership panel.

Leaning In: On Tables, Meetings & Chairs

I love thinking, and learning, about things; big and small.

I have blogged, and will blog again, about the profound learning experience I had in the Canadian mountains at #uLead17, but this blog is a game changer in its simplicity.

Tables. Have you every considered the shape of the table you are meeting around?

On a panel this week one of my new #sheroes, Jane Danvers, the Principal of the Wilderness School in Adelaide, spoke passionately about the difference between round table and square table meetings.

We strive to separate the leadership from our management in the UK and she has nailed it by sitting her senior team around different shaped tables, physically and metaphorically.

Round table meetings are for leadership, they are strategic and are for questioning, for crowd-sourcing ideas and for blue sky thinking.  Round tables are for exploring the macro questions for the long term.

Square table meetings are for management, they are operational and are for solution finding, for practical discussions around systems. Square tables are for addressing the micro questions for the short to medium term.

This distinction in defining spaces to frame discussions is so simple but sets the tone of the meeting.

To add to this, I visited a school in Calgary on Thursday. Jason Rogers the Principal of Rundle College starts every meeting, every briefing and every staff training by referencing the empty chair at the table.

The empty chair reminds everyone present of who is absent – the child. The symbolism of the empty chair ensures that all dialogue is child-centred.

This metaphor has become a physical symbol around the school as the art department have constructed huge wooden chairs which the children have painted as part of the outdoor furnishings – they are so big a whole class can perch in them. Jason does video addresses when he misses events sat in one of them.

empty chair

Both Headteachers have created values-led cultures, both have created teams who are cohesive and aligned by their principles. I will be ‘magpie-ing’ both ideas. So simple yet so symbolic.

I couldn’t blog about tables, chairs and meetings without mentioning Sheryl Sandberg and leaning in. We know that we need to make sure that women and girls have a seat at the table, and when they do pull in a chair that they need to fully lean in and speak at the table too.

sit at the table

A picture that went viral recently was of the Republican Party’s round table about reproduction – a discussion about motherhood where the female voice was noticeably absent. It caused a stir on twitter as we asked ‘Who thought that it was okay to have no women present to discuss this issue’?

republican party

To counter this I found a hilarious image on instagram where the Dogs’ Committee are meeting to discuss the future of cats! A timely reminder of diversity, equality and inclusion depicted in a humorous way?!

dogs meeting

I have sat at a lot of leadership tables in the last few years where there has been no equality, nor diversity. As times and teams have changed, more women have leaned in and more diverse faces have been represented, but it is noticeable that behaviours around some of the tables have not changed to reflect this.

How inclusive are the tables that you sit at? How inclusive are the meetings that you participate in or chair? Are diverse voices contributing to the conversations and are these voices being heard?

I often notice in meetings the dominance of certain voices, the position of power in the room, the participants who make make eye contact and those who do not, the participants who address the power in the room and those who diminish some contributions or take the credit for contributions made by others.

Meetings can be very cliquey spaces, entrenched in who sits where and expecting everyone to conform to the conventions of group think.

Meeting both of these Headteachers has challenged me to consider the meetings I attend and chair moving forwards, ensuring that they have purpose and are as inclusive as possible.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Meeting inspiring leaders who have challenged my thinking and shared their best practice.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am thinking lots about bias for #WomenEd and #BAMEed – will try and find if there are articles for bias in meetings.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • 10 days in Canada and Banff mountain air to clear my head for the next term as Headteacher Designate, my final one before I become a Headteacher proper with a building, staff, students and parents!

#SENDed: “Making the invisible visible”

Just under a year ago Anita Kerwyn-Nye rang me to ask if the Harris Federation would be interested in participating in a MAT pilot on peer-to-peer SEND reviewing. It was a DfE funded project and we would work in collaboration with AET. I had just started my secondment as the Professional Learning Leader across the MAT and the TSA; my remit from the CEO and the Director of Education was to make our system leadership and CPD offer more outward-facing, so it seemed like a great opportunity to start as I meant to go on.

