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

My #Teacher5aday Pledge: 2018

With #wellbeing as a value in our new school I was keen to embed the #teacher5aday principles in the fabric of Aureus School from day 1.

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Charlotte, our Staff Wellbeing lead works, alongside Julie, our Culture and Wellbeing lead, to create the strategy of our provision.

Our mission: to create a healthy happy school.

Our vision: to ensure that the staff’s wellbeing is prioritised as well as the students’ as often it is at the expense of.

Our provision: we have a #wellbeing room, with #wellbeing pledges and a #wellbeing champion. We have had half-termly #wellbeing Wednesdays and have had staff Mindfulness sessions. But, we are only scratching the service at the moment of balancing our workload with our #wellbeing.

We have had an intense 14 weeks since we opened – we have had an increased workload to manager as we are a start-up school. We are all hoping term 2 will settle and be a bit easier!

Aureus Values Wheel V2

I am committed to see our staff and our students ‘thrive’ and ‘flourish’ by creating the conditions  needed to nurture a #wellbeing culture.

I will continue to strive to model that we can be teachers and leaders but also establish balance in our pursuit of ‘work life harmony’.

This takes time – we do not have a magic wand, we do not have a life belt, but we do have the passion and purpose to work together on How to Thrive as Teachers as opposed to How to Survive as Teachers.

As the headteacher I need to work harder at modelling this and not being the human sponge.  I equally need to ring fence my own #wellbeing and not allow myself to fall into the trap of looking after everyone else at my own expense.

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My pledge:

#Connect

  • I need to work harder at maintaining my relationships with my friends and former colleagues in London. Since moving my first 9 months have been busy, but I now need to make sure I invest in sustaining these friendships.
  • I need to continue to get myself out and about in my new area to meet new people – at the moment they have all been through education – but I am trying.
  • I will meet a new tribe and build new friendships this year as I am travelling to Mozambique for the summer.

#BeActive

  • I need to find another yoga class as my teacher has moved on.
  • I need to ride my bike more.
  • I need to find a dance class to resume.

#TakeNotice

  • I need to explore the benefits of mindfulness more regularly.
  • I need to go on more walks to explore my new area.
  • I am considering buying a SLR as I used to do a lot of black and white photography which makes you stop, pause and look at the details of your surroundings.

#KeepLearning

  • I will continue reading, reflecting on and publishing the #TalkingHeadsblog
  • I will continue reading professional books by teachers and leaders – my aim is one per month – I have a stack that have been sent to me to get through!
  • I will complete my Electric Woman coaching programme with Nikki Armytage-Foy.
  • I will continue to go to choir once a week with Sarah Louise Chitty and Vocalize.

 #Give

teacher5aday 2018

Happy 2018 everyone! May you THRIVE this year as I intend to.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Consolidating the life choices and lifestyle changes I initiated last year and making further changes this year.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

#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

#Nurture1718: Seeds of Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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2016/17 Reflections:

New opportunities:

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

New locations:

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

New perspectives:

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

New freedoms:

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

New travels:

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

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

2017 has been an epic professional year!

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2017/18 Intentions:

New opportunities:

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

New locations:

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

New perspectives:

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

New freedoms:

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

New travels:

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

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

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

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

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Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

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

Currently feeling grateful for:

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

Currently feeling inspired by:

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

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Our First 100 Days: Growing, Learning and Flourishing Together

This year it feels like I have had 3 jobs!

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

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

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

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

Aureus Values Wheel

How have we grown this term?

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

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

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

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

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

What have we learned this term?

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

Key learning for me includes:

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

How have we flourished this term?

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

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

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

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

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for: 

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

 

Mental Health: Supporting Vulnerable Learners

On Friday, we hosted the #VulnerableLearners conference for the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust, funded by the STELLA project to support Mental Health provision in schools. This event totally supports our vision and values at Aureus School  – we have made wellbeing one of our 12 values and have spent a lot of time talking to our staff and students about staying healthy and happy, but equally what to do when we do experience negative emotions and difficult times. Our school’s vision is to ‘Nurture Hearts & Minds’ by holistically educating the whole child. Our trust’s vision is to enable all learners to grow, learn & flourish. We are committed to creating the conditions for thriving not just surviving!

