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!

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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.

 

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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.

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!

 

 

 

Our 200 Days Celebration: Glorious Aureus

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

Women Leading in Education: The NPQH Launch

2 years ago I was a DHT in London. I had resigned without a job to go to. This had initiated me moving into a role at Head Office leading Professional Learning for staff across 42 schools for a year before I left. It gave me head space to work out what the next move would be. I was being coached to recalibrate and to  find my direction. I had just started my NPQH with Ambition School Leadership.

2 years on I am a Headteacher, I am an Executive Headteacher in fact as our 2nd school opens in September. I have led Aureus School for 4 terms: 1 term as an idea, 1 term as an empty building and  2 terms with a staff and student body.

2 years ago #womened was 1 year old, we are now about to turn 3 and have increased our reach to 18,000.

How things can change in a matter of time. In 2 years I have moved from frustrated and in conflict to feeling grounded and anchored. I have found my fit.

This weekend Ambition School Leadership launched their inaugural women only cohort for the NPQH in partnership with  #womened and Leading Women’s Alliance. This weekend it was me delivering an after dinner speech about my leadership journey to headship, not me listening as a participant.

 

 

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I am used to being the event organiser and host, doing the welcome and the housekeeping not the address.  I am used to delivering assemblies with a screen so delivering ‘naked’ (clothes on but slides free!) after dinner was totally out of my comfort zone. Doing keynotes is my #10%braver challenge, it is me modelling that you need to Lean In and step beyond your comfort zone. It is me living my conviction that you say yes and you work it out later. It is me showing that you make mistakes and you learn from them, the more I do them, the more confident and comfortable I will become in the public speaking space.

I only had 15 mins to share my thoughts, reflections and advice so I did not go into detail about my leadership journey, although it would have reassured many in the room that I have had my fair share of rough seas to navigate through, they can read about this on my blog.

 

 

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Instead I shared my journey to headship. I reflected on the power I have drawn from the #womened community. Both Kate and I addressed some of the barriers that women leading in education experience. The imposter syndrome, the inner critic, the fear of failure.

As well as the barriers we reflected on the crowd-sourced solutions. We both shared what could have held us back and how we pushed ourselves forward. I can remember the first time I met Kate at our inaugural #womened unconference, she spoke about the ‘taps on the shoulder’ that women need. I have been fortunate to have had peers and line managers who have tapped me, and I in turn nudge others on.

 

 

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After the speeches I joined Karen Giles and her dinner table – we reflected on women who work silently and do not promote their work. I shared with them the article I had read about the strategy the women in the White House use – the illumination technique – which they came up with to amplify the ideas and work of others to ensure that credit was attributed to the owner.

 

 

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Lack of role models and the absence of a support network can hold some women in education back. Part of my motivation for co-founding #womened was to find my tribe. My source of inspiration in giving so much of my time and energy to our gender equality movement over the last 3 years has been the contacts that I have made. I am surrounded by strong women, by brilliant role models, by inspiring women leading in education.

 

 

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The power I have drawn from the #womened community, together with the skills and experience  I gained from my NPQH with ASL, enabled me to be empowered in finding the right headship for me to be my authentic self. Following many years of school improvement in turn around schools, a start up school was a new challenge. The blank page gave us the opportunity to co-create a forward-thinking school.

The combination of all of these experience and opportunities over the last 2 years led to me being involved in initiating and steering the women’s only NPQH pathway. Had I not have been outward-facing, I would not have met these amazing women.

My motivation for contributing to and supporting this bespoke programme is the opportunity to create a ‘safe space’.  There was a sense of urgency in the room that we need to change the system. There was a sense of agency in the room that these women would be the changemakers to #pressforprogress.

My final plea to them all was that when they secured their 1st headship that they would negotiate, that they would challenge the pay gap and ask for what they need, that they would hold on to their power and not give it away before they had even started.

 

 

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What I did not have time to share was my recommended reading, so here it is:

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This weekend there was a palpable energy in the room. Magic was being created before our eyes by the wise women sculpting the residential – facilitators Carol Jones and Karen Giles, superbly supported by ASL programme leaders Deb Fisher and Abi Brown. Thank you for being Wonder Women.

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I am really excited to see what the future holds for all of the participants.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • 31 future female Headteachers  who will be leading our schools in the future including our 2 DHTs at Aureus School Julie Hunter and Bennie Kara

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • We are all starting Leadership Matters as our summer read for the team at Aureus

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Ambition School Leadership for curating the women’s only cohort launch – especially Deb Fish and Abi Brown
  • Melanie Renowden and Kate Chhatwal for initiating the bid for a women’s only cohort for NPQH
  • The partnership between Ambition School Leadership, Leading Women’s Alliance and WomenEd
  • Carol Jones and Karen Giles for facilitating the inaugural residential for this very special launch cohort of the women only NPQH

Authentic Leadership: Relationships Matter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

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

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

Global Mindset, Global Community: Global Citizenship

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

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

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

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why should i care

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

LyftaEd

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

You can find out more about this brilliant platform here.