So I found myself as a named representative of educational stakeholders on the Whole SEND steering group. To be clear, I am not a SEND specialist, I am a T&L/Professional Learning leader and I have an inclusive value set. It is not very often I feel like an imposter, but I can remember entering the room for the first meeting last spring – it was like the SEND super group. Everyone who was anyone (in the twitter bubble at least) for SEND was there – Anita, David Bartram and the London Leadership Strategy had assembled all of the SEND powerhouses including Vijita Patel, Nancy Gedge, Simon Knight, Jarlath O’Brien, Dr Adam Boddison, Rob Webster and representatives from organisations like LKMCO, NASEN, NET and the Driver Youth Trust. I was suitably impressed and knew that this group meant business. I also knew that I would be challenged and would learn a lot!

A year later, a series of Whole SEND steering group meetings, audits and reviews have culminated today in a fantastic #SENDed inaugural summit.

Keynotes:

Anita Kerwyn-Nye – set the context of the SEND landscape and shared personal stories about being the Mum of children being diagnosed with additional educational needs, potentially be failed by the system. Anita shared the community of practice behind  and made it clear that not everything that makes a difference costs. It’s about attitude too.

“What we have to do is support the teachers, charities and individuals trying to make children’s lives better”.

“We need to be an inclusive society. We need diversity of thought. We need some different thinking in our schools. “We need diversity of thought to solve the world’s problems”.

“The measure of a civilisation is how we treat our weakest members. We need to raise our children to be kind”.

David Bartram – reminded us that all parents and educators, everywhere in the world have the same  hopes and dreams for their children. He shared his visits to various countries to consult on SEND provision as the UK are seen as the experts in this field. He outlined the framework and how the SEND audit can be used as tool for system-led improvements in SEND provision through peer review. He posed the following question to the room: We spend 1 Million minutes in school. How are you using those minutes for children in your schools?

“SEND needs to sit at the heart of educational policy, it is not separate”.

“We need to breath some confidence back into the system. Great school-based practice exists. We need to share it”.

“We need to demystify what great SEND practice looks like”.

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Vijita Patel – I have not yet visited Swiss Cottage but  I have heard Vijita speak a lot about the holistic learning experience that they have created for their learning community. Vijita shared the fundamental aim of the Whole SEND review to bring practitioners together. She also championed that a SEND label does not need to define a child’s potential or experience.

“We need to help the wider community to understand the potential of SEND learners. We need to advocate next steps”.

“Sitting at the heart of the SEND Review Guide is the potential of each and every child”.

“We need inclusive values at the core of our schools’ cultures. We need nurture led school provision”.

Edward Timpson – our Minister for Vulnerable Children and Families, spoke passionately as a father, not sounding at all like a politician about the vision he has for the system and SEND reform. He highlighted creativity in schools & the potential of best practice feeding through the system. He was very open that many schools are not doing enough for children with SEND.

“We have an opportunity but also a responsibility to make the system work for all CYP with SEND”.

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Round tables and networking:

A series of SEND professionals chaired round table discussions on a series of themes and issues to represent the #collectivevoice of the profession.

I spent the time catching up with: NASEN, The Driver Youth Trust and the Special Needs Jungle – each giving me insight on my responsibility as a Headteacher and school leader to lead inclusively whilst challenging the system.

“You got to see it to be it” Panel:

Simon Knight – set the scene by exploring the contradiction of SEND being highly visible and invisible at the same time, he paralleled the hyper visibility and hyper accountability of PP provision funding and provision to what we need for SEND.

“We need to focus on the needs of the learners and not the needs of the system!”

“Very often there is not a learning difficulty, there is a teaching difficulty  -a barrier for one is a barrier for the other!”

