Pressing Pause: Reflections & Recalibrations

We broke up ten days ago for the summer and I pressed pause. I needed to breathe.

It has been a really full on founding year as a new Headteacher of a new school and I was feeling physically, mentally and emotionally zapped. More so than I have ever been before. The fatigue was compounded by the early termination of my May half-term and the stressful start to our final Summer 2 half-term due to the Daily Mail!

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When I say that our last 7 weeks were full on, it is probably an under statement! I felt like I pinged from one big school event to another across our two school sites and was on an assembly writing and delivering conveyor belt!

At Aureus School – our Year 6/7 transition days (in Didcot they do 2) had to be split as we could not accommodate all 240 for 2 days with the size of our current team; we held a successful Year 6/7 parents’ welcome; we continued to hold open events for prospective parents and carers. At each I ‘shot the elephant in the room’ and spoke directly to the headlines. We held our final Governors’ meeting of the year, we held our end of term/ end of year celebration assembly and we hosted our inaugural Sports Day. None of these events are different to other schools, but each was our first, each was planned and delivered by our small team in our huge site!

At Aureus Primary School – we had the site final completion and it was signed over to us; we continued to log our ever growing snagging list; we prepared for and passed our Ofsted pre-opening inspection; we did multiple site tours for our new parents, carers and pupils; we hosted our welcome evening.

Interviews for our operations team, which is tripling in size next year, took up a lot of our time in the summer term but we have made some brilliant appointments for roles at each school and hybrid roles across the two.

Our new staff induction day was epic – there was a moment of dawning as we welcomed 45 new staff members for the day. 45 new members of staff, for which we have not paid for a single advert! Moreover for which we have interviewed in excess of 250 candidates! I love recruitment but it does feel like a full time role some weeks!

In sharing our vision and values, in reflecting on our culture and ethos, in detailing how we would scale up, I had a moment.  I realised how far we have come as a team, and I realised how much we have achieved in Year 1. As I played Emilie Sande’s ‘Wonder’ I was taken back to our induction day last September. It honestly seems like a life time ago! Time passes so quickly in schools, I remember someone saying to me in my NQT year not to wish away each half-term to a holiday, but we all know we do this. The momentum this year has meant we have needed seat belts and crash helmets at times!!

All of these whole school events were done around the normal exam marking, data entry, report writing and Parents’ Evening cycles but for us we only have 11 teachers, including me, who all teach all 120 students, so this was also intense! No wonder we were on our knees.

So week 1 of our official summer holidays I was still spinning, my head was still busy, my To Do List for school and home was still epic. As for the state of my house, my washing/ ironing pile and my fridge, well, they were feeling neglected to say the least!

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So how did I start to recalibrate?

A staff night out with cocktails and dancing set the tone for my first weekend off. Nights out have been few and far between this year. Weekends have been about sleep and recuperation. The weather was still beautiful so I then hung out with friends who had come to visit and we chilled out on the river. The real treat came on Monday when the alarm did not go off, I still woke up like a robot at my standard 5.30am, but I rolled over and stayed in bed. This felt like the biggest treat as I  normally bounce up and out.

I have learnt over the last 15 years that for me going away on holiday straight away does not work. I need to tie up loose ends and get my environment tidied, resources organised and admin completed to go away guilt free and truly rest. So I went in to school for 3 days – I spent a day with my School Business Leader to sort our finances, a day with our Primary Deputy Headteachers to get things ready for our opening and a day with my PA to get our start of year organised.

Around our office and admin sorting our fabulous site team sorted a very long list of jobs for me so that the site will look spic and span to welcome our new staff and students in September. My Site Manager, my School Business Leader and I reminisced on a year ago when it was just the 3 of us rattling around in the massive school all by ourselves, before the staff and students started. It felt like a full cycle had been completed.

Each night I slept a bit earlier and a bit deeper, each morning I woke a little later and felt a bit more chilled. My osteopath tells me my body is like a tightly coiled spring and I felt the coil slowly begin to uncoil.

My first proper day off, not in school, was spent in London, ironically. I had a lunch date with Shirley Drummond and Jill Berry to catch up on our last 12 months, preceded by my emergency jabs and visa appointment for Mozambique as my personal ‘life-min’ was somewhat in disarray. Over a long leisurely lunch there was much laughter, lots of story telling and quite a few cocktails. A tradition we started last year when Shirley had just completed her first year and I was in my designate role. Jill and her book ‘Making the Leap’ have been a source of advice and inspiration for both of us on our journeys to headship.  #WomenEd friends and support network are invaluable in having those professional conversations that your non-teaching friends and family do not really get nor need to get. I did then go home to Devon for a long weekend and was less tired and work focused than I normally am as I had already decompressed!

