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!

 

 

 

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.

 

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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

#LGBTed: Diversity, Equality and Inclusion

This weekend sees the official launch of the latest grassroots diversity network, #LGBTEd, co-founded by Hannah Jepson and Daniel Gray, in collaboration with Claire Birkenshaw and building on the legacy  of David Weston.

#WomenEd is in its 4th year and #BAMEed is going into its 2nd year. Both have created momentum with the nationwide discussions about diversity, equality and inclusion. #LGBTed joined us at the Diverse Educators event in January along with #DisabilityEd. We believe it was one of the first events in the country to address the intersectionality of our identity.

 

I am proud to have supported #LGBTed in initiating this much needed next step in our shared vision and collective journey to make our schools more inclusive, to ensure that our schools are safe spaces for all of our students and for all of our staff.

Moreover to model the fact that edu events can have diverse line ups and panels. That there are educators and experts who can represent #BAMEed #WomenEd #DisabilityEd and #LGBTed. That there really is no excuse for a manel!

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One of my Deputy Headteachers, Bennie Kara, delivered a cracking closing keynote at Diverse Educators I on ‘wearing all the labels’. She asked us to not to tuck her labels in for her. The metaphor of wearing multiple hats and having multiple labels sticking out extended throughout her anecdotes which were heart warming and uplifting but also a reality check.

As an Asian, bisexual woman Bennie has taught me a lot about the true meaning of diversity.  Before she started at Aureus she asked me if she was allowed to be openly out. I was shocked that she felt like she needed to ask my permission for this, she explained that you cannot ever assume as even the most liberal leaders had recommended to her in her career that it was best to keep these things private. I had to check my straight white privilege.

Discussing some students who were vulnerable to homophobia in our first term, she educated me once more on the fact that gender and race are generally, what you see is what you get, but with sexuality you need to out yourself in each new connection/ conversation. I had to check my straight white privilege once again.

I consider myself to be very open, liberal, empathetic and supportive of people from diverse backgrounds, but how much did/do I truly understand about the experiences of others?

I attended the Educate and Celebrate school leaders training day in the Autumn term to develop my understanding and awareness. It was my 2nd encounter with Dr Elly Barnes who is an inspiring  facilitator. I booked her to join us at our whole staff INSET in January to kick start our 2nd term. She was just what we needed to take our diversity and equality vision forwards.

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All of my teaching staff and the operations team at Aureus have been recruited through a values-led approach. I made it clear from the outset that my non-negotiables were to have Diversity, Equality and Wellbeing as 3 of our core values so all of my team are on board with this, but I was still pleasantly surprised at the reception, reflection and discussion in our LGBT+ training session. There were staff who I thought may struggle, who may get uncomfortable with some of the activities, but instead I saw a real commitment from everyone on the team to tackle prejudice and discrimination.

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In the Spring Term we launched our Prejudice Log. Yes, it is mandatory to report on racism and homophobia, but we also log incidents involving the other protected characteristics. In our opinion there is not a hierarchy of which discrimination is palatable, and which is not.

As February approached, Love was our value of the month. I knew I wanted to tackle the low level homophobic comments in a formal way, so I planned an assembly on ‘Love Without Labels’ using the video that Elly had shared with the staff. I did wonder how our students would react, whether there would be a ripple across the assembly hall or uncomfortable shifting in the seat but there was not.  I checked my white straight privilege yet again.

I reminded myself that I was not outing myself, I was vocalising my advocacy for celebrating difference and accepting one another.

LOVE WITHOUT LABELS 2

Yet, despite our values, our assemblies and our reflections. Despite our Educate and Celebrate posters in every room and despite high profile challenge of inappropriate language the explicit homophobic comments continued. I had lost count of the homophobic incidents  I had investigated and sanctioned.