George Fielding – I have heard him speak before and he always moves me. As a Whizz Kid ambassador, an under graduate and the first wheel chair user to achieve his DoE he is an inspiring and empassioned speaker about his rights as “a proud man, a proud Brit and a proud disabled person”.

“Difference and diversity makes Britain the country that it is”. 

“We have to help young people with become proud of who they are”.

“There are four Ls for me – people with SEND can learn, love, and lead but must not be limited”.

Allana Gay – as a founding regional leader for #womened, Allana has recently co-founded #bameed. She shared the data for representation of BAME educators and addressed the issue of inter-sectionality. As a woman, a black woman, a black woman who is an immigrant she shared her frustration at the multiple layers of   her complex identity and the unconscious biases she needs to navigate. She called out the leadership ladder in most schools as “getting paler” the higher you looked. I would add to this that it gets “maler” too.

“London is a melting pot, but too often our teachers do not represent that diversity”.

“With Education management gets paler as you go up the hierarchy. Educator voices do not reflect our communities”.

“In a real meritocracy we all start on a level playing field”.

Myself – I shared our journey as #womened, and the work I have been doing in the Diversity and Equality space through the NCTL funding for Teaching Schools. I questioned who was collating the data and who was reviewing the allocation and the impact of the grants. I invited the audience to consider the language we use as Diversity and Equality are singular terms and are misleading. ‘Diversities’ encompasses multiplicities, complexities and pluralities better.

“There’s a lot being done about diversity – what we need to talk about is diversities”.

“Data shows .5% of teacher have SEND, but the total number of adults with SEND is 20%”. (via Chris Rossiter, Driver Youth Trust)

Jon Severs – as commissioning editor of the TES, shared the work they are doing on representation of voices and experiences in the educational press.  He reminded us that we should not assume SEND knowledge but that we need to support the acquisition of knowledge and debate it, destigmatising it and using layman language to communicate it to a wider audience, more simply.

“The biggest challenge with SEND in the media is its complexities!”

“Need to find language to tell stories about SEND without creating victims”.

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#WomenEd have spent 2 years campaigning for diversity and equality, inclusive panels and to “diminish the differences” in under-represented groups in the education system. Today felt like a big step forward. We have lots more steps to take, there are no quick fixes.

We all need to challenge, we all need to model, we all need to champion, we all need to celebrate the diversities in our classrooms, schools and in our society.

Actions I would like to see as a result of today:

  • A network of SEND leaders and partners to work collaboratively in finding collective solutions to common issues
  • An opportunity for a series of events including one targeting Headteachers and Governors
  • A reform re the requirements of SEND provision for ITT and the skills gap closure for Quality First Teaching across the system
  • A statutory requirement for all schools to have a qualified SENDco and a named SEND lead on every SLT who needs to refresh their training every year like the DSL does for safeguarding practice
  • Hyper accountability for SEND provision in all schools like we have for PP

Seeing this Guardian Jobs advert advocating a diverse workforce on the train on the way home filled me with hope though:

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Challenging our school communities to champion the multiplicity of ‘diversities’ and not just ‘diversity’
  • Affecting change across the system for all learners to enable all to thrive or in George’s words ‘love, learn and lead’ but be ‘limited’ by their learning needs
  • Embedding the value of inclusion into our curriculum at Aureus where we will strive to holistically educate the WHOLE CHILD so that all will be nurtured

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The #SENDed tweets – catching up the day’s activities
  • Reading Vic Goddard’s blog on inclusion and  ‘botheredness’

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The brilliant keynotes this morning from Anita, David, Vijita and Edwards Timpson the Minister for Vulnerable Learners
  • The fantastic educators I met today in the audience, the sessions, on the panel and the exhibiting organisations

Grow, Learn and Flourish: Our Mantra

The ethos of GLF resonated with me as soon as I met my new CEO Jon at the Academies Show last spring.

I have spoken and blogged a lot about my values in the last year. I had become disgruntled, disenfranchised with my vocation and sought coaching to unpick why I was frustrated and unhappy. Through coaching I excavated my values. Through coaching I can now articulate my vision and values for education. Through coaching I now know myself better as a leader.