As my mind began to settle I began to reflect more deeply on Year 1. A quote I keep going back to is one of my favourite by Maya Angelou about surviving v thriving. We have most definitely been in survival mode this year. I don’t think any of us could have anticipated how difficult it was going to be at times, how demanding and draining it would be. It is a cliche but it has been an emotional rollercoaster. The highs and lows have been quite extreme at times. I have felt the need to be both a rock for everyone on my team but also an emotional sponge for them. The role of emotional supporter also extends to our vulnerable students and their families  – some of who I have spent a considerable amount of time with this year too.

angelou thrive survive

As a DHT this was also my role but it has intensified as the buck now truly stops with me. I feel very responsible for our team who have made career and life choices to join us on our journey. I feel very protective of our students who topped us back up again with their lovely values thank you cards to show gratitude to all staff members on the last day. I feel the pressure from our parents/ carers who took a leap of faith on us, on me last year.

I think that is the major difference of becoming a Headteacher, I have always been heavily emotionally invested in the school and community I serve, but I feel the level of accountability more keenly. Not in a results, inspection pressure but in a people and relationships pressure. I just don’t want to let anyone down!

This year group, our founding students, are also always going to hold a special place in our hearts. The Thank You cards, messages and presents we received from students and parents/ carers were indicative of our successful year.

Taking on my first headship, changing trusts, relocating, agreeing to being Executive Headteacher in Year 2 before Year 1 was even finished, project managing two builds and founding two new schools could not have pushed me further from the minimal comfort zone I have. Not much phases me, but this change leadership is different to the turn around school improvement I am used to leading.

The magic for us has happened in our conviction in doing things a little bit differently, in our boldness in challenging the traditions of our system.

comfort zone

So I am off to Mozambique for 2 weeks with the Action Aid and Women Leading in Education team. A brilliant opportunity to totally detach from reality, to dislocate ourselves from our emails, from twitter and from thinking about work. Some time out to consider how I will move from surviving to thriving in our 2nd year.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Our trip to Mozambique with Action Aid.
  • Our opening of Aureus Primary School in September.
  • Our second year for Aureus School.
  • Our brilliant new team and the energy, ideas and expertise they will bring with them.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I read a brilliant piece yesterday about creating a good school culture which I will share with the staff in September.
  • I really enjoyed Jill Berry’s blog on do less and achieve more – encouraging us to subtract rather than add.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Surviving Year 1, relatively unscathed!
  • The resilience my parents have instilled in me as it got me through this year.

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Streamlining Systems: Safeguarding Processes

Maria Alexander @Daring Optimist asked us to contribute to the launch of the Pastoral Toolkit. Our DHT for Culture and Wellbeing Julie Hunter contribute an article for the first edition here and I have contributed a follow up article in their second edition here.  

My article is below:

Safeguarding Information:

The first thing you see when you sign in at our school is the poster of the Safeguarding Team. Before you can sign in you also need to read and agree with our Keeping Children Safe protocols. You also need to read and agree to our school values.

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Safeguarding Posters:

We use the back of our toilet cubicle doors as a way of drip feeding how to keep ourselves save from a range of risks.

Inventry:

We use digital signing in system for all staff and visitors. It takes your photo and stores it for when you visit again. You get a lovely sticker with your mug shot on it too!

The Senior Leadership Team, Receptionists and Site/ Lettings Team all have the app on their mobile. Which saves printing everything in a fire evacuation as we can see at a glance who has not signed out of the building.

Lanyards and ID:

All of our staff and all of our students wear a photo ID card. They use it for swiping for lunch, the library and in and out of school, when it is out of hours. The staff all have their DBS number on display for when they go to other schools. On the back of the ID card there is a quick reference guide with key contact numbers for MASH/ NSPCC.

Visitors who are known to the school and who are on our SCR received a green lanyard when signing in. This includes visitors from our MAT and our Governors who the staff may know but the students may not.

Visitors who are unknown to us wear a red lanyard and need escorting.  Our students know that a red lanyard means ‘stranger danger’ and if they spot anyone roaming unescorted they should alert a member of staff, and they do!

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Media Consent:

We only have a handful of students who opted out of our Media Consent policy for photography. Their names are on our Media Consent register for staff to cross-reference when doing events, going on trips, sharing news. For events they wear a red lanyard to flag this to official photographers.

Safeguarding Pads:

I have worked with Ann Marie Christian in my previous role as Professional Learning Leader for a large MAT.

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We launched a DSL & DDSL network for 42 academies in South London to meet half-termly to share best practice.

She has recently designed a 2 page pre-printed process pad through Doodle which you can buy online. We have bought all of our Safeguarding Team a few of them to make referrals quick and to ensure all the bases are covered.

