Nurturing Hearts and Minds: Our Values Audit

This week we had our Values-Based Education audit from Dr Neil Hawkes and Jane Hawkes. We are delighted that we have now officially been awarded our VBE Quality Mark! We get asked a lot what being a VBE school means, how we planned our vision into provision and why we chose our approach.

I have captured my thoughts and reflections on our VBE journey below ahead of some presentations I am doing on how it has impacted our school.

What is our school Vision?

Our mission statement is ‘Nurturing Heart and Minds’. We strive to strike a balance between the academic and the emotional development of our students. We are committed to a holistic educational approach that focuses on the whole child development. A values-based education means that our values shape and frame our decisions and our actions in an integrated way. 

How do our values underpin our Culture & Ethos?

When the Leadership Team started to plan our provision we agreed some non-negotiables and some principles that would define our approach. We decided that daily mindfulness practice and weekly gratitude practice would top and tail each day and each week. We also made a commitment to our food education, an approach that would nourish our students to enable them to flourish. We all agreed that the social skills developed in a Family Dining Experience would develop the softer skills in our students.  We all use the Pivotal Approach as our behaviour tool which is based on a restorative justice model, this is underpinned by a ‘Relentless Compassion’ in how we work with our young people, many of who are quite vulnerable. 

How did we scope our Values?

As a new team, in a new school, located in a new community, we spent our first few days together last year in an extended induction. Our first day of INSET together focused solely on how we would #GrowLearnFlourish. Sue Webb, a VBE trainer, led the full day of reflections, discussions and coaching style conversations about what had shaped our moral compasses. We considered what kind of young people we wanted to co-create at Aureus and what sort of ethical vocabulary we wanted them to acquire. 

How do we teach our Values? 

We distilled our individual values down to a collective core of 12. This means we focus on and explore one value each month and then repeat the cycle. Each week starts with an assembly that introduces or develops the value, e.g. last month it was resilience and this month it is integrity. At the end of each assembly one of the children reads our values homily. Every assembly is followed up by an individual reflection task and each week 10 students are nominated for our weekly reward of #HotChocFri for their embodiment and exploration of the value. Every lesson has a focus on the values with a reference to it, so that each day and each week the understanding of the value is being embedded. Our family dining experience and inclusive ethos model the values we want to see.

How do we show our values in our environment?

As a new school we have a lot of white space and the school is a blank canvas. It was quite overwhelming how much space we had to fill when we first moved in! We have taken a slow and steady approach to the creation of values inspired art work. Each student has been involved in the creation of our   Values Totem Poles and our Values Chandelier which are proudly displayed in our main hall. Art club  each term produce a new art piece such as our Nurturing Hearts and Minds canvases in reception. 

How do our values shape our student wellbeing programme?

At Aureus we do not have tutors, we have coaches and our Coaching Groups meet at the end of the day to reflect on what has happened before they go home. Our days start with our Mindfulness programme. Students rotate around sessions on Mindful Strategies, Mindful Art, Mindful Movement and Mindful Reading. Our afternoon coaching sessions include the delivery of our Global Citizenship curriculum. Within the core curriculum our interventions have emerged into what Neil and Jane call our ‘Inner Curriculum’ Our Art Therapy Room, Sensory Room, Nurture Room and Thrive Programme develop the emotional awareness and resilience of our students.  

How do we explore our values in our SMSC programme?

Our Global Citizenship programme helps our students to develop their sense of identity and their sense of belonging. We develop a social consciousness and a local, regional, national and international perspective. All of our students committed to an #IWILL pledge at the start of the year. Our SMSC, PSHE and Citizenship components are integrated into a fluid, thematic delivery.

How do our values underpin our rewards and sanctions?

We reward students for showing our values. Stickers in lessons, Postcards for going above and beyond, #hotchocfri nominations are weekly rewards. Each term we have the formal awards of Certificates and Badges. Our sanctions start with restorative conversations, restorative meetings and restoration time where the values are discussed. It is explicit in our communication with parents and carers which of our values has been contravened and we reflect on how to embody the value moving forwards. E.g student x is being isolated for contravening the values of kindness, respect and diversity in his use of prejudiced language.

 

What did the values audit involve?