So why do we need to Grow, Learn and Flourish? Why do we need this vision in our current school system?

This metaphor works on the micro and macro level for me. As a system we are growing, our landscape and infrastructure are in a state of flux. We need to learn what is going well and what is going wrong in the diverse range of schools around out country. We need to learn why we are not recruiting and retaining our teachers. We need to focus on our communities wellbeing and mental health. We know our staff are stressed and unwell, leaving the system to find the light, we know our students are caving under the pressure. This is why the mission statement is aligned with everything I believe could  be right but is currently wrong in our school system.

How can schools and communities be supported in living these values?

I quote Mary Myatt’s new book ‘Hopeful Schools’ a lot. The statement: “we need to live, not laminate our values” has become my personal and professional mantra. We need to focus on the holistic education of our students. We need to focus on our staff’s mental health and wellbeing. We need to focus on the “souls in the roles” and the “names not numbers” in our schools. No human should be reduced to a job title, nor a number in a spreadsheet.

What does ‘Grow’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

Growth mindset is a good starting point. Planning and teaching all lessons pitched to the top and scaffolding down, removing setting, creating equality of opportunity in our schools for all stakeholders. For me growing also means employability, our CIAG is not strong enough – it is all well and good focusing on knowledge but without the transferable skills to apply this learning our young people will not be able to grow in their careers. Growing to me also means the opportunities to engage in the arts, to grow as a person and explore one’s identity. Being able to think creatively and express one self are skills that all our school leavers should be equipped with.

What does ‘Learn’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

“No school is an island” is another one of my mantras, but I extend it by adding, “no school leader or classroom practitioner should be an island either”. I passionately believe in collaboration, community partnerships and system leadership. We need to inspire and empower our students to “learn to learn” but we also need to reignite some of the candles that are being blown out in the profession. We need to ensure that our CPD offers in schools are inspiring and enable everyone in our school communities to learn and develop. I learn through tweeting, blogging, reading and discussing my thinking and experiences with others – I want to bottle the buzz I get from #teachmeets #leadmeets #womened #bameed and share this with everyone I connect with.

What does ‘Flourish’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

I want to be a teacher, a school leader and have a life. I don’t think is much to ask. I want to model a balanced perspective on teaching as a lifestyle choice, teaching as a vocation but also teaching as a career where you can also have flexibility and a family. I want to support the teachers who join us in the profession to flourish. I want to nurture the talent we have in the system to flourish and stay in the profession. I want to inspire and empower the educators who have left the system to return to teaching and to find a school with vision and values focused on #wellbeing, to find a school where there opportunities to work flexibly, to find a school where diverse educators are coached and mentored to so they can flourish.

This is why the mission statement for GLF is more than some words laminated and stuck on the wall. These values are lived and permeate through the community, our GLF family.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Growing, Learning and Flourishing as a Headteacher
  • Co-creating our MAT/ TSA conference framed by our GLF values

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am reading blogs and articles, attending events to shape our school systems at Aureus to support wellbeing and workload

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The coaches who have supported me in growing, learning and flourishing – thank you relighting my flame of hope – Viv Grant, Carol Jones, Eve Warren, the team at Graydin and Jill Berry for lots of chats.
  • Amjad for nudging me to write a blog about #growlearnflourish

Recruitment, Retention and Reputation: Getting the Right People on the Bus

So I am 3 weeks in to my new role as Headteacher of Aureus School. It has been a full on launch into Headship. There really is no preparation for the day-to-day variety of the role. Where on the NPQH are you taught about project management and media relations? I have interviewed and appointed some really impressive Governors, I have networked and initiated collaborations with the Headteachers in my local vicinity, I have been interviewed by the regional press and had a photoshoot in my wellies, high visibility jacket and safety goggles!