Bennie came to my office one day in a contemplative mood and said: “I think it is time”. Time for what? I queried, was I late for gate duty again? “I think it is time I did my coming out assembly. They need to know that their words are hurting people in our community, that their words are hurting me”. I nodded in agreement. I checked her slides, I sent her a vote of confidence and I reassured her that it would be okay.

Bennie delivered one of those assemblies that I will never forget. An assembly that the staff will talk about in the future. An assembly that the students went home and told their parents about. I couldn’t look at her as she presented as I knew my emotions would come pouring out. My heart was swelling with pride and respect for her.  I  could hear the hesitation in her voice at points as she carefully chose her words to ensure that they landed correctly. I knew that she felt the responsibility that she bore for the students in the room this would affect in the future.

LOVE HAS NO LABELS

We did not receive a single complaint, instead Bennie received positive feedback from students and their parents about her courage. Encouragement from parents we did not expect to hear from. It seems that we under-estimated not only our staff, our students but our wider community too.

So that is why I will support the #LGBTed community each step on their journey:

Not all staff feel supported to share their personal stories. Not all audiences will be as open and accepting. Not all communities will be as supportive. Not all students will know that they are in a safe space where they can explore their full selves and grow in confidence in who they are. Not all schools have #LGBTed who are prepared to make themselves this vulnerable for the benefit of the wider LGBT+ community.

I wish everyone at #LGBTed this Saturday a brilliant day of connecting, collaborating and cheering one another along. I will be following & supporting from twitter. I am sure the event will be as special as the launch of #womened & the energy in the room will be as palpable.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The change that #LGBTed will bring to our schools for our staff and for our students

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The Working Class  – Ian Gilbert et al

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Having a brilliant diverse team at Aureus who are passionate about inclusion for all
  • Having a diverse PLN of inspiring changemakers!

Our 200 Days Celebration: Glorious Aureus

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

Authentic Leadership: Relationships Matter

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

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

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

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

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

relationships 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

golden circle and golden cone

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

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

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

Global Mindset, Global Community: Global Citizenship

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

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

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

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why should i care

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

LyftaEd

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

You can find out more about this brilliant platform here.

Oxfordshire Museums

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

Pictures to follow when it is installed next week!

Youth For Change 

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

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

Sexplain

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

Find out more here.

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

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

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

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

Values-led Leadership: Moving from Surviving to Thriving

It has been a busy week! I have been to 4 edu-events this week: Ambition School Leadership graduation/ celebration for Teaching Leaders; DFE Diversity and Equalities Roundtable; Diverse Leaders ‘Seizing Opportunities’ day and #SRock18. Each event has connected me with fabulous new educators, made me think and deepened my vision and values for education. I am knackered from the travelling but it has been a great week so I am still buzzing!

On Tuesday night I keynoted for a cohort of Middle Leaders on my values-led leadership journey. On Saturday I ran a workshop at #SRocks18 for a group of educators on the same theme and expanded the experiences I shared by building in reflection and discussion points on how to be a values-led educator.

These are the tips I shared at the end of the session – the things I wish I had known earlier in my career, the insights I have gained through my tumultuous leadership journey over the last few years:Slide29

I opened my session by asking the room of educators who were voluntarily at a grassroots event on a Saturday, to consider where on the continuum of surviving to thriving they currently were.

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I shared my experience of hitting the wall a few years ago. Having a panic attack in my office at work one day. Realising that something needed to change. I felt a shift in the room, the relief at acknowledging we all go through this at some point in our career, we all feel overwhelmed, we question whether we have the resilience and the tenacity to continue. I gave them some hope, that you do come through it, that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. You just need to find the strength to make the change, and to weather the storm.

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I shared my experience of losing myself in my role. Of losing sight of Hannah the person, who had become soley Hannah the educator. I reflected on how I had become a chess piece on someone else’s chess set and how much this frustrated me. I shared how I had recalibrated, realigned, reframed through coaching and encouraged everyone to go and find a  coach and to share the free DFE coaching pledge for women leading in education with their colleagues.

