Nurturing Hearts & Minds: #cultureofwellbeingDGinset

Nurturing Hearts and Minds is our mission statement at Aureus School.

I have read a lot about mission statements in the last few years and how meaningless they have become. Equally I remember going to #TMLondon a few years ago and a teacher starting her career from QK presented on the legacy of her school’s mission statement. She showed us a picture of her year group at a girls’ school, she talked us through where they all were, they were all doing servant leadership roles, from nursing to teaching, to social working to coaching. She then showed us her mission statement, which was in Latin, the translation = to serve others. This really resonated with me in how subtly powerful and compelling this values frame was for the school community.

I reflected. Could I remember the mission statement of the school I went to, of the 4 schools I have worked in? The answer was a resounding no. They were meaningless, they were purposeless, they were laminated values that were not being lived in their school communities.

I have blogged before about our collaboration with VBE and how Sue Webb has guided  my team through values scoping. Before meeting Sue and Viv through #womened, before being coached, I had never considered my values, been asked about them or been able to articulate them. With their help, I excavated them and embraced them and can now describe myself as a values-led headteacher. At Aureus we are creating a values-led culture and we are delivering a values-based education.

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Our values wheel  reflects the values of our community – they reflect our collective vision and values of our school. We talk a lot about developing the whole child.

Many of us had come from toxic school cultures, schools where wellbeing was poor, schools where the humanity was being squeezed out. Our values reflect our vision. Our values reflect the human beings we want to create at Aureus.

Aureus Values Wheel V2

So how are we doing this? What are we actually doing to nurture hearts and minds?

Values signposting – we have 12 values and 1 is explored each month. Our value of the month is signposted every day in every activity as a constant drip-fed reminder.

Mindful Mornings – every morning our students have 30 minutes of mindfulness. Our 5 activities are: mindful assemblies, mindful strategies, mindful movement, mindful art, mindful reading.

Community  Assemblies  – each of our values are explored 4 times, from a multiplicity of perspectives by all of our staff, not just our leaders. Our 2 NQTs delivered 2 brilliant assemblies in their first half-term of teaching. Each assembly has a follow up reflection task for independent exploration. Each assembly finishes with our Aureus Homily, which is our intention for our community.

Family Dining – we sit and eat together. We have the same 8 students and staff member for a half-term so they build relationships with one another.  We all eat the same meal. All of our staff have a free lunch every day.

Coaching Time – we do not have tutors, we have coaches. We are there to facilitate learning and help our students find the answers.  This term we are launching our coaching circles. Our 12 teaching staff will meet a group of 10 students once a week to coach them through problems they are experiencing, teaching them to support one another.

Global Citizenship –  we do not do drop down days for PSHE, we do not have a SMSC tick sheet nor a citizenship audit. We have a meaningful daily diet of an enriching holistic curriculum to develop global citizens.

Silence – we do not have bells, the intention was to have music that played through the system to indicate, this has not been instilled yet. We rely on staff using their watches/ clocks/whistles and when needed I have a handbell. We have removed being jarred by the bell!

Transitions  – we only teach double periods so changeover is only to or from breaks/ lunches. Our students line up and are collected by staff from the playground at the  start of each lesson. We have eradicated the stress of students being lost or late.

Personal Development Time – our extra-curricular/ enrichment time is focused on developing the whole child. We do not do homework, we do not do boosters after school. We develop the softer skills our students need for the future.

Extended Learning – we do not set homework. We have weekly spellings and encourage reading for pleasure.

Opportunity for All – we teach mixed ability for all subjects, we do not set, we follow a primary model of the 4 coaching groups having all of their lessons together.

Art Therapy – we were delighted to be able to offer The Art Room, a national charity, a room at Aureus. We benefit from having fantastic art therapy practitioners based in our community and our most vulnerable students can access their expertise.

Safe Spaces – our uniform company owed us a favour after a tricky start to term and the local builders wanted some free parking so we tapped them both up for some sponsorship! This has enabled us to resource a Sensory Room and a Thrive Room. I am excited that both are opening this term.

Rewards – we reward the value of the month each week through a range of different activities. The winners get an invitation to #HotChocFri which is my favourite time of the week! At the end of each term we select a values champion from each coaching group for each value.

Sanctions – we do not do detentions, we hold restorative conversations and we have reconciliation time where the follow up facilitates learning and reflection.

Staff wellbeing – we have regular staff sessions of mindfulness and a staff wellbeing room. Our first term was really full on. We have reviewed workload and contact time, we have revisited the staff wellbeing action plan. Our staff wellbeing survey has gone out this week so that our staff lead can share the results with the leadership team and the governing body.

Staff CPD – we are introducing Fierce Conversations so that we can empower all staff to be truly authentic at work. Julie is dot B trained and a MHFAider. Charlotte is a MHFA champion. Both of them are training as our Thrive Practitioners and Bennie is training in Fierce Conversations. Charlotte is also our lead on a Yoga in Schools bridging project we are collaborating on with some of our feeder schools.

Staff Exercise weeks – our PDT does not run in the first nor the last week of each half-term, staff get gained time. The PE team lead opt-in exercise activities each night.

Flexi Fridays  -we have a half day. All student leave at 1.00pm. Staff can leave then or stay and catch up, it is their choice as it is their time.

Each decision we have made to do something differently, to approach things from a new perspective, to signpost things in a different way are to ensure that we treating our young people as names and not numbers in a spreadsheet.

I am very proud of the young people we are creating who can talk with confidence about their values.