 

The funding from this amazing charity and the support from the charity’s team enabled us to bring together 150+ teachers, leaders, governors, researchers, professionals and organisations who want to connect and collaborate on a strategic approach to mental health in schools. The expertise & experience in the room blew me away.

Mindful Mornings  – we started the day by offering a tour of our flipped day. Charlotte James, our PE LPD/staff wellbeing lead, and I showed 20 guests around to see: Mindful Art, Mindful Movement, Mindful Strategies and Mindful Reading. The feedback was overwhelmingly positive about what our guests saw and the impact it is already having on our culture and ethos at Aureus. The verbal validation of the palpable values being embodied in our bold choices at Aureus make me really proud.

Professor Sonia Blandford:

Our 1st opening keynote shared her research on deprivation, disadvantage and social mobility. Taking us through the steps of  I can, I do, I have, I am she encouraged us to not just identify but to remove the barriers holding our vulnerable learners back. She framed her data with core strength and mindset being integral to elevating independent learning and personal success.

Nina Jackson:

Our 2nd opening keynote shared her story. A story of a harrowing childhood, where she was abandoned and unloved, where school via music became her haven. Nina always makes me cry, but smile through my tears, as she is so authentic and raw. She is a true survivor and her story is powerful about the emotional  baggage she still carries from her childhood and family experience. She reminds us why we do what we do.

Clare Erasmus:

Our 1st case study was from the indefatigable MH Director from the Magna Carta School who is many years in to establishing a MHWB provision that is now embedded in the fabric of the school. She made us think and challenged us about the vulnerable learners we care for during termtime and what they need from us out of school hours.

Liz Robson Kelly:

I have met Liz a few times through #womened events and she has worked closely with some schools I know in the Midlands.   Her positive psychology research around resilience and the programmes she offers around self-worth are high impact and I am hoping we can launch some of her projects from Aureus to develop these skills in our learners. We need our young people to be resilient, to have bounce back & to have self-worth (she doesn’t call it self-esteem).

Julie Hunter:

Our DHT shared our why for our culture and ethos at Aureus, our how for what we have embedded in our 1st 100 days, and visualised what it will look like as we grow and establish. We owe Julie a lot of thanks at Aureus for the amazing provision she has curated. It is her brainchild and she enthuses our mindful mornings and coaching/ global citizenship afternoons.

Mental Health Teachmeet:

Opened by 2 of our Year 7 students, my heart burst with pride as Oli and Maddie reflected on what mindfulness means to them and shared what we have been doing to raise awareness of MHWB since we opened.  They were followed by Alice a teacher, Caro a house mistress, Charlotte a staff wellbeing lead, Dan from EduKit, John from Resilience Doughtnut and Lisa from Clear Sky. Each micro presentation added to the wider conversations about schools needing to have a  strategic vision for their MHWB provision, focused on preemptive, proactive and preventative activity for all rather than reactive intervention for some.

 

Workshops:

20 different workshops took part in the break out rooms after lunch – ranging from values to self-compassion, from play therapy to adaptive sports. Thank you to everyone who delivered a session, developed the dialogue and initiated further thinking.

Dick Moore:

A father who lost one of his four sons to suicide and a former Headteacher, Dick’s story speaks to your heart about the impact on a family when someone takes their life. He also reminded the room that our own children are as important as the vulnerable learners we look out for. I am glad that we had AV issues as if he had played the 12 songs that Barney had left on his I-Pod for this funeral I think I would have dissolved into bits! Dick is pragmatic about life and death, he shared his painful journey and the purpose it has now given him to raise awareness about mental health, depression & suicide.

Exhibitors:

A big thank you to all of the organisations and partnerships who attended the event to connect and network in this important space and the growing community of professionals committed to improving mental health provision in schools to support out vulnerable learners.