The audit was 1 full day at the end of our first full year. 2 Auditors from VBE joined us to shadow a normal day at Aureus. Our Student Council delivered a Values Assembly, then the observers participated in staff and student led activities including a learning walk of mindfulness, lessons, coaching and our personal development programme. They sat and chatted to staff and students in our Community Time, including students who were being rewarded and sanctioned for their values-led behaviour. The day finished with a Parent Voice session with our Parents and Carers’ Association and The Art Rooms summer showcase. I didn’t print anything!

What was our feedback?

We had a reflection session at the end of the day where Neil and Jane, together with the researchers who were shadowing them, gave us feedback on what they have seen, heard and absorbed. I found the feedback quite emotional as my heart swelled with pride in some of the things they said about our students and our community. They were particularly impressed by our students’ “communicative competence” in expressing their understanding of our values and why they are important, moreover how they will help to guide them in the future. Sue has recorded some of their responses and will publish some of their stories which we are excited to read and listen to as they were umprompted/ unscripted.

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What are our next steps?

We are a year in and will strive to embed what we have started and develop the next layer of our values-based education, starting with inducting in 40 new staff and 360 new students! Our plans for the future include nominating Values Ambassadors (students) and Values Champions (staff and parents). Engaging Values Partners such as Dauntless Daughters for Equality, RWS for Resilience and Educate and Celebrate for Diversity. We will launch a Values Newsletter capturing our activity such as the #MyValuesStory writing competition which one of our students won their age category for! We will start to build our Values Library and are looking to underpin our Values with the VIA Character Traits at Neil’s recommendation. I am most excited about our Marketing Officer producing video content with our students and one of our new Lead Practitioners doing action research into our values ethos and the impact it has in time.Slide22

How can you find out more?

Dr Neil Hawkes has written two books which I highly recommend: From the Heart and Inner Curriculum. He has also recently delivered a TED talk at  #TEDxNorwichEd

How can you get involved?

We are delighted to be hosting two VBE events next term:

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The ethical vocabulary our young people are developing.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Meeting Sue Webb through #WomenEd otherwise I would not have know about VBE, nor met Neil and Jane!

 

 

 

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

Busyness: Time v To Do List

I have not blogged for a month. That just says it all.

Life is busy. But in reality work is busy, life is quite quiet as I carve out space to look after me.  I cannot be busy all day, all night and all weekend.

My sanctuary is getting home and being still, silent. Pressing pause is a luxury.

Time is a precious thing in schools. But there never seems to be enough of it these days? It seems to evaporate between your fingers.

 

to do list 2

I read some interesting articles a while back about the British obsession with Time Management where as the Americans focus more on Energy Management. Energy v Time increases productivity and performance. It streamlines quality v quantity. It makes sense so why does it feel like I am getting it so wrong?

I have always prided myself on being a super-organised, super-efficient individual, but these days I do not feel very organised nor very efficient.  My PA strives to keep on track, I keep 8/10 balls in the air, but she always catches the 2 I drop.

juggling-600x586

My outlook diary is a beautiful work of art, a rainbow of commitments and priorities. Some days I look at it and take a deep breath to garner the energy and stamina to work through it all.

to do list 4

I got to the point last half-term where I had To Do Lists for my To Do Lists! My Mum brought us up with The Pad being the 5th member of our family. The Pad was the family Bible. If it wasn’t on The Pad, it wasn’t worth knowing/ doing/thinking about! My sister and I often reflect on and laugh about the work ethic, the capacity for hard work, the resilience and the level of productivity that was instilled in us as children which frames our lives as adults.

to do list 1

I  use post its – in hard format on my desk and in electronic format on my phone. I like the colour, the scribbling but also that you can bin them as you go. Instant gratification for tasks complete.

to do list 3

But recently I have given up trying to track everything I needed to do. My Dad has always said that if you cannot remember you need to do it, then it cannot be that important. I have a good memory, I do what I can, when I can. I am pragmatic about not being a super human and prioritising what is important.