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The difference we are making to the mental health and wellbeing of our students

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Clare Erasmus for her generosity in sharing her ideas and passion for MHWB.
  • Julie Hunter for her self-investment over the last few years and the impact this is having at Aureus.
  • Charlotte James for her commitment to our staff wellbeing.
  • Charlie Waller Memorial Trust for their STELLA project funding.
  • John Catt Education for publishing our book idea: The A-Z of Mental Health and Wellbeing in Schools. Out into World Mental Health Day 2018 and #helloyellow

Diverse Educators: #BAMEed #DisabilityEd #LGBTEd #WomenEd

Yesterday, was a defining moment in my career.

I am still buzzing from the inspiring and empowering group of diverse educators who came to Aureus for the day for our inaugural Diverse Educators event.

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#BAMEed met #DisabilityEd met #LGBTed met #WomenEd. 4 grassroot movements and communities came together to connect, to collaborate. The power of the collective voice.

The impact we can have working together was how I framed the event.  I opened Diverse Educators asking everyone to share their Why. We then did a popcorn sharing of our motivation for getting out of bed early and travelling on a cold Saturday morning in January.

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My why:diverse 3

We know our identities are more complex than just our gender. We all wear multiple hats, we all have multiple labels as we define and own our complex identities. What do we have in common? We are all humans. Yesterday, we brought together a group of humans who care deeply about diversity, equality and inclusion.

My proposition was that each community, each movement could challenge their systemic, structural and societal barriers for their label, or we could join forces and be a stronger voice, a stronger community to smash through these glass ceilings and these concrete ceilings together. Moreover with the support of all of the organisations who supported the event as exhibitors and contributors.

A collective mission.  A collective voice. A collective impact.

 

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Each of the grassroots movements shared an update on the progress of their community  and the impact they have made to date:

#BAMEed are a year old and held their first event last May in Birmingham, their 2nd event is soon and they are planning their 3rd for June 2nd. Co-founded by Abdul, Allana, Amjad and Penny they are growing their network and profile. Find out by following them here. An offshoot of @BAMEednetwork is @TFBAMEcommunity co-founded by Jess and Mahlon. They also have a series of events on the horizon.

#DisabilityEd is new on the block and unfortunately Lynne Wareham who is pulling volunteers together was too unwell to join us yesterday to share plans. The sessions that took place started the conversation. More to follow on this one as the community of educators with a disability come forward and join forces.

#LGBTed did a soft launch yesterday and will have a hard launch, an event in the spring.  Co-founded by Daniel and Hannah they have combined forces with David Weston and @OutTeacher. They have  Claire Birkenshaw (first know UK Headteacher to transition whilst in post) as an advisor to make schools more trans aware. Find out more here.

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#WomenEd is now nearly 3 years old! Co-founded by 7 educators, we have 5 of us as national leaders (Me, Jules, Keziah, Sameena and Vivienne) and 60+ as regional leaders in the UK and a further 10 driving the agenda internationally. We are planning our 4th national unconference for Autumn 2018, we have just reached 16,000 followers, we were nominated for a national diversity award, we were named in the TES top 10 influencers and we have a book deal with SAGE education. It has been an epic year for the #womened community! We have also just launched @WomenEd_Tech and @WomenEdBookClub Find out more here.

The schedule of the day involved 8 workshops in 4 time slots, 32 facilitated workshops and learning conversations about how we can have impact in our schools for our learners, both staff and students.

At lunchtime there was a buzz in the air as we all made human connections. Collaborations were initiated and I am excited to see how these will develop.

We closed with a panel. A diverse panel. A panel like we should see at more edu-events. It really isn’t that hard to ensure that you represent the voices of the audience and the profession at our events, whether they are grassroots or mainstream. Alison, Claire, Anna, Jonathan and Shirley represented and explored ‘How can we create a cohesive and coherent strategy to ensure a more diverse workforce?’ They reflected and shared how we can move from our why, to our how and to our what.

 

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I asked everyone in the room to then pledge their ‘what’. What is it we can all do differently from Monday? What is we can contribute to drive the diversity agenda?

The reason why Diverse Educators primarily came about was due to yet another poster advertising yet another event with an all white, male line up. We must continue to challenge the ‘manels’ and the ‘wanels’! We must collectively challenge the lack of representation at a lot of events, as well as on SLTs, Governing and Trust boards.  We will not change the ‘pale, male, stale’ face of pockets of our profession unless we challenge and ask for change.

I lost track of how many of these events I saw last year. Equally I was invited to speak at 10 plus events last year about diversity. I challenged each event that when I realised I was the representative. There were not diverse faces on the line up, just my straight, white face and voice championing diversity! They didn’t seem to see the irony? Moreover, on the few events where there was a smidgen of diversity, the diverse voices were marginalised to the small stage and pigeonholed by their topic.

So, it only seemed right for Bennie, one of my fabulous DHTs to close the event for us.  Bennie wears all of the hats.

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She explored each of the labels she wears. Her speech was passionate, personal and reflective as she shared her dismay at realising that she had a disability – as if it wasn’t hard enough to be a woman, an Asian women and an Asian bisexual woman. Did she really now have to deal with being a disabled Asian bisexual woman. How many labels can one person cope with? How many glass ceilings can one educational leader smash through? Her upbeat voice and pragmatic approach gave hope to the audience that it is possible, if you find the right school, if you stay true to your values. Moreover if you lean in and embrace your authentic self and bring your whole self to school.