Takeaways:

  • We need to learn how to Dance in the Rain and teach our students to do it too
  • We need to work with our parents and carers more so that the dialogue continues at home
  • We need to support one another in our commitment to the cause and check in on our own mental health too

 

My Pledge:

  • With the STELLA project funding we have already launched a MH & WB network so my first pledge is to sustain momentum through these half-termly meet ups.
  • A half-day follow up from this event is planned for March and I am keen to get some of the delegates to come back and share the impact of our first event so I pledge to stay connected with the wider network.
  • We discussed yesterday how to work closer with parents, carers and the wider community so I have pledged to curate some Mental Health Masterclasses on our Wellbeing Wednesdays to help raise awareness.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The 150 people who came to this event and the 25 who came to our MHWB network launch – a passionate and purposeful group of people who to connect and collaborate with.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • The talks that hit a nerve with me yesterday were the ones on suicide ideation and self-harm, I need to do some more reading and thinking around these safeguarding topics.

Currently feeling grateful for: 

  • Charlie Waller Memorial Trust for funding the MH conference and MHWB network via the STELLA project.
  • Nina, Alice and Dick for sharing their very  personal stories about mental health, self-harm and suicide.
  • All of the contributors, the speakers/ exhibitors who all shared their time, experience and expertise for free.
  • My amazing team for enabling the event to take place, they were running around behind the scenes all day ensuring operations were smooth.
  • Julie, Charlotte, Maddie & Oli, our Aureus Ambassadors, for truly emobodying everything we stand for at Aureus.

 

The Power of Facing Your Fears: #Ididitanyway @WomanthologyUK

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

18 months ago I resigned from a toxic school culture.

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

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

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

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

So I pulled the rip cord.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

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


Currently reading and thinking about:

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


Currently feeling grateful for:

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

 

Planting Seeds: How Would You Grow a Culture of Wellbeing?

Last May I attended the Mental Health and Wellbeing #teachmeet at Magna Carta School, an inspiring event where I met Clare Erasmus for the first time. We stayed in touch and have become friends. Through our conversations, through tweets and blogs,  via events we have both been at like the CWMT Mental Health Conference I hosted in November, I have learnt a lot. She is a trail blazer and is paving the way for the emerging role of MH&WB leaders in our schools, around the country. Visiting her provision and experiencing  her vision in situ really helped me with my strategic vision of  #wellbeing.

A year on, I have secured a Headship. A year on, I returned to facilitate a session. A year on, I am working on bringing my vision to reality. My session was  intended as a crowd sourcing exercise, but ended up being me sharing my ideas and receiving verification I was on the right track and challenge for some of the ideas that needed developing, and/or thinking through for sustainability.

Here are the questions I asked the room and used to facilitate the discussion:

Q1. With a blank piece of paper where would you start in nurturing a school wellbeing culture where everyone can #growlearnflourish?

I know my team and I have the luxury of being able to create things from scratch and do things differently, rather than lead change, the whole staff body and the majority of the parent body are fully behind co-creating a wellbeing culture.  A clean slate is exciting and means we can create new systems from day one.

Q2. How would you define a “Wellbeing Culture”?

I was asked this recently in a group coaching session. I was challenged on using my conditioned vision of wellbeing as the frame for my current wellbeing needs. I had not considered this before – that my parents had brought me up with their wellbeing vision and that my lifestyle is very different so I need to redefine my own interpretation. Growing up in Devon, my parents semi-retired to a farm and live the ‘goodlife’. I love walks on the beach but don’t really do mud! I would rather go to a spa for a weekend and have a massage to nourish my soul – ultimately I shouldn’t feel guilty about this. Equally leading a wellbeing vision and creating a wellbeing provision is about ensuring that  a range of diverse opportunities are offered to cater for all staff needs .e.g staff sports or mindfulness are not for everyone!

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Q3. What does ‘Growing, Learning and Flourishing, Together’ mean to you?