Apologies to those who keep  dropping down or off of my mental to do list.   There is only so much time in the day. There is only so much energy in the reserve!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Our brilliant new team – great to see some of our teaching team at the #charactertoolkit book launch and we have made some fab appointments this week!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • No time to blog nor read this month – have Character Toolkit by Liz Wright and Frederika Roberts plus Compassion by Sue Webb to read next.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My Leadership team and PA who have kept me sane the last few weeks.

 

#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.

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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!

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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.

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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

Authentic Leadership: Relationships Matter

I have been reflecting a lot on relationships recently and how they make or break a team and hold the space for a school’s culture and ethos to grow, learn and flourish.

Relationships in any team matter. Relationships in a school are the cogs that make the culture work. Relationships when you are values-led are even more under the spotlight of scrutiny. When relationships are strained the ethos could be shaken. It is the culture that holds the team together, the values that create the space to reflect, to discuss and to stay pointing in the same direction. Our team have started the Fierce Conversations training model, we are taking steps to connect and collaborate in a coaching culture where we communicate and challenge in a constructive and collegiate way.

Growing a team from scratch is intense: it takes a great deal of investment to establish new relationships; it takes energy to get to know one another; it takes time for team dynamics to embed.  The Values-led approach has helped us to accelerate this process, but we are still in the early days of team formation.

Becoming a Headteacher both changes and enhances the relationships you have with others. The complexity of the different dynamics and the sense of trying to be everything to everyone, but feeling like you are spread too thin and letting everyone down could become quite overwhelming if not managed carefully and constantly.  Being the figurehead of a school community brings with it the responsibilities of modelling the types of relationships you want to see across all of the stakeholders, but heads are humans too and we make mistakes like the next person. Our approach is also shaped by previous influences, what is trust, or support or autonomy to one person is received differently by another. Our understanding is based on context, perspective and previous experiences.

We/ I have got some things right this year, and we/I have got some things wrong. It is our learning as leaders and educators that enables us to reflect, refine, realign and recalibrate.

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HR and people management are a vital part of  the role of a Headteacher, but the training opportunities are few and far between. HR CPD tends to start at Deputy Headteacher level when you start your NPQH, and tends to focus more on capability and competence than performance and harmony. Reading beyond education into organisational cultures there seems to be a greater focus on structures and systems beyond the school gate that we as school leaders can draw from.

In 15 years of teaching I don’t think I have ever had any words of wisdom imparted to me about the pivotal relationships for a headteacher. So I hadn’t realised until a term in to our school opening, just how important the relationships with my PA and my SBL were going to be in keeping my head above water. I have been involved in the recruitment of teachers and leaders for most of my career so feel quite confident in this domain, but I had not really been exposed to the appointment, training and line management of operations staff before becoming a headteacher. When do we learn these softer skills as a leader?

My thoughts on who to appoint, what to look for and how to foster these relationships are shared below. I have reflected on what worked, what didn’t work and what we have learned. It is still early days but going in to our 2nd round of team members we can consciously adjust things as we scale the team up:

The relationship with your PA: When we first recruited for this role, I was advised by HR to go for the opposite of me: someone with school experience, someone who was meticulous with admin, someone who knew the lay of the land, someone who was quiet and calm, someone who would be a swan to counter balance me as a ball of energy. We had a strong field  – we were down to our last 2 candidates – they were both great potential appointments. I was happy to work with either of them as I could see what they could both bring to my role, but my instinct said I needed someone to compliment my leadership style rather than contrast it, but I listened to the external advice and went with the panel’s choice. The skills were all there to support me as a new headteacher in a new role, in a new school.

A term in, we parted in mutual agreement that it was not working –  she returned to her old school to a new role there. We both agreed that our working styles had not gelled, our expectations were not aligned and I felt like I was compromising my workload and my wellbeing to support someone who was still growing in confidence in the role. Line managing and performance managing a PA was totally new to me, I had made some mistakes, we had struggled to get in to a daily/ weekly groove of how we communicated and organised ourselves as a unit. Moreover, I realised that I had not looked for the qualities of  resilience, confidence, ability to be proactive or use initiative at interview and it had come to light that this was more important than school-based experience.