 

Before everyone left I played them a song. They wondered where I was taking them when Hugh Jackman appeared on the screen. But a song from his new film: This is Me, made all of the hairs stand up on my arms, my foot tap in and my heart beat. I will be using it in an assembly this half-term as the lyrics are so emotive and powerful.  The Power Pose is a source of strength for #womened, this song could be a source of strength, an anthem for our diverse educational community. Most importantly, our grassroots events are amazingly positive and uplifting, but the trolling has already started. I hope that everyone who joined us yesterday, physically and virtually, ignore the haters, take the lonely negative voices with a pinch of salt and tap into the support and positivity of the Diverse Educators community:

“Reach for the sun… Burst through the barriers… Don’t let them break you down to dust… This is me… I make no apologies… Look out here I come!”

this is me

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The impact this event will have on combining the communities and excited to already be thinking about Diverse Educators II in Jan 2019 – we are thinking 12/1/19 and moving it back a week so more can come
  • The impact that Diverse Leaders will have on our 2nd cohort of delegates – you can register here for our free #BAMEed leadership development programme: https://goo.gl/forms/pQN8cn7Iw3zOPf5I2
  • Supporting the launch of #LGBTed
  • Advocating the developments of #BAMEed and @TFBAMEcommunity
  • What #WomenEd will achieve in our 4th year

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Everyone who came to Aureus yesterday – all of the speakers who volunteered their time for free, all of the exhibitors who provided resources, refreshments (Veema), gave out books (Leadership Matters) and discounted CPD (TES Institute) to our audience
  • Pen who captured the opening discussions and reflections brilliantly.
  • Claire Birkenshaw for educating me and making me more trans aware over pizza and wine!

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Calling All Flamingos: Join Our Aureus Family

I am a people person and I thrive through connecting with others. Networking is a key part of being an educator in my opinion. I therefore love recruitment and get a real buzz from meeting the candidates.

In last year’s teacher recruitment for Aureus School I met some amazing people, learnt lots from them in the process and created a brilliant team with appointments made for Year 2 too as the teaching/ leading talent pool was so strong.  I reflected on our values-led process here.

Our process was focused on finding the right people to get on the bus, to go on this journey with us. Our tasks were designed around candidates demonstrating their values. We were not trying to catch anyone out, we were trying to allow them all to shine.

Yes, experience and skill set are key, but for me it was the values and qualities that framed competence that made individuals stand out. We did all of our interviews in one week and didn’t appoint anyone until we had met all shortlisted candidates. We then did that X-Factor table shuffling task of working out who would work well and complement who. Each time we moved a person in to the team we had to remove someone else as we had a limited start up budget.

Who we appointed for Year 1 (started Sept ’17):

DHTs: Bennie Kara (Curriculum & Assessment) and Julie Hunter (Culture and Wellbeing). AHTs: Amjad Ali (Inclusion & T&L) and Chris Hunt (STEAM specialism, CIAG and Personal Development). LPs Charlotte James (PE and wellbeing), Laura Bainbrigge (Art and creativity) and Paul Wright (Computing and innovation). Teachers: Anna Daubney (Maths Mastery), Lannah Thatcher (Spanish) and Chris Atkins (PE).

Who we appointed for Year 2 (starting Sept ’18):

AHT: Drew Morris (Performing Arts and transition) and LP: Marianne Brunier (History and Literacy).

I found our founding team in weird and wonderful places – on twitter, on linkedin, in a library at an Ark event, at Oxford uni at a NQT event, through #womened and #bameed, even in Tanzania volunteering! We saved a fortune by recruiting in an unconventional way, and these savings all went in to the professional learning budget to increase CPD entitlement for our staff.

My team know that being outward-facing and networking is part of who we are at Aureus. Our students love meeting new people and we encourage the community to come in, for speakers to run assemblies and for #STEAM careers to be shared with them. I am hopeful that through their connections our team will grow organically over the coming years.

This year we are expanding the Aureus team and building the Aureus Primary team. I say family in my title because that is what we have become. Working at Aureus is more than just a job, we have bonded as a team, we care about each other and are really looking out for each other. Our Year 2 appointments are already part of our team. Our children  talk passionately at Aureus about our family values and what they mean to them.

So who are we looking for?

One of my favourite #womened quotes is below – “be defined by your soul, not your role”. Who do we want/ need to join us and then what can they bring is my focus in this recruitment window.

soul in role

The ‘souls’:

We are a values-led school. Our shared vision and values bond us. If our values wheel resonates…. if you want to work in a school that is committed to developing the whole child… if you are looking for a team who are passionate about mental health and wellbeing, who strive to look after each other…. then you are likely to fit right in.

Aureus Values Wheel V2

The ‘roles’:

For Aureus School we need for September 2018:

LPs for DT, English, Maths and Science and teachers for English, Maths and Science as the core subjects will double in size when we move from 120 Year 7s to 360 Year 7s and 8s.

The DT role is really exciting as this is the jigsaw piece missing from our #STEAM provision, they will join a dynamic team with a strategic plan of opportunities to showcase our specialism to open doors for future employment. There are 5 fully-kitted our classrooms and workshops awaiting someone to come and open up this area of our curriculum.

For Aureus Primary School we need for September 2018: 

A DHT and an AHT will be our first appointments for the primary. One of these roles needs to be an EYFS expert as we are opening with Nursery, Reception and Year 1 and 2. Ideally one will be an experienced Inclusion Leader and another will have safeguarding experience – but we will invest in the training of whoever is the right fit for our vision and values.

We have  additional funding from the LEA for a SEND Base which we are hoping will have a SEMH specialism. This team including a SENDco will be appointed by Aureus as we will be the host school – more to follow on these opportunities once the funding meeting has taken place in January.