Oxfordshire Museums

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

Pictures to follow when it is installed next week!

Youth For Change 

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

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

Sexplain

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

Find out more here.

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

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

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

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

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.

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Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

#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

Action Aid Project: Mozambique 2018

If we are honest with ourselves – a lot of us go into teaching for the promise of the 12 weeks holidays. I trained thinking it would be a mobile career I could take anywhere in the world.  I thought I would end up being based abroad, teaching English.

The dream – we plan to fill up our passports with exotic destinations and utilise all of that time, energy and money we have in abundance as a teacher!

The reality – we drag ourselves over the finish line each term and collapse in a heap. We regroup and decompress, fight the flu, clean the house, do our ironing and enjoy just being and having a normal routine or just hanging out with friends and families.

lrtt tanzania

Summer 2016 I found myself at a lose end, so I signed up last minute to volunteer with LRTT.

I literally signed up mid-July and found myself on a plane a few weeks later heading away for the whole of August. My reflections on my experiences volunteering to teach and train teachers in rural Tanzania are captured in my blogs here:

Last year, I agreed with Action Aid that OWLIE (Oxfordshire Women Leading in Education) would collaborate on a women in education charity project in Mozambique. The idea was that a group of women leading in education in Oxfordshire would pledge to fundraise together, then travel over to participate in a community development project.

Context:

  • My initial blog is here
  • Our Eventbrite page is here
  • My school website page is here 

What is my ‘Why’ for volunteering during my summer holidays?

  • Lots of my friends and family may think I am bonkers that I work hard all year and then choose to ‘work’ in my holidays, but I don’t see volunteering as work but as giving back  and paying it forward
  • It is escapism from the daily grind but it is also very grounding and humbling – it is easy to get sucked into the issues and politics affecting our school/ our system but it reminds how lucky we are in so many ways
  • As an English teacher, as a Headteacher, as the co-founder of #WomenEd I have so many reasons for why this project resonates with me
  • Moreover, this year the #IWD18 theme is #PressforProgress and the UN have outlined the following sustainable development goals, it speaks to closing the gap 4 and 5

UN-SDGs

How will we be helping the community?

  • We will live in the community and work alongside the locals
  • We will contribute to the standard of living  – we will be building a library in Paleira village. There is no library in the entire district, which means that 1,500 school children lack vital resources – books and learning materials to aid their studies.
  • We will contribute to the standard of education for women and girls locally – 48% of women are married by their 18th birthday and nearly half of women are illiterate, and many are unaware of their rights to basic services such as healthcare.
  • We will remove barriers to education – children must travel over 100km to the nearest overcrowded library in Maputo to source books, which is expensive for parents to pay for the travel and time-consuming for the students when they should be focussing on their studies.
  • We will support children staying in school for longer and achieving better outcomes –  many families can’t afford the cost of their children travelling to Maputo, so children achieve poor grades in exams and in some cases, are forced to drop out of school.
  • We will impact the  local economy – despite being one of the fastest growing economies, 60% of the population live below the poverty line of $US1.25 a day.
  • We will help to break the poverty cycle by removing barriers – these challenges hamper pupils’ development, further exacerbating the cycle of poverty.

 What will our project legacy be?

  • We will develop relationships with local partners and hopefully help to make the project sustainable
  • We will continue to work with the community  when we return – I am still in touch remotely with many of the teachers I worked with in Njombe, TZ
  • We may  return to the project in the future or support phase 2 participants to do so, to build on our foundations
  • We can fund raise for books from national publishers/ from schools changing their class readers due to the curriculum reform
  • We can set up pen pals and school twinning partnerships – perhaps even an exchange?

So, what are you going to do next summer to make a difference?

We still have a few places left if you want to join us. Come and join Kathryn, Rosanna, Natasha, Carys, Natalie, Sam, Karen, Jenny, Kara, Kate. Tracy and Anoara who are just some of the #OWLIE #womened team to be joining me on this adventure!

Or if this is not possible due to other commitments, please do spread the word with people you know who may wish to join us on this community project.

If you cannot join us but would like to support us then perhaps you will sponsor us and help us to fund raise for the project?

MOZAMBIQUE 1

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • That everyone I know will sponsor us £1 towards the project here.
  • That we might be able to get some book donations too.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Literacy levels, libraries and gender equality in Mozambique.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The fact we have public libraries in this country and I have books on my shelves at home.
  • I love reading and would not have become an English teaching if it was not for my love of reading.