The coaching model I have personally got the most from is the Graydin approach of coaching the person, not the problem, and starting with the heart not the head. The Heart, Head, Step model is a 3-part strategy to finding solutions.

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We moved on to reflecting on our Why for being an educator and used the Simon Sinek ‘Golden Circle’ model to consider our core values. I challenged them to consider if their core values were present in their current schools. I saw shoulders slump and heard a ripple of sighs around the room. I encouraged them to drill down to their non-negotiables as a frame for the culture and ethos they need to be able to thrive.  I saw a penny drop. For those seeking new roles and new contexts I suggested that this should be fundamental to how candidates select whether a school is the right ethos for them or not. I challenged them to prioritise that over the status and salary to find the right fit.

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I looped back to my journey and how my values had not been my beacon to guide me through a storm a few years ago because I had never really considered them before. Coaching has subsequently helped me to make sense of my why, to be able to articulate my values and to reflect on why I was frustrated. This epiphany helped me to get myself back on course and heading in the right direction. I paid homage to the strength I had drawn from the #womened community. With so many educators feeling disempowered, disenfranchised, it is the sense of community that our network has created that truly nourishes the soul.

I reminded them that our values are our moral compass, our vision is our beacon steering us through a storm. Our mission as educators is to survive the storm and make the journey. As Dr Jill Berry has spoken about on several occasions at our #womened events: “Rough seas make the best sailors…. Ships were not built to stay in the harbour”. As an English teacher I love this extended metaphor.

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Having survived the rough seas and refined my craft as  a sailor / as an educational leader, I moved on to discuss how I had researched and selected the culture and ethos I needed for my next move to move from surviving to thriving. I encouraged everyone to remember that in a profession that is under-recruiting and under-retaining, that there are more jobs than educators, so therefore the power is with those applying and being interviewed. We need to hold on to this power and get what we need from a new role.

I recruited my whole team through sharing my vision and values. I have blogged previously about how I designed a values-led application process. Skills and experience are important, but I wanted to get the right people on the bus. I needed to recruit a team of Ambassadors for the values we wanted to embody in our new school.

Moreover, in a time when everyone is talking about values and plastering them on their marketing/ painting them on their walls, we need to be careful interrogate how the values are being lived. Mary Myatt (in Hopeful Schools) talks about “values lived not laminated” and James Kerr (in Legacy) talks about “living your values out loud”. These 2 phrases resonate with me.

The values in our school are palpable. You can cut through the stick of Aureus rock anywhere in our community and you will experience a consistency in our shared vision and values.

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We have  invested a lot of time, energy and focus in scoping and embedding our values. Our values have been co-created, we all own them and drive them. Our children have an ethical vocabulary, our staff have a shared language.  Sue Webb, from VBE, led our values scoping day, I had to reconcile that not all of my values would resonate with my whole team, but my 3 non-negotiables: Diversity, Equality and Wellbeing would be integral to our vision and culture. Pen Mendonca captured our values scoping today and created the metaphor of our values being our DNA at our STEAM school.

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In the final few minutes of our 45 minute session (I could have spent a whole day on this topic!) I shared what we had agreed to do and more importantly not to do at Aureus. We made some bold decisions early on about some fundamentals that underpin our culture and ethos. We have a very strong sense of who we are as a school and what we will and won’t do. With a shared vision, shared values and shared language, it makes strategic decision making easier.

Our school is wholeheartedly child-centred, we are committed to nurturing hearts and minds. We educate the whole child, holistically. We do not shy away from the Fierce Conversations. Our homily embodies everything that we are and I am excited to see my Drama Club deliver it in my ‘Love Without Labels’ assembly this week to introduce our new value of Love for February, and frame the LGBT+ month of activities.  They have learnt it off my heart and have created an action for each of our 12 values so that all of our students can visually see  what each value means to them.