The Aureus primary leadership roles are live now and we will be shortlisting and interviewing in the new year:

DHT 

AHT

We also need a Nursery Teacher, Reception Teachers and Year 1 and 2 teachers. We are keen to embed our mindfulness in our primary sibling  – you do not need to have experience of this as we will invest in training.

All of our roles have the potential to be flexible so please do apply and let us know the type of contract you are looking for. Part time/ job shares/ talent partnerships are an option. Return to teaching candidates will be supported. With Diversity and Equality as our core values we would welcome applications from diverse backgrounds and experiences too!

You can find out more about Trust: GLF Schools and our Teaching School: GLFTSA via the live links and by searching #growlearnflourish as this hashtag captures who we are.

If you are a flamingo, in a flock of pigeons, who wants to join a forward-thinking team who are making bold decisions to change school culture, then we would love to hear from you!

 

FLAMINGO 2

You can contact me for an informal conversation via twitter @TheHopefulHT or email me: wilsonh@glfschools.org

Our open recruitment event details for all 2018 roles are live here:

Secondary roles – Jan 27th AM

Primary roles – Jan 27th PM

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

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Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Who might apply and who will join our growing team!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Malala’s Magic Pencil – a present from one of my team!

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The lovely Christmas gifts and cards I received from students, staff and parents showing their appreciation of our hard work.

 

#Nurture1718: Seeds of Hope

Keziah encourages us each year to review our year & reflect on our achievements before setting our intentions for the next year. This is my 3rd nurture blog.

2015/16 – was all about seeking change as I had just resigned from my DHT role. I was re-evaluating & seeking my next steps. I needed to decompress to re-calibrate.

2016/17 – was all about seeing that change through, reestablishing myself & re-framing. Re-discovering my authentic self & being guided by my values. When I sit down and think  about it, it has been a mega year, a pivotal one for my career in fact. I did a TED talk!! It has been a big year for #womened too – we were nominated for Best Network in the National Diversity Awards!

2017/18 – will be a year of embedding, letting all of the changes in my professional & personal life settle & for equilibrium to be restored. I am excited to see  more of my intentions become actions.

Metaphorically, I feel like I was an established plant that was violently pulled out of the ground. I was re-potted, pruned and nourished. I have now been re-planted in a new environment, with the correct conditions & environment to grow & flourish. I have dispersed my seeds of hope, and they are now growing.  🌱

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2016/17 Reflections:

New opportunities:

I am now officially the founding Headteacher of a brand new start up secondary school and have just completed our first term!

New locations:

We have a beautiful new school building and site. I now teach/ lead in Didcot and live in Abingdon-on-the-Thames. I no longer live in London, and am close to where I was born in Henley.  It is weird how life sometimes takes you full circle!

New perspectives:

I have now been at GLF Schools for a year and am adapting to a new culture and ethos.  I have laid the foundations for our vision at Aureus, and our team have contributed to the values. We are all working together, we are on the same page, we are on the same bus, heading in the same direction.

New freedoms:

We have flipped the school day and start every morning mindfully. We have framed our curriculum through a values-based education. We have created a rewards-based culture and a coaching ethos.

New travels:

I started the year in Northern Ireland, I have been to Canada, Spain, Italy, Croatia and Dubai this year. I work hard and my holidays keep me going, but the international #womened opportunities also really excite me!

Other things this year I am proud of – I was nominated for a Women in the City Rising Stars Award, I led 3 DfE Diversity Grants, I was on a #womened panel in Banff with Pasi Sahlberg, I did a TED talk, I have been asked to write a monthly piece for Teach Secondary.

2017 has been an epic professional year!

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2017/18 Intentions:

New opportunities:

I have been made Executive Headteacher & will be opening our primary school & SEND base. I am on the Mental Health in Schools Award steering group lead the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust’s regional funding stream. I am leading the 2nd year of our Diversity Grant. #WomenEd are writing a book, we are also curating a whole channel at The Times Educational Festival at Wellington College in June.

New locations:

I have really enjoyed working with the #WomenEd teams in the West Mids and the East Mids this year. Also, the Berks, Bucks and Oxon Women Leading in Education Network. Both have kept me busy helped me settle out of London after 12 years in the city. Our sibling school Aureus Primary is being built & will open in September so we will have another new site!

New perspectives:

I am halfway through my coaching programme with Electric Woman which is encouraging us to dig deep to lean into our vulnerabilities. I am excited about hosting Diverse Educators in January to bring together #womened #bameed #lgbted and #disabilityed. We have become a partner school for Whole Education & will become a hub school for TES Learn, SSAT & Challenge Partners this year.

New freedoms:

I have joined a choir. It is half of my #wellbeing pledge to myself. I have attended every week for a term and have even performed in public!! This has been my #10%braver this year. My other half of the pledge – weekly yoga classes – has not gone as well but I will strive to fulfill this from January. 1 thing at a time!

New travels:

I am seeing the end of the year out and the start of the new year in, in Helsinki. I am of to the Dominican Republic for a friend’s wedding in Feb half-term. Next summer I am excited to be traveling to Mozambique on a women leading in education charity project with Action Aid to build a library. A once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity. I have also been asked to speak at a Girls’ Leadership Conference in Adelaide…

The last 2 years have been a whirlwind of activity & change, this year I am looking forward to some calm and to some clear, blue skies!

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I would like 2018 to be an epic personal year!!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

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Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The successful first term we have had at Aureus.
  • The growing momentum of #womened.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The DFE’s papers on flexible teaching and mental health.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The fabulous team at Aureus.
  • The wonderful #womened regional leaders I work with.