The key priorities this term are:

  1. To sign off the aesthetic designs on the site to ensure that the interior fixtures and fittings, colour scheme and paint work are to my liking – who knew I would be able to choose some of the design features of our beautiful building. I have already made small tweaks like swapping dining room tables from trestle style to family dining style – these choices might seem insignificant to some but they will impact on the school culture and routines.
  2. To recruit my team. This is the most exciting bit – ensuring that I get the right people on the bus. To attract, recruit and retain a team who will live the values of the vision I have for Aureus. Our Year 7s will be our pioneer year group, their parents our pioneer families, the teachers who join me from day 1 will have the opportunity to shape our school and carve out their careers in a growing school. The teachers in September will hopefully be the leaders in Aureus’ future.

I have said in previous blogs that I do not agree that we have a recruitment crisis, what we have is a retention crisis. We have qualified teachers who are leaving the classroom quicker than we can train them. This should be the focus of our attention as school leaders – what can we do to retain the talent we have? What can we do to re-engage the qualified teachers out there to get them back into our schools?

I don’t have a magic wand but I do know that we have issues with: the workload challenge facing educators; the wellbeing concerns of our profession; the inflexibility of our schools; the archaic talent-spotting practices. We know the challenges that we face but we don’t hear very much about the solutions to these issues. What we do hear a lot about is that teaching is not an appealing nor an aspirational career for lots of graduates.

When I was recruited to GLF I pledged to recruit in a different way, to lead with me vision and values, to attract with the culture I am hopeful that we will create. I want Aureus to be a school where we model that we can teach brilliant lessons, secure great outcomes and… still have a life! So I have recruited through my network and social media only, I refuse to spend thousands of pounds that I don’t have on adverts.

I found a great image breaking down finding your team as the 3 Rs:

three-rs

My recruitment strategy:

  • To connect with educators through multiple channels including Twitter, StaffRm and LinkedIn
  • To speak at events, leading with my values and authenticity
  • To share my passion for teaching, my love of professional learning and my pragmatic approach to school leadership
  • To grow a community interested in my vision for Aureus through my blogs
  • To amplify the positive narratives about our teaching and quieten the negative rhetoric of the Secret Teacher styled blogs and articles that undermine our profession
  • To create a network of educators who are optimistic and hopeful that our profession is not broken, that our profession can be resurrected

Has it worked?

Well we have not got to the interview stage yet but so far we have had 115 register their interest to join us at Aureus through our EOI (Expression of Interest) online form on our website. Bearing in mind we only need 10-12 teachers in Year 1 and 8-10 support staff this is a healthy ratio.

On Saturday I held an Open Afternoon for those who wanted to meet me and find out more. 55 educators interested in teaching at Aureus joined me from 1-3pm. My invite was clear, please don’t spend a weekend researching the school and trust, to complete an application form until you know our ‘why’?

Once again I led with my vision and values. I gave them 10 reasons to join us on our journey, 10 reasons to join us to ‘Grow, Learn and Flourish’:

10-reasons-for-twitter

I explained my vision for each of these 10 reasons and then shared:

  • The subjects we need teachers for
  • The professional learning we will offer for those aspiring to be SENCOs, pastoral leaders and teachers of shortage subjects like Physics and Computing
  • The responsibilities we need leaders for
  • The options for flexible contracts

I then invited those interested to build their own job spec  and tell me what value they could add to our community and explain how their values are aligned to my vision. I am a pretty confident person and have conviction that we need to #BeBoldForChange but this really was a leap of faith.

The feedback has been positive, to my relief. I saw lots of heads nodding in unison as I shared my truths and my insights and experiences resonated with my listeners. Who knew when I co-founded #womened and supported the launch of #BAMEed that so many of these communities would see me as their future leader, the room was full of a diverse educational community seeking the flexible roles that #womened champion, seeking the unbiased talent-spotting that #BAMEed advocates. As one observer commented, I won’t have a problem recruiting a fantastic team, but I will need to manage expectations as I don’t have the budget for everyone I would to like to recruit.