So that was my whistle stop distillation of my learning from 2 years, captured in a 15 min keynote and a 45 min workshop. I hope that what I shared resonated with those who attended both events. Keeps those flames burning and remember, if you have hit the wall and find yourself barely surviving, change your school not your profession. Too many educators are leaving the system rather than trying a different context. Just be careful to select the culture and ethos that you need to ensure the conditions for your own personal and professional growth are present.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The pilot cohort of the Ambition School Leadership women-only NPQH in collaboration with Leading Women’s Alliance and #WomenEd has just been confirmed. 30 delegates have been offered a place on this bespoke pathway. We are excited to be supporting their progression.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I have a stack of books by my bed to take away with me over half-term to read on the beach.
  • I am currently thinking about the LP accreditation that launched this week – I will be focusing on oracy and developing public speaking skills in our students  – any linked to reading or research in this area would be gratefully received.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Kristian Still, David Rogers and the team at One School, Hindhead, for organising #SROCKS18 and being brilliant hosts.
  • Ambition School Leadership for inviting me to speak to their Teaching Leaders cohort end of programme celebration.
  • Anna Cole for initiating the Diversity and Equalities roundtable at the DFE this week.
  • The Diverse Leaders Programme, co-led by my former colleagues Amy Anderson and Natasha Evans, 2nd cohort of #womened and #bameed participants who I met on Friday.

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.

kind heart

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!”

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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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#OneWord2018: Thrive

Picking one word to signpost and frame your year ahead is an interesting process. I have done it for a few years now, along with the annual Nurture blogs to review & reflect.

#oneword15 – Courage

I made some big decisions. I resigned. I paused. I took stock. I decompressed. I dug deep to prepare to make a big leap.

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#oneword16 – Connect

I leant in to my preference for outward-facing leadership. I connected with interesting people. I initiated some interesting collaborations. I was coached. I coached others. I explored my values. I recalibrate. I secured a big new role.

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#oneword17 – Change

I made a leap of faith. I leant in. I moved areas, trusts and roles. I began a new chapter.

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#oneword18

The shortlist:

Consolidate – I need to embed & consolidate the changes I have introduced in both my personal & professional life.

Nurture – I need to enable the ideas I have planted to grow and develop. Nurturing hearts and minds is our mantra at Aureus – looking forward to working towards Nurturing Schools status this year.

Values – I need to continue to live them, not laminate them, allowing them to both steer and also anchor me. Values frame what we do and why we do it at Aureus – looking forward to our values audit in the summer.

Zest – I need to bring some spontaneity, joy & joi de vie back to my highly diarised life.

Flourish – I need to enable myself and others to reach new heights. Grow, Learn, Flourish is our Trust’s vision and mission.

Thrive – I need to empower myself & others to grow, to develop & to be successful. I am also looking forward to us launching the thrive programme and opening our thrive room at Aureus.

Maya Angelou is one of my favourite writers & this is one of my favourite quotes:

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I have passion for what I do, I have compassion for those I work with, I don’t take myself too seriously & I have my own style in how I do things, however, in my first official term as a Headteacher & in our first term as a school the staff were definitely in survival mode.

We are committed to enabling our students to grow, learn & flourish, we are passionate about nurturing hearts & minds.

This term I need to focus on ensuring that my team thrive within and beyond their roles.

This year I need to ensure that I continue to thrive too as the role, the team & the community grow.

We need to review the conditions needed to not just to grow but to flourish & thrive. For me Thriving is becoming the best version of yourself.

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Tips for embedding Thriving as a daily practice in 2018:

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Reading to reflect on Thriving in 2018:

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Sustaining the good habit of weekly choir.
  • Reintroducing the habit of weekly yoga and/ or dancing.
  • Developing my mindful practice.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am actually reading some crappy chick lit – I used to consume books back to back – but now read more for professional learning than for pleasure or escapism. I need to get back in the habit of losing myself in a good book regularly.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The EduTwitter connections I was discussing #oneword2018 with earlier today as we did our selections – Thanks Carol, Christalla, Lisa, Mal, Michelle & Susan