Currently feeling inspired by:

  • Stories of courage & resilience from fellow educators who are values-led and determined to be hopeful, optimistic & driven to change our profession.

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Our First 100 Days: Growing, Learning and Flourishing Together

This year it feels like I have had 3 jobs!

Spring term saw me starting at GLF Schools, still living in Sutton, commuting down the road to Epsom where our Head Office was based. I was planning Aureus and tasked with creating the GLF TSA strategy. I travelled up to Oxfordshire regularly to see the progression of the Aureus school site. I moved up earlier than planned in March as I was spending so much time on the motorway and could only eat so many M&S sandwiches for dinner!

Summer term saw me moving from the site office, out of my hard hat, high vis and wellie boots into my office. It was quite surreal having an office in a building site. An oasis of calm whilst the contractors still bustled around me. By May half-term we were nearly there and Aureus finally began to feel like a school. We got the keys in June (I think as now all a blur!) July saw my SBL, PA and Site Manager starting – I finally had a team to plan things with!  We held our Yr 6  induction evening and for the first time had the staff, students and parents on site, together in the main hall.

Autumn term saw the staff induction, student induction and our school opening. I blogged here on bringing the team together.  I blogged here on my reflections from our first half-term. I cannot believe how quickly this half-term has gone. It seems like yesterday I was in Dubai sunning myself and reflecting on our first 6 weeks, we are now in week 12 and nearly ready to break up for Christmas. A #nurture1718 blog is to follow on my reflections on the year and my plans for next year.

Our values are strong across our MAT and within our school. GLF stands for ‘Grow, Learn and Flourish’. Our pledge at Aureus is to ‘nurture hearts and minds’ through values-based education, our holistic curriculum and our STEAM specialism.

Aureus Values Wheel

How have we grown this term?

One of our students summed this up perfectly this week when they were planning their speeches for our official opening:

“We are like the seeds you have planted Miss. You are giving us the things like mindfulness to grow. We will grow into trees in Year 11.

“Did you know we were doing plant reproduction in Biology this week?”

This extended metaphor  totally sums up who we are. Our children speak passionately about our values. They are confident, articulate and reflective. What we say in assembly, is reflected in our curriculum and discussed in our coaching time.

We have grown in so many ways – personally and professionally, as students and as staff, we have flipped from macro thinking to micro moments. Everyone’s confidence has grown as they find their feet in our brave new world.

What have we learned this term?

I am in a group called #NQHeadT on Twitter with 50 other new Headteachers. In some ways it does feel like I am a NQT again. The role is so different to previous ones I have had. The scale and the scope of my remit is massive. Changing regions, LEAs, Trusts and taking on a start up school add additional pressures to the already immense role. But you have to just take some deep breaths, keep your feet firmly planted on the ground, and work through your daily to do list!

Key learning for me includes:

  • That there is not a checklist/ guidebook for everything you need in place to open a new school!
  • That the best made plans don’t ever cover everything.
  • That you don’t know what you don’t know until you need to know it!
  • That every time you go to do something for the first term, it is the first time you do it, so you need a process, a template and it takes a lot more time and energy!
  • That we have taken on a massive job – it is much bigger than any of us thought it would be.
  • That we need to be resilient as everything is not going to be right the first time.
  • That the culture/ ethos of our school  and the dynamic of the team is vital in our success.
  • That we need to hold on to our values when the going gets tough.
  • That we need to remain positive and optimistic as it is not going to be plain sailing.
  • That we are up for challenging the system, affecting change and doing things differently but we need to take the wider community with us.
  • That balancing workload with wellbeing is really hard!

How have we flourished this term?

Wellbeing is one of our core values. This was a choice we made. The majority of our team have come from broken schools and toxic cultures. We are committed to doing things differently and looking after our staff and our students. We have put it on the agenda and under a spotlight which means we are inviting internal and external scrutiny.

Our DHT for Culture and Wellbeing and our LP for Staff Wellbeing have created a fantastic  action plan for our MH & WB strategy. But that does not mean that it is easy. It does not mean that we have got it right from the get go.

We are knackered and we are definitely in ‘surviving’ rather than ‘thriving’ mode at the moment. Looking forward to things settling as they embed in term 2. We do not have a magic wand. But what we do have is a brilliant team. We are united and all on the same side. Everyone looks out for everyone in the building and that is really refreshing. I don’t dread walking into the staffroom or sitting in Leadership meetings.

So although it is hard, and mistakes will be made, I really like and respect everyone we have recruited. I am excited to see who jumps on the bus with us in the spring term to join us in year 2!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Term 2!
  • We have moved our 100th day of opening celebration party to our 200th day in March due to the adverse weather conditions. We have achieved so much already in Term 1, I am excited to see where we are in another term’s time.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for: 

  • Our Leadership Team – Bennie, Julie, Amjad, Chris and Ellie are brilliant to work with, full of ideas and energy. A special mention to Drew who joins us in 2018 but is already an established member of the team!
  • Our Teaching and Coaching Team – Charlotte, Laura, Paul, Anna, Chris and Lannah are all working really hard and are extremely committed to nurturing our young people.
  • Our Operations Team – Rebecca, Cherry, Tina, Neil, Paul, Emma, Helen, Lindsey, Justine, Mou and Katie are a fantastically supportive team who keep the cogs going behind the scenes.
  • My PA – Zoe is wonder woman. She has whipped me into shape and brought a military precision and order to our busy team.
  • Our External Team – Clare, Kate, George, Dom, Matt and Andrea are all based at Aureus but are not our salaried staff, it is fab having them and their expertise in the building for us all to benefit from.
  • Our Friends of Aureus – the number of people prepared to travel to come to our official opening was impressive and the words of well wishes following our decision to cancel it due to the snow were overwhelmingly positive. The support network we have locally, regionally and nationally is really quite something.