Safeguarding Network:

I recommended Ann Marie to our new MAT and she has been working with the central team on standardising processes across our 27 schools.   Our MAT DSL and DDSL have also recently launched a half-termly face to face update to share topical issues, crowd source best practice and seek support from others in the same challenging role. One of the things we are currently looking at is how to broker supervision for our DSLs.

Mobile Phones:

All of our staff mobiles have a Yellow sticker on the back of them to demark whether they are ‘safe’ phones. All visitors are informed at reception that they are not allowed to have their phones out whilst on site. If they need to make/ take a call they request a private office. Our students are very confident in asking our visitors to politely put their phones away.

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Educare:

As a trust we use an online training platform for virtual safeguarding training and top ups. Following the face to face training at the start of the year – generalist CP for all staff and DSL training for the Safeguarding team – this is a great way to drip feed information and check that staff have absorbed it. Modules you can assign include:

  • An Introduction to Child Sexual Exploitation
  • Child Neglect
  • Child Protection in Education
  • Child Protection in Sport & Active Leisure
  • Equality & Diversity
  • Female Genital Mutilation Awareness
  • Online Safety
  • Mental Wellbeing for Children and Young People
  • Safeguarding Young People
  • Safer Recruitment in Education
  • The Prevent Duty

CPOMs:

CPOMS is the market leading software application for monitoring child protection, safeguarding and a whole range of pastoral and welfare issues.

Working alongside a school’s existing safeguarding processes, CPOMS is an intuitive system to help with the management and recording of child protection, behavioural issues, bullying, special educational needs, domestic issues and much much more.

Using CPOMS, schools can ensure that students are safe and fully supported, whilst school staff can focus on teaching and providing support, instead of administration.

Every member of staff across school has an obligation to report any concerns which they may have. CPOMS allows them to record information in a central repository and have relevant people alerted immediately.

Senior leaders are able to build a chronology around a student and can produce reports on vulnerable pupil groups for Case Conference MeetingsGovernors and Ofsted at the touch of a button.

School Nurse:

We have an OCC school nurse who joins us for half a day once a fortnight. Staff can make referrals via our SENDco, but we have also introduced a self-referral scheme.

This has been especially empowering for those students feeling anxious, suffering from mental health issues or who we have concerns about self-harming as part of our discussion involves them gaining some control and completing the self-referral form to seek support from a specialist.

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Student Message Board:

The images of the slides I have interspersed throughout come from our Student Message Board which is updated on a weekly basis to share key messages with our students, staff and visitors via our presentation screens.  Technology is a great way to drip feed this information to keep everyone informed.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The collaboration and generosity of EduTwitter.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Maria and the Pastoral Toolkit team.
  • Support and Training from Ann Maris Christians.

 

Breaking the Mould: Creating Your Fit

Wow!

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

Our why for this event?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Jaz Ampaw-Farr:

“I broke the mould by embracing vulnerability”.

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

Rae Snape:

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

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

Lee Ryman:

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

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

Debra Kidd:

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

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

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

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

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Alison Kriel:

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

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

Paulina Tervo:

“I broke the mould by fighting my fears”.

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

Carly Waterman:

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

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

Mary Myatt:

“I broke the mould by concentrating.”

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

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

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

wonder women womened

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

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

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

 

Breaking the mould slides for 77 (3)

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

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

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

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

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

The Art of Public Speaking: Part 1 – Staff Oracy

All of our Leaders at Aureus are completing the Lead Practitioner Accreditation with the SSAT this year to keep the core business of Teaching and Learning first and foremost in our priorities. By January 10 of us will be accredited and then cohort 2 will start their journey.

We have coordinated our whole school foci by school priorities and I am focusing on Oracy. As an English Teacher turned Drama Teacher I think it is sacrilege that the GCSE has removed the Speaking and Listening component of the assessment, but understand why as this was part of the ‘gaming’ some schools reverted to, to secure GCSE passes.

As part of the accreditation you need to embrace an action research methodology. As a school we are a partner with Whole Education and we are using the Spirals of Enquiry research model designed by British Columbians Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser.

spirals of enquiry

Part 2 of my blog on Oracy will be exploring my findings from my initial hunches and my scanning questionnaires, moving into my impact action plan and pilot next term. I am looking forward to working with Voice 21 on it.

On  a personal/ professional note this morning I was working through my epic to do list for what is the busiest few weeks in the calendar for Leadership Teams in secondary schools.

This week I will be doing the following public speaking:

Assembly – we rotate as a staff and I do an official one each half-term and then priority ones as things arise like Road Safety after an accident or Knife Safety after a scare. Tomorrow we launch our 11th value, Confidence and I will be exploring the barriers to self-confidence and challenging our students to control their Inner Critic, practise the Power Pose and compose a Daily Affirmation. This will also be our transition assembly for the 7s as they become 8s.