We will see how many convert from being interested into actually applying, but I am hopeful. I met some really impressive teachers with a sparkle in their eyes and fire in their bellies; teachers who are looking for a ‘candle in the dark’. I hope that Aureus can be that light of hope. When I created our mission statement: ‘Nurturing Hearts and Minds’ it was with the whole Aureus community in mind: staff, students, parents and governors alike.

If you are interested, adverts will go live on http://www.aureus.org on January 30th:

recruitment-timeline

My retention strategy:

When I recruit the staff we need to launch Aureus, my focus will then be on retaining my team. I will work hard to get to know them as professionals and as individuals. Regular career chats will texture our strategic vision for the school. As the school grows, we will grow our leaders.

My reputation strategy:

At the moment I am conscious this is about me, my vision and my values. In the future it will be about how we perform, how we collaborate and how we market what we do. The school community: students, staff, parents & governors will help to articulate and amplify what Aureus School embodies.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Challenging the way that we attract, recruit and retain our staff

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The contributors of the latest #TalkingHeadsBlogs – no time for books at the moment but am loving reading your journeys to Headship!

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • All of the teachers who joined me on Saturday – thank you for coming, listening, questioning and supporting – I wish I could offer you all jobs in Year 1, but I hope to work with lots of you over the coming years.
  • Tom and Jake  -the fabulous recruitment team at GLF who gave up their Saturday to support my open event.
  • Owain and Sue – my new friends next door at UTC Oxfordshire who hosted our open event.
  • Team #womened – you know who you are – not only did you come to support the event but you helped me tidy up, your sisterhood is appreciated.

#TalkingHeadsBlog: Inside the Heads of our School Leaders

I have been reflecting a lot in the 6 months since I was appointed as Headteacher Designate for Aureus School, and especially over the Christmas break, over how I can best learn and develop as a Headteacher . I feel very privileged to have a fantastically supportive and experienced #PLN to draw on, who inspire me in my role as a leader.  How can I grow from these critical friendships?

For me I learn best by speaking to, listening to, reading and learning from those who are doing what I seek to do. I learn through my senses and through my experiences. I learn best from those who I respect and trust, those with credibility. I want to learn how to ‘walk the walk’ from those who have done it or are doing it, by listening to them ‘talk the talk’.

So alongside my regular blog as a new Headteacher, I am going to publish a weekly blog, from a Headteacher who is more established and more experienced than me, to gain insight from their leadership journey. They will share the challenges they have faced and the solutions they found, which will in turn help me and others who are starting or have just started their headships navigate the highs and the lows.

SO I INTRODUCE TO YOU: ‘TALKING HEADS’

Why:

  • To promote the diversity of the Headteacher community
  • To elevate the profile and amplify the voices of those challenging the systems
  • To celebrate teaching as a profession and advocate school leadership journeys

How:

  • To create a dialogue between senior leaders aspiring to headship and serving Headteachers
  • To share leadership challenges and solutions
  • To inspire teachers and leaders to aspire to be Headteachers

What:

  • To publish a weekly blog to share leadership journey and insights
  • To use a common Q&A format: 2 Why, 2 How, 2 What questions answered
  • To share insight through varying content: questions selected by the leader being profiled

Target Audience:

  • Deputy Headteachers preparing to secure Headships
  • Senior leaders aspiring to become Headteachers
  • Teachers who want to see leaders who represent their backgrounds and experiences progress up the leadership ladder

How to Innovate My School: #IMSchat

Innovate My School invited me to host their first #IMSchat on 2017 on Thursday 5th January 2017. I used this as an opportunity to crowd source my thinking on what I want to do differently as I begin my Headship at Aureus School. I see a new school, in a new  build, in a new community as an exciting opportunity to innovate my school and model a different way of doing things.