 

Reflections: Our First Half-term as a School

We have been a school for 6 weeks. What a whirlwind of activity it has been. It is a surreal experience being appointed to lead a school that is an idea, spending 18 months thinking about the school you would like to lead, then taking it from the abstract to the concrete.

Since starting in January I have hit the ground running, attending project meetings to consult on the build, fixtures and fittings, snagging the finish, and snagging the snagging!  Relocating in the spring made this easier as the time and energy of the travel to and from Oxfordshire was draining.

Since March it has been all about relationships – building the team by appointing leaders, teachers, the site team and the operations team. The relationships formed early on have made the team a really dynamic one to work in.

Since July it became about our students and their families when we met them all together for the first time. It was a special moment having all of the staff, students and parents/ carers in the same room at the same time. It was the first time I felt like a ‘proper’ headteacher rather than an imposter.

Here is a thunk for you: Is a Headteacher a Headteacher when they have no building, no students and no staff?

Early September was staff and then student induction. We had a lot to discuss, plan & deliver to have a smooth start to term for all. We tried to balance the strategic vision planning with the operational provision planning. We are all new, everything is new, we are on the journey of discovery together.

Since September we have focused on establishing and embedding our routines and systems. We are consciously doing things differently, questioning why we have always done things in a particular way and rethinking processes.  We have drafted flow charts and protocols for each routine and system to pilot, reflect on and review.

We are also all teaching a lot and leading multiple personal development opportunities after school each night – we are a small team with a small first cohort, but we pledged to the parents who made the bold leap of faith with us that their child would not be disadvantaged by being in our first cohort. I am a teaching Headteacher. I teach all of the Year 7s Drama each week, the equivalent of 4 double lessons – we have studied A Midsummer Night’s Dream this half-term as we are performing in the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival in November. So my after school commitment has been drama rehearsals and a photography club.

Teaching every single student in the school is a unique situation to be in. The Class of 2022 will know us & be known to a different depth than I have ever experiehced. Our challenge longterm is how we can sustain the quality of the relationships we will have with them with larger cohorts as the school fills up.

Highlights of our first half-term include:

Values – we have established our 12 core values and we explored Wellbeing in September and Diversity in October. Our students have been actively reflecting and discussing pur values continuously to consider what they mean and how we can embody them. We are delighted to be working with Sue Webb, Dr Neil Hawkes & VBE Zone.

Hot Chocolate Friday – we launched this and it has gone down a storm with 8 students each week being awarded. The training from Pivotal Education has been brilliant to establish our restorative conversations culture.

Mindfulness – our mindful mornings are wonderful – the feedback from students, staff and parents has been really positive. Julie our DHT has done a brilliant job planning our flipped day.

Assemblies – our values-led delivery has resulted in some of the most thought-provoking and impactful assemblies I have had a privilege of experiencing. Our 2 NQTs were magnificent!

World Mental Health Day – all of our staff and students raised awareness by wearing yellow to school for #helloyellow. We have also launched a regional MH & WB network which had a brilliant turn out for our launch meet up.

Open Events –   we have been quite overwhelmed with interest for next year’s cohort with 850 coming to our Year 6 Open Evening and another 350 coming to our Open Mornings. We are very hopeful re our numbers for next year.

Art Room Opening –  Sir John Dunford joined us for our opening of our Art Therapy Room and commented on the ‘forward-thinking nature’ of our school and the ‘magic’ he could feel in the building!

International Day of the Girl – our #womened #leadmeet was really inspiring & connected some brilliant regional partners like Feminism for Dads. Our DHT Bennie did a cracking presentation on our vision for our girls at Aureus.

Masaai Warriors – we ended the half-term with a visit from a touring group of Masaai warriors who performed and interacted with our Year 7s and some local primary schools.

If you are reading this and thinking about being a teacher, a leader or considering becoming a Headteacher, please do not listen to the negative rhetoric about our profession  – come and visit us and see that there is a different way!

We are working extremely hard, we are tired and constantly  juggling lots of different balls in the air. However, there is a real sense of collective ownership of our shared vision & values: we are committed to our mission of growing, learning and flourishing together and nurturing the hearts and minds of our community. Many of my team, including me have nearly left the profession; Aureus gives me hope that there is a different way to deliver a high quality provision to meet our bold vision.

be bold for change

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

Our 2nd half-term, the official opening of Aureus School including the opening of our Thrive Room and our Sensory Room.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Inner Story – Dr Tim O’Brien then When the Adult Changes  – Paul Dix

Currently feeling grateful for:

Our fabulous team – very lucky and privileged to be working alongside them.

Talent Management: Flexible Teaching

I am delighted to have been asked to become a Flexible Champion for @Flexteaching My blog for them is here: http://www.flexibleteaching.co.uk/blog/ 

How can we encourage more schools to offer Flexible Teaching Opportunities?

Recruitment, Retention, Talent Spotting and Succession Planning are recurring themes for the #womened community, I have not held nor attended an event yet since we started 2.5 years ago when this has not come up in conversation.

Last year I attended a conference by the Guardian Education team who had published a report on their research into the state of the education profession. They analyses the data of why we don’t have enough teachers and leaders. Ultimately we have more leaving then we do training, but rather than throwing incentives to encourage more graduates to train, why are we not unpicking the reasons preventing trained, experienced teachers from staying in the profession?