I asked everyone to complete these 3 sentences:

  • Human beings grow best when… they have the right conditions including space and freedom.
  • Human beings learn best when… they have some ownership over their direction and the time/energy to commit to it.
  • Human beings flourish best when… they are loved, nurtured and trusted.

Q4. Does our system focus on student wellbeing at the expense of staff wellbeing?

I think this is true. My pledge is that if we look after our staff better, then our staff will look after our students. Not that they are not striving to do this already, but teachers are barely able to look after their own MH&WB with the pressures of our profession. Our staffing crisis, both recruitment and retention, is exasperated by the negative press about our profession. But there is no smoke without fire. Yes we need to talk up our profession, but we need get to the root cause and fix our system, rather than icing over the cracks.

Q5. How can we create a wellbeing culture where everyone can thrive and flourish?

For me we need to shift our focus. We need to focus on whole human beings, both staff and students, and not reduce them to statistics. We need focus on preventative strategies rather than reactive interventions.

Q6. What strategies would be on the  Action Plan for creating a Wellbeing Culture? What would you establish as your short, medium, long term goals? What would you prioritise?

  • How can we create it? We need to ensure it is embedded in our culture, vision and strategy from day 1.
  • How can we model it? We need to ensure that all of our staff live our values.
  • How can we nurture it? We need to ensure that all of our community are supported.
  • How can we sustain it? We need to review it and regularly take staff voice.
  • How can we audit it? We need to engage all stakeholders.

Q7. Reflections: How can we take our  vision and create a #wellbeing provision?  

Committed to ‘nurturing hearts and minds’  we are developing our holistic offer to include:

  • Mindfulness programme – every morning
  • Art Therapy room – in 8 week blocks
  • Thrive Room – to nurture our vulnerable students through transition
  • Sensory Room – to support our ASD students
  • Martial Arts Academy – for all of our Year 7s
  • Wellbeing Room – for all of our staff
  • Coaching Culture – for all of our staff
  • Family Dining Experience – for all of our community
  • Community Reflection – for our students each night
  • Half-day on Fridays – for our whole community

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This is all a work in progress of course and I can’t wait to have the team started to drive this forward. Ask me a year how we are getting on!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Changing the language from #teachmeet to #edumeet to be more inclusive of the educators working outside of our classroom.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Kay Price gave us a MH&WB toolkit of books to read that have shaped her wellbeing provision.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Everyone who attended, facilitated and contributed to the discussions at the #MagnaMHTM17.

 

 

 

School Leadership: Growing, Learning and Flourishing

Viv Grant is doing a school leaders’ blog series on how we can flourish. Below are my reflections to the questions that she posed about wellbeing, thriving and flourishing as educators, school leaders and schools.

Context:

I was appointed as a Headteacher Designate in June and started in January but am not yet in the full role as I have no staff, students or parents but I do now have a site and an office. It has been an interesting transition into my 1st Headship.

I joined GLF as the visions and the values of the trust were strong: ‘to grow, to learn, to flourish’. As a values-led leader, designing a values-based education this resonated with me. Our mission at Aureus is to educate the whole child and to ‘nurture hearts and minds’.

I relocated for the role, I now live in Oxfordshire after 12 years in London. This was part of my wellbeing commitment to myself, I wanted a change in pace, a new lifestyle and a new environment. The atmosphere in my school is calm because of the large windows framing stunning views. Seeing blue skies and green fields is very calming and I took this for granted when I grew up in Devon.

I am committed to ensuring that my staff and students grow, learn and flourish, but I also need to ensure that I have this pledge for myself as a school leader: I need to practice what I preach!

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Have you ever struggled with the reality of school leadership? If so, when and how did it affect you?

I have a strong ethical and moral code. I lead and behave based on my values. I have seen several leaders lose themselves in their role and behave in ways I do not respect.
I always strive to maintain my professional integrity and have had to fight my corner when I have been asked to do things I do not think are ethical. I have whistleblown when I feel my values are being compromised. The increasing pressures from the system need leaders to be strong, resilient and tenacious to stay true to who they are, what they believe and what they stand for.