Year 6  Student Welcome – Monday and Tuesday we have our 240 students from primary coming up for a transition day. We cannot accommodate all of them on one day so have split the 2 days in half and have 120 tomorrow, then we repeat with the other 120 on Tuesday. My assembly at the start of the day is a welcome to Aureus, and at the end of the day is a reflection on their experience to start building the bridge to September.

Ofsted Inspection – Wednesday we have our Pre-Opening Ofsted Inspection which is a compliance check. No formal presentation but a lot of information to communicate!

Year 6 Parent Welcome – Thursday night we have 2 time slots for our 480+ parents (blended families means there will be standing room only for some!) They heard me deliver the who we are speech last October when we had been opened for 6 weeks. They have chosen us and I will be reminding them what they have chosen. The home-school agreement and parent, student, school partnership officially begins from this week. The acceptance of key messages will ensure we have a smooth start to the new academic year. I will be shooting the elephant in the room and discussing the recent media coverage too.

#WomenEd Event  – on Saturday I will be opening the regional event we are hosting but always consider #WomenEd to be the most supportive and warmest of audiences.

Add to the list Governors’ presentations each half-term and open mornings, recruitment events, our MH & WB events,  plus conferences we contribute to and training we host public speaking is a vital part of the role of a Senior Leader and especially as a Headteacher.

I am not sure I have even seen  public speaking as a key quality, skill nor experience in a Job Description, Person Specification or advert before though?

I have also reflected today on how much training we get on this key skill as teachers and leaders. It is such an important aspect of transition to leadership and especially to Headship why is there not more investment in this key life skill?

See the thread from my original tweet here. With a helpful graphic for public speaking and oracy tips from Voice 21 here.

Moreover, it is not just about what we say, how we say it, but our whole delivery. We have all seen the critiques speakers get on what they wear rather than what they say. I read a brilliant piece on Sheryl Sandberg and Hilary Clinton’s stylist a while back on tricks to avoid the focus being diverted to your hemline or heel height rather than your message!

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Sheryl Sandberg, MBA’95, Facebook COO and author of “Lean In,” gave the closing keynote of the W50 conference at Harvard Business School. In celebration of this year’s 50th anniversary of women being admitted to the two-year MBA Program, Harvard Business School. Katherine Taylor/Harvard Staff Photographer

My relationship with oracy – I was loud and clear at primary school so was always the narrator, although I cried as I wanted to be an actor in the play! I learnt to earn brownie points at secondary by volunteering early to present. At university I confess I would read the first book each term and volunteer to go first so there was less pressure to finish the rest of the books that module.

When I became a Head of Year my students used to tease me I would shake like a leaf, so I stopped having anything in my hands. As an Assistant Headteacher I was told to slow down my delivery. As a a Deputy Headteacher  I was told to stand still/ behind a podium/ lectern. Each of these tips were helpful in their own way but we never really discussed content nor rhetorical techniques. I knew this from being an English and a Drama Teacher but how do staff from other subjects develop these skills?

I absorbed a lot from organising the Jack Petchey Speak Out and the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival for our students, again I was exposed to this as a subject specialist.

I wrote a blog reflecting on my #TEDxNorwichEd talk about battling with speech impediment and lisp for most of my life. I have not said my Rs right since I lost all 4 front teeth in Infant School, despite my Speech Therapists best attempts!  This was one of the personal hurdles I had to get over.

So I am going to plan a bespoke #WomenEd event next year focusing on Public Speaking and breaking down the aspects we need to refine and polish as educators to enable more women to be confident in the public arena.  We need more women speaking at edu-events, speaking on edu-panels and delivering the key notes at edu-events. As although this training from RADA looks fab I don’t think anyone nor any school should be paying £3,500!!womened public speaking

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • My LPD Spirals research project and the impact it will have on our students.
  • The impact of #WomenEd on growing the community’s confidence in public speaking.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Lee Jackson has very kindly just offered to send me a copy of his book.
  • I need to read the Spirals Surveys my focus group did for me last week to see if my hunches were right.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Brilliant sharing from my Twitter #PLN on this topic.
  • The SSF workshop on my NPQH with Ambition School Leadership.
  • Public Speaking tips from Kym Andrews and Hilary Lyons through Jack Petchey Speak Out events and training.

 

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.

hope_balloons_small2

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

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

April 2015-Mar 2016 #PledgeForParity:

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

April 2016-Mar2017 #BeboldForChange:

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

April 2017-Mar 2018 #PressForProgress:

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

April 2018-Mar 2019:

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

Four years on….

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

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

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

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

proud of you

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

proud of me

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

prouder

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

proud of yourself

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

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

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

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