I was not shocked to hear that the significant demographic leaving teaching were women, between 30-39. The irony and ongoing dichotomy of our profession is that we prioritise the children of others, over our own children.

When I became a Headteacher Designate last year I pledged to ensure that all roles advertised were open to flexibility where possible. As a consequence I have a 4 day a week AHT, a 4 day a week ArtLP and a 3 day a week PE LP. The AHT does outreach and consultancy on his 5th day, our Art LP is going to spend some time on her own portfolio and our PE LP has two small children. As a school with wellbeing as one of our core values it was important to me to ensure that staff could pursue their passions, balance their families and carve out their own career pathways from the get go.

I am conscious with a start up school we are in a unique situation as we can create a new way of doing things. It also suits us to have part-time roles which could grow in to full time roles as the school expands, but this parallels some of our flexible workers who have small children, potentially wanting more hours as their children get older so it suits all of us.

My tips for other schools:

  1. Advertising:

How inclusive is your advert? I made the wording very clear in every advert, every job description and every person specification by including the same standardised sentence that we consider flexible roles.

  1. HR Documents:

The same sentence was echoed in our Person Specifications and Job Description for every teaching, leadership and operational role.

  1. Applications:

I hear all the time, at what point in the process do you ask. Do you drop it into your initial visit, your supporting statement, or at interview? In our case, because we had made it explicit in our recruitment strategy, our candidates made it explicit in their applications. I was already considering how to make it work before I had met them.

  1. Interviews:

Again, I inserted a standardised question into all of my interviews. I asked it at the end of the interview when we were finding out what salary they were seeking and what CPD they needed to support them in the role. By us leading the discussion it diffused the nerves and tension of the candidate wondering when it would be okay to ask and how we would respond so a transparent and open  conversation could take place.

  1. Negotiation:

I have been asked by a lot of #womened colleagues to also share tips, talk and write about how to negotiate your salary. My colleague and fellow co-founder Vivienne Porritt has blogged about this via StaffRm here:

https://staffrm.io/@vivienne/r1klsoBs9G

My advice is always to negotiate but to consider what you value beyond a salary increase. In the past I have negotiated an office, a mobile, a laptop, an admin support, more free periods, a paid for CPD programme more and a relocation package. The one that brought me the most satisfaction was two more free periods. My Headteacher offered me a few more grand but this would have meant more hours  in the evenings and at the weekend. I offered no more money but more non-teaching/ non-duty time. He laughed and thought I was kidding. I was promoted and maintained my wellbeing – so go in prepared, know what you want to ask for, have a gold/ silver/ bronze approach  – I always go in higher/ more demanding than I am prepared to settle – we all leave happy!

  1. Befriend the Timetabler:

In all honesty, besides traditional mindsets the biggest blocker to flexible working in schools is the timetable or the timetabler themselves. Researching and understanding how to make this work will help your negotiations. I often wonder what our timetables would be like if each SLT had a PT leader who did the timetable and was committed to making it work? It would be a game changer. I have heard many a time it is impossible, but I have spent hours at home with posts it and manual colour coded spreadsheets to make it work. Devolved timetabling to middle leaders gives the department some ownership to work as a team on removing some of the barriers and finding some mutually beneficial solutions.

  1. Contact Time:

In secondary schools, it is the Tutor Group, afterschool clubs, detentions and meetings that are the killers when you are trying to carve out flexible hours. Again, our system needs to change to respond to the changes in how we work.  Flipped lessons are a buzz word for our students, how about Flipped CPD and Flipped Meetings for the adult learners? We need to think outside of the box and be more creative about we get the desired outcomes we seek, by doing things differently.

  1. Unconscious Bias Training:

This has come up a lot regarding the launch of #BAMEed and the conception of #LGBTed and #DIisabilityEd. In other industries the senior leaders are all trained. In our schools this is not common practice. I would recommend that if all Governors, Senior Leaders and HR teams who are involved in long listing, short listing, interviewing and making job offers did this training we would see some real change in how we package our roles up.

  1. Middle Leadership:

Co-Headships are in demand from those in the profession but are rarely advertised as a recruitment tool, instead being used as a retention tool.   I understand it is a big risk with a new Headteacher, let alone a pair of new leaders who might not gel. However if schools were more open to job shares and flexibility in the middle leadership where most schools are female heavy, wouldn’t the governors and the system be more ready for shared leadership roles at a senior level including headship?

  1. KIT leave and Return to Teaching/Work

Something I have been looking into is how best to support staff who are going on  or returning from maternity leave. As DHT responsible for CPD and then the professional learning leader across a MAT, I have made some proposals to HR about how we can best support one of our vulnerable groups of staff. I have seen many women lose their confidence and often their TLRs when they come back from having a child. After reading Sandberg’s Lean In I was mortified to think of a colleague traipsing from the furthest parking lot heavily pregnant or not having anywhere to express their milk. Why are our schools so family unfriendly?

Through #womened I have made brilliant connections with women who have  utiliised social media platforms to launch collaborative projects to grow a community such as @MaternityCPD and #MTPTproject, together with Leaders with babies. The DfE have tried but failed to launch a Return to teaching/ return to work scheme which is going through another rebrand.