I went back to the other candidate and had a honest conversation about the recruitment process and the opportunity, apologising for my error in judgement and for not listening to my instincts. A term in, my working patterns have been revolutionised by someone who is always one step ahead of me, whilst running behind me and catching the balls I drop along my way. My PA was a virtual administrator for a long time, she works flexible hours, she has a ‘can-do’ attitude and we talk openly about what is working and not working. She is my gatekeeper – I trust and respect her to make sound judgement calls. We jest at school about life before my PA, that is the impression and impact she has made on all of us.

The relationship with your SBL (we moved all SBMs to SBLs at our trust and they sit on our SLTs to acknowledge their vital role in the school leadership structure): Our field was really strong at application and interview, we had a talented group of experience professionals who we could all see would bring value to the school in different ways.  Managing a start-up budget is not for the feint-hearted – we needed a creative thinker to make our money go as far as possible and someone with tenacity to fight our corner when needed. Moreover, I had heard testimonials from experienced headteachers that the support staff team are often the hardest group to lead change with. Fixed mindsets, traditional systems and ring fenced roles were not part of my vision for an effective and efficient school operations team. I knew I needed someone who could drive this.  I was also aware that managing upwards to challenge me needed someone really confident, someone with a voice who could balance setting up the systems in a brand new school with  being strategic about the longer term bigger picture.

If my PA is my sentry at the gate, then my SBL is the guard dog (not the most flattering of images but metaphorically you get what I mean). The dynamic between the two of them is also of vital importance. The 3 of us are a unit and our skills set compliment one another.

The relationship with your Site Manager: If I am honest I have always found this relationship a tricky one to manage. For most of the schools I have worked in they have been a difficult person to work with for an array of different reasons. Moreover, as a young feisty female leader my requests have not always gone down well! Especially as I have led PE, P.Arts and events/ CPD so have by default made more demands of the site team than others have.  As someone who is very house-proud, this has translated into me being very ‘school-proud’ too – I am the one who sees the cracks, the chips, the litter, the rips and breakages that need addressing. I can hear them rolling their eyes as my requests come in.

From the outset I have built rapport with our site manager and we have an understanding about our direct, honest, open and transparent lines of communication. I can tell him he is being grumpy and he can tell me I am being demanding. The Fierce Conversations training for all of our staff has enabled this and I have not shied away from the difficult conversations but in return I get loyalty, respect and understanding. We have a sparring dynamic and we can laugh off what could become tension and conflict  in other contexts. In different schools I have worked in the Site Manager has been line managed by different people in the Leadership Team, my SBL is responsible for this area of the school   and as our team grows this is a relationship I will need to invest in and preserve from a distance, as I need to empower her.

The relationship with your DHTs: My relationship with my Headteacher when I was Deputy Headteacher was strained. I moved from being an empowered Assistant Headteacher who was trusted and respected by my then Headteacher to someone who had to prove my credentials over and over. I hated being micro managed and felt like my autonomy had been removed.  I had a lack of female role models in both Leadership Teams which has most definitely influenced my leadership style. The relationships and dialogue between the male-heavy Leadership Teams I developed in were of a particular style. Moreover,  I have been shaped by working in a highly successful MAT, with high performing schools, leading in very challenging schools with a focus on rapid school improvement, with rigorous systems, serving a community of high social deprivation and high staff mobility. I have spent a lot of time reflecting on where lies my authentic leadership style and how much I have inherited from my training years.    

So I have made conscious decisions about the space and autonomy I give my DHTs to develop their leadership styles in their new roles and their new context. I have actively encouraged them to be outward-facing, to be governors, to develop partnerships, to find a coach and to apply for the NPQH. I have tried where possible to remove some of the barriers which stifled me. I have tried to  be supportive without micromanaging, whilst still quality assuring what we do as we are setting our own standards in each new task, process and system we create. I also plan to expose them to some of the areas of Headship that you do not experience as a Deputy Headteacher. Why do we have hidden aspects of the role? There are areas of my role I could have been better prepared for had I known what I needed to know. The 3 of us are really different but our experiences, qualities, skill sets and personalities compliment one another well.