We discussed 8 questions over an hour, below are my reflections on the discussions and you can check out the storify here: #IMSchat

Q1. How can we recruit and retain teachers in a more innovative way?

I am recruiting differently. I think it is ridiculous how much money schools spend on big national adverts, money that should be resourcing the school and spent on the students. I pledged at interview to recruit through my #PLN and retain through the school culture being values-led and focused on #wellbeing. I know how much time and energy it takes to trawl the net finding jobs, do the research for the application, then prepare for the interview. Then the emotional toil of going through the recruitment process. All the while juggling your day job and setting cover.

So I am leading my recruitment with open events. We do them for the students and parents/ carers, why don’t we do them for our staff? I did one last term for Governors – from which I have engaged 3 fantastic volunteers who are aligned with my values of #diversity #equality #wellbeing #coaching #flexibility. Next I am holding an open event next weekend for teaching staff – we have 45 registered already. People will de-deselect if what I say does not resonate, they may have driven and given up a few hours of their time, but they will have coffee, cake and get to network at the same time. They will apply with the conviction we are aligned. Once we start the interviewing for teaching staff and leaders, I will repeat the process fo the non-teaching staff. Yes this will know out some of my Saturdays bu I know I will ‘get the right people on the bus’.

#IMSchat discussion on Q1:

  • Create flexibility including allowing part-timers to have TLRs and job sharing of leadership roles
  • Nurture wellbeing
  • Invest in career progression
  • Get the right staff on the bus who are signed up to the new vision is key
  • Identify the hornets of teaching and eliminate them for long term retention
  • ‘Talk up’ teaching as a career much more, inc with our own pupils
  • Be brave and distributing leadership
  • Focus on the needs of our children
  • Ignore the external diktat
  • Engage staff in decision making and ownership
  • Market differently –  a showcase event where prospective interested folk can mingle & lay out their visions
  • Retain – opportunities for staff to share good practice in less traditional ways eg Teachmeets, T&L coffee mornings
  • Create responsibilities from areas for development in the school development plan
  • Promote learning organisations where staff will not want to leave & others will want to join the whole school team
  • Ensure transparency
  • Vocalise and amplify a more positive rhetoric about teaching
  • ‘Grow our own’ both middle & senior leaders
  • Lead with vision & values and re-enmgage what brought us into teaching as this can keep us there

I am quite confident that the feedback rom the chat reinforces that I being bold doing things a little differenrly, but in turn the outcome will be different. A a Headteacher who will teach and who is passionate about professional learning, wellbeing and leadership development I am confident I can retain the staff I appoint to this brand new school as they will own it and help to shape it, plus they will grow and progress with it. The only other thing I am considering is appointing/ offering roles for September 2017 and 2018 in spring 2017 so that the team can bond and stay in touch – I only need a small start up team but with some people  need time to relocate/ get affairs into order etc – I am interested to know your throughts on this idea….

Q2. How would you innovate your school’s staffing model?

This is an easy one. I have spent so much time reflecting on and discussion the range of different reasons around the ‘recruitment’ crisis, which I believe is in fact a ‘retention’ crisis. I have been very vocal about the fact we neeed more flexibility in the system, we need to offer part time roles and job shares, we need to detach TLRs from teaching loads, we need to offer better KIT programmes and support those wishing to return to the sector, we need to challenge the workload and nurture the wellbneing of teachers. I haven’t got a magic want but I have alot of best practice through #womened to share, plus I am working in a really forward-thinking trust who are keen to do more and to do things differently. I want to lead with diversity, equality and flexibility, I want to create a school that operates differently including longers half-term holidays and half days on Friday. All things that will support those with commitments who are striving to thrive and not just survive!