Ultimately, in my humble opinion I would like see more best practice identified and shared about who is getting this right. Which schools, academies, MATs are nurturing this talent. We cannot keep saying we have a recruitment issues, we need to reflect and realise we have a retention issues. But both issues could be significantly improved if we were more open as a profession to more flexible working models in our schools

Testimonial:

Charlotte James, PE LP Designate, Staff Governor, Mum of 2 and 3 days a week contract

“It’s possible to feel completely lonely in a room full of people and this is my experience when I returned to work after having my first child. Working in a very young PE department, where there had only been one women before me to have a child, there was a real lack of experience and knowledge of how to support me. Quite frankly supporting a women that’s life had completely been turned upside down by having her first child, unless you have had a child yourself  –  is something that is very difficult to understand – but as a leader if you don’t have those experiences first hand then you have to really want to try and understand. The school was a split site school that was incredibly busy and nobody was available often enough to invest their time to help and support me. Furthermore, I was told unless I returned full time I would be unable to continue with my TLR role. However, no other member of staff applied for the role and I was then asked to continue which made me and the role feel under-valued. I felt that staff thought that because I was an experienced teacher I could just pick up from where I left off 12 months ago and be fine. That was quite the opposite where I had never felt so vulnerable standing in front of 30 teenagers before. The KIT days were unstructured and at times I was just used to cover lessons. 

I happened to find Hannah Wilson on Twitter and had the cheek to ask her for some advice regarding how we could improve our maternity package. Hannah invited me for a coffee and naturally the conversation led on to the new school she would be opening September 2017. To be honest I originally thought it sounded too good to be true….with the chance of part-time leaders, which is something I thought I would never find and the thought of that made me feel trapped in my job. Since that day I have never looked back. In my 8 years of teaching I have never been offered so many opportunities to grow and never felt so valued in my contributions. Today my daughter started school and Hannah, @TheHopefulHT, allowed me to arrive to work after I had taken her to school on her first day. This is something that I will always remember and something I will always be eternally grateful for”.

Further reading and useful links:

#WomenEd:

Sarah Hardy is a full time Mummy and part-time leader, she is also one of our #womened regional leaders. Read her advice in Teach Wire here:

https://twitter.com/MsSarahHardy/status/902405542571847680

My earlier blog on co-headship:

https://staffrm.io/@misswilsey/OfTpHRCQau

Leaders with Babies:

https://www.leadersplus.org.uk/

Maternity CPD Project:

http://www.mtpt.org.uk/

DFE Return to Work:

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/plan-to-make-teaching-a-more-flexible-long-term-career-for-women

2to3days:

https://www.2to3days.com/

GiniBee:

http://www.ginibee.com/

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

The fact we are modelling diversity, equality and inclusion in all of our appointments.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Next on my pile is The Leadership Gap by Lolly Daskal – a present from Kathryn Morgan.

Currently feeling grateful for:

The fantastic commitment of our team at Aureus to make flexibility and wellbeing pledges to one another to ensure that we are family-friendly.

The Power of Facing Your Fears: #Ididitanyway @WomanthologyUK

Fiona Tatton @womanthologyUK founder & editor started the #ididitanyway hashtag on Twitter & LinkedIn last week.

She is crowdfunding a new publication for women & was seeking inspirational stories from women who had faced fears to overcome adversities.

http://www.womanthology.co.uk/

I have pledged because I love what she is doing to raise the profile & amplify the voices of women in STEM, challenging gender stereotypes through publishing.

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This resonated with #womened, our Why, how we connect & what we stand for.

Fellow #WomenEd co-founder & National Leader, Vivienne Porritt, shared our community #ididitanyway in this tweet:

The #ididitanyway testimonials of personal & professional challenges, change & growth have been inspiring to read. It parallels the #womened pledge to be #10%braver.

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Vivienne posted this blog to capture our journey as a community in the last 2 1/2 years:

https://staffrm.io/@vivienne/1EaQ4zlF2m

This year has been a life changing year for me so here is my #ididitanyway story:

18 months ago I resigned from a toxic school culture.

I was told by my then boss that I was committing ‘career suicide’. In my heart I knew I was, in fact, committing career salvation!

Like with any negative relationship sometimes you just need to ‘rip the bandaid’ off! I have broken up with  bad boyfriends. I have moved away from feckless friends. Why do we stay at schools that are unhealthy and in roles where we stagnate?

I listened to my instincts – I knew I was unhappy. I knew I was in a professionally destructive relationship & I was losing myself.

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I was confident enough to know there are more jobs than teachers & lots of schools out there. I am also a strong believer that life is too short to work somewhere which makes you unhappy, for a leader who does not value you.

So I pulled the rip cord.

I then paused, and I waited for opportunities to come to me. I didn’t listen to the voice telling me to find safety/ security/ stability as I didn’t want to ‘jump from the frying pan into the fire’.

I had coaching from some fantastic #womened role models: I revisited my Why; I articulated my values; I visualised the role, school, culture I needed to find; I wrote down my non-negotiables. I did it my way.

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I did my research – I found a role, applied & was offered the role. I then held the power – I negotiated & got the terms I needed to make the leap. I knew that I needed to start the next chapter as I meant to go on. I was adamant that would be no looking back.

#ididitanyway – I changed trusts, I changed cultures, I changed roles, I changed areas, I changed teams. I changed my destiny.

I couldn’t have done it without the support of the #womened community, without my tribe of fellow women leading in education to lean on.

When friends, family & colleagues ask me why I invest so much of my time & energy in the #womened community & movement this is my explanation.

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We have each others’ backs. We support one another, we fortify our resilience, we nurture our ambition. We are a team with a collective vision, common mission and shared values.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

The impact of #womened on a community of female school leaders.


Currently reading and thinking about:

I have loved reading all of the cross-sector  #ididitanyway tweets showing tenacity despite adversity.


Currently feeling grateful for:

Social media for connecting like-minded people, helping us to find & raise our voice, plus amplify the voice of others.

 

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!

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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.