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The relationship with your Governors: I have presented to Governors in previous schools, I have had link meetings re areas of responsibility, I have been a primary school Governor and Trustee to gain insight, but nothing really prepares you for the relationships you need to develop with your Governors. I found myself in the unique situation  of recruiting my own interim board of community members, and supporting their transition to our new MAT structure of SSBs (School Strategy Boards). Governance within academies has additional nuances to interpret and landscapes to navigate as we also have trust members on the SSB. Agenda setting, chairing, reporting and lines of communication and accountability have needed defining and clarifying by and for all of us.  There have been learning curves and pits for all of us in our first year.  Our Chair and Vice Chair have spent an increasing amount of time in the school, getting to know our staff and our students, their support of our team, our community and our vision and values has been unwavering and is really appreciated. This culminated in a full day’s experience last week for them to shadow us from 8am-4pm to see what a day in the life of our school is truly like, warts and all!

The relationship with your Staff Team: Being part of a start-up school is a unique experience for all of us. The initial team is small, so relationships are intimate and intense. Whatsapp groups for the different teams have helped us to bond and stay connected. We know each other really well in some ways, but a year in still have a lot to learn about each other. We are like a family in that we have strong bonds but we are passionate and committed – we wear our hearts on our sleeves and have our tense moments too. We are conscious that as we scale up we need to try and hold on to what is working and learn from what is not working. My whole team as a Headteacher is the same size as my team as an Assistant Headteacher, but it is going to grow exponentially over the coming years. When I reference this in conversations that in 5 years’ time we will have 1650 students across two sites with staff in excess of 150 I do have to brace myself as the butterflies start flapping inside! I am grateful to have 5 years to grow in confidence and experience as we scale up together.

At the moment although we are all busy and stretched we do not have a structural hierarchy,  so I am quite accessible to staff and students – my open office door feels like a bus stop most days as people pop in to see me.   I don’t like things to fester and have always had the office that is dubbed the ‘crying room’ in the school as I am  a ‘fixer’ and often the human sponge for the emotions that need expressing and managing.

As we move into our 2nd year and our 5 leaders, 10 teachers, 15 support staff and 120 students triples in size at our secondary site, alongside our primary school opening with our sibling team and pupil cohort I am already thinking about how I am going to manage  existing relationships, whilst establishing new ones. I  have started reflecting lots on is how to maintain these relationships when we scale up  next year and when I am split across two sites. There is definitely a book or  a blog out there I need to find and read to give me an epiphany about this as we move into year 2!

Connecting and noticing are part of the wellbeing 5 and are key to relationships and I am thinking about booking in a weekly staff clinic and also having a weekly staff coffee morning in our wellbeing room as #hotchocfri is a favourite for our students, but the staff would love it too!

 

The relationship with your Community Partners: No-one warned me about the onslaught of  introductions, the invites and the initiations of collaborations. As a new headteacher, in a new Trust, in a new community, in a new region this is the hardest bit of the job in some ways as there is not a directory nor a route map of who is who! I am really mindful that I do not want to snub anyone unconsciously when we invite people to events or when the school is invited to send a representative to a local event.  The 20+ invites from local church leaders was a diary nightmare in term 1, but we have tried to box clever and create community meetings and tours to collapse invites into different groups. My protocol is to arrange a meeting at school, arrange a  tour, invite our guests for family dining or a coffee and a chat, but this is time consuming to say the least.  My social life has changed quite a lot as I find myself as local business awards and church celebrations!

The relationship with your Students and your Parents/ Carers are a given but I have already written too much so that can  be part 2 of the blog on a later date. I also want to reflect on we communicate across our Trust as those relationships are vital to our success too. I am also thinking of a follow up blog on Communication Matters as we are working on a Communication Strategy to streamline what we communicate, to who, when and by whom.

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The relationships we are fostering with our new team members and how we will develop these relationships across 2 schools next year.
  • I am presenting at the Ambition School Leadership  women only NPQH launch this week and will try to distill some of my learning and reflections to that audience.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have followed some of Rob Loe’s research into Relational Schools via Helena Marsh’s involvement. I delved into the website but need to read the book and will look into attending some of their training.
  • Dr Neil Hawkes in From the Heart talks about a “hierarchy of roles not relationships” in values-led schools and this really resonated with me. As our team grows I wonder how sustainable across two large schools that operate as siblings.
  • Paul Dix in When the Adult Changes talks a lot about investing in the adult-student relationships in the school – we have considered how to apply this learning with regard to our students, but I need to revisit it to consider it within the context of adult-adult relationships.
  • Andy Buck’s brand and focus  is on Leadership Matters and for me Relationships and Communication Matters because they are at the heart of our core business as Leaders.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • In #WomenEd we ban the phrase “I feel lucky” because we make our own luck – I do feel lucky to have such a fantastic support network around me and to have recruited such a brilliant team at Aureus. I am grateful for how invested the team are in our shared vision, values and goals.