#IMSchat discussion on Q2:

  • UsE every opportunity to communicate its rewards & satisfactions & not to fixate just on its challenges/demands
  • Celebrate the small wins and lead with positive reinforcement
  • Keep perspective on bigger picture.
  • Make your own vision and live it.
  • Preventativ retention, not reactive retention.
  • Offer retention and career interviews to engage staff and know where they are heading/ what they are seeking
  • Focus on sustainability, workload & stress management too
  • Lead compassionately

I think most schools create a timetable that suits the school rather than the staff, I know it is a complicated process  and things like CPD and communications get harder when people are not always in the building at the same time, but surely agile working for teachers who are not teaching is a way to help us get some work life balance?

WORK IN PROGRESS FROM THIS POINT  – NOTES FROM THE STORIFY ONLY AT THE MOMENT FOR ME TO PROCESS AND COMMENT ON!

Q3. What does innovative look and feel like?

  • Dynamic, personalised and innovative should be the norm.
  • Weekly sharing of highlight is good within dept and then across school
  • Make it clear that you don’t have to present something whizzy. ‘Humdrum’ is good too- the simple strategies are often the most impactful
  • Implement bite size learning so doesn’t overwhelm or take up too much time in a day
  • Offer CPD that gets everyone involve ie CPD speed dating, anything that’s active rather than passive
  • speed dating. How can you keep it fresh tho? Lots of new ideas get old quicky?Focus on sharing a ‘golden nugget’, 1 thing to go and try to change practice. How do you follow up tho & check impact?
  • Solution Focused Coaching should become central for all staff & all staff need a whole school open discussion forum
  • Involve MLs as leads is key as they have teams of staff who can take part
  • Ask NQTs to be part of thiscreating a culture where collaborative learning is the norm: everyone can learn from the other w/out feeling judged
  • Give Ts the opportunity to think about something they did the previous term that no-one previously has presented
  • Share ‘Good’ practice more regularly rather than making it ‘special’
  • Set aside time in dept meetings to share good practice
  • Share / display bright ideas area in staffroom – next step displaying in toilets
  • Put  ideas into practice through bespoke/targeted/relevant/flexible CPD where recipients have choice/agency
  • Work out what works and cascade/ disseminate
  • Interact & engage outside of own school.
  • Promote and celebrate collaborative CPD.

Q4. How can we innovate the curriculum to support the recruitment, staffing and CPD, and vice versa? Is it chicken or egg?

  • Prioritise staff over the curriculum – makes  TT harder to construct but flips the ‘why?’
  • Be open mindset re the curriculum  -what is offered and how it is offered
  • Look at Year 8 curriculum and the freedom it provides no SATs no GCSEs simply
  • Drop the TT some days – simply create subject specific days
  • Enable teachers and leaders to take risks and learn from mistakes
  • Inspect and adapt…try one new thing out at a time in order to isolate / reflect on pedagogy that works.

Q5. Your curriculum is innovative, how does this translate in to an innovative classroom and innovative pedagogy?

  • Focus classroom practice on progress – that’s the only innovation necessary
  • Guide the curriculum design with the school values – they should inform assessment- whole child, empowering, preparing for LLL and active citizenship
  • Planning saves time but needs time, long term goals and vision needed then mapped back is key.

Q6. What does innovative assessment look like?

  • Allow staff to be creative in lesson delivery, evidence progress in different ways, not just written e.g iRISconnect
  • Strip back your  marking policy – don’t mark notes in books, just tests.

Q7. How do we innovate what happens outside of the classroom?

  • Engage parents, business & local orgs to see how school innov. adds value to the whole community
  • Bring in industry – like with  NESTA project a few years back, and similar to @ST3AMCo

Q8. My wildcard question – How do we innovate and ?

Final thoughts:

  • School culture
  • School vision
  • School values
  • Trust is key, all down to the culture of the school and the culture of the profession.
  • No more secret teacher, open, transparency needed

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Modelling that schools can be flexible and wellbeing can be a value

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Lead from the Heart, Mark Crowley

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Being asked to host this chat by James Cain at IMS – it was fast and furious but consolidated alot of my ideas and reflections on flipping the system at Aureus