Global Mindset, Global Community: Global Citizenship

To celebrate #IWD18 and to help our Year 7 students understand why we need to #pressforprogress,  we held a Global Citizenship Day this week to develop awareness and deepen understanding of our values of Diversity and Equality.

Being an outward-facing school we have been overwhelmed by the number of invitations we have received to connect and collaborate with so many brilliant organisations who can bring value to our school community and who can help us give our Year 7 students a global perspective to contrast their life experience in Didcot, Oxfordshire.

The UN Global Goals for sustainable development inform our weekly Global Citizenship programme of activity that Julie Hunter our DHT curates superbly. At Aureus we do not do PSHE days, SMSC audits, Citizenship lessons – we have one integrated programme that integrates all of this key learning into one cohesive and coherent delivery.

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why should i care

We used this day as an opportunity to develop some partnerships through a carousel of thought-provoking workshops. It was a fantastic opportunity to expose our students to external voices and experiences whilst exploring the rights of girls. Our values of respect and responsibility  were developed as our students’ understanding grew.

LyftaEd

Serdar the founder of LyftaEd flew in from Finland to work with Amjad our AHT on a series of immersive storytelling workshops using the virtual technology platform his team have built. As an English and Media Studies teacher, as someone who travels a lot this resource is brilliant in exploring identity and representation. In the 15 minutes I was in the room we were in a Finnish family’s kitchen meeting a female weight lifter and we met a male ballerina in the Czech Republic in an opera house. The power of technology to transport our young people to places around the globe to create human connections and understanding of ourselves as global citizens is remarkable.

You can find out more about this brilliant platform here.

Oxfordshire Museums

Kelly Smith who works at Pitts Museum, initiate a project with us and a local artist to explore the history of Didcot and how this frames our identity as a school. Her colleague Sue Wright joined us to work with Lorna, a local artist and Laura our Art Lead Practitioner Designate. Using The Didcot Mirror as inspiration, each student has designed a piece to contribute to our art installation for our official opening ceremony in a few weeks’ time. Linking our Roman history with our future as a values-led school through our identity will create a sense of belonging for our students. The art installation entitled ‘Light up our Lives’ will hang above our heads in our weekly assembly.

Pictures to follow when it is installed next week!

Youth For Change 

Shamil and the team from Youth For Change delivered an interactive session on gender equality. The students were very informed about the cultural stereotypes for boys and girls, the social constructs they are defined and confined by. This was a segway to the rights of girls/ women and the challenges they face through the cultural practices of  FGM, ECM and HBV.

You can find out more about their #traintoprotect outreach here.

Sexplain

Amelia is a force to be reckoned with. Delivering brilliant SRE sessions she used play dough as a resource to start a dialogue about sex education. With the prevalence of the #MeToo campaign the dialogue around consent and behaviours/ attitudes to sex and relationships is of vital importance to our students.

Find out more here.

I was really very proud of our students on our inaugural Global Citizenship Day – the feedback we received from our visitors on their sense of self, their understanding  of how they belong, their desire to be changemakers in their community/ our world and their articulation of their values was very touching. Through our VBE frame we focus on the ethical vocabulary that our children have and how they communicate their thoughts and feelings.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The opportunity to shape global citizens who understand their identity, who have a sense of belonging, and who will contribute positively to the world.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am prepping Aureus for the VBE schools accreditation process whilst Julie Hunter our DHT is prepping us for our Rights Respecting School accreditation process. External validation of the work we are doing through our values-based education will help us to educate our prospective parents and carers about our work.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The teams at LyftaEd, Oxford Museums, Sexplain and Youth for Change who made this day possible for our staff and our students.