In what ways does the role sometimes fail to support the flourishing and wellbeing of its leaders?

Teaching and leading in education can become all-consuming. I believe that a lot of the profession are struggling to survive and keep their head above the water line. Hence why we have a recruitment and retention crisis for school staffing.

We have a lot of systems in our schools which are not time nor energy efficient which need reviewing. We also have traditional practices and paperwork for paperwork’s sake which could be changed.

Our profession has a renewed focus on wellbeing, but quite often it is focused on student wellbeing at the expense of student wellbeing. We need to focus on positive mental health and wellbeing for everyone in our school community. I have appointed a brilliant Deputy Headteacher, Julie Hunter, who has done the .B mindfulness course and the MHFA accreditation. She will be leading our wellbeing strategy.

What changes have you made to your own ways of being and leading that have served you better in Headship?

I am only a term in and do not yet have a team as I am the founding Headteacher of a brand new school site and community. This has it pros and cons.

The pros are that I have had a term lead in to think about and plan how to do things differently. I have recruited a dynamic team are all aligned with my vision and values for the school. The cons are that I am the only team member and the job feels like it is 24/7. I have especially felt the impact of this with communications as I have no one to streamline the flow and interface with all of the stakeholders who want to talk to me/ meet me.

With no team to delegate to, I am accountable for everything and everything is medium to high priority. I am employed a virtual PA to support me as I could not keep all of the balls in the air at one time! From September I will have a personal plan as well as a professional plan for 2017-18 goals. I will get into more a routine once the school is opening and ring fence more time for me. With our holistic offer including yoga, mindfulness and martial arts I will build this into my working week.

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What advice would you give to those struggling with the role?

I have a very strong support network who have kept me sane – I have a professional mentor and a personal coach who I can contact to seek support and advice from. I live the #10%braver mantra of #womened – I found my voice a while back and use it. If I am overwhelmed, stressed, unhappy I articulate it.

I have recently been involved in a group coaching programme curated by Annemarie Williams and we had a session with Harriet Minter who challenged me to challenge myself about how I ensure that self-care and self-compassion are part of my professional identity. I am realistic about the fact I am a one woman band and cannot do it all, so I do what I can, when I can and do not beat myself up when I miss deadlines or make mistakes – we are humans and things go wrong, when they do I apologise and make amends.

For me, it is all about fit. I have found myself in the wrong role, at the wrong school, in the wrong culture and I had to walk away. We are responsible for the culture of our schools and the behaviours of our teams, but we are also responsible for our own wellbeing. If we are not healthy, happy and well, then how can we look after the wellbeing of others?

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On a wider level, what needs to happen?

• To make school leadership more sustainable we need to invest in wellbeing and resilience build in activity such as coaching and mentoring.
• To support the well-being of school leaders we need to review the workload challenge and create a space and a range of opportunities in schools for staff to breath.
• To help school leaders to flourish we need to invest in the development of their leadership capacity.
• To create a happy & healthy school we need to focus on the whole person and offer holistic activities to develop the mind, the body and the soul.
• To recapture the soul and put the humanity back into education we need to remember and focus on the ‘names, not the numbers’ for our children and the ‘souls, not the roles’ for our staff.

We also need to spend more time on our values as individuals and as communities, ensuring that our values are ‘lived, not laminated’.

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Final Thoughts:

I am presenting at the Mental Health and Wellbeing TeachMeet at Magna Carta School this week, sponsored by the Charlie Waller Memorial Trust. My workshop is on MH & WB Policy and Vision: With a blank piece of paper where would you start in nurturing a school culture where everyone can #growlearnflourish?

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The Holistic offer we have at Aureus to develop the Whole Child, I now want to focus on ensuring we have an offer for the Whole Educator too!

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am looking into how we can establish, develop and nurture our Mental Health and Wellbeing programme at Aureus School.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My #wellbeing contacts who I will see at the MHWB teachmeet this week – Clare Erasmus, Kathryn Lovewell, Sue Webb and Viv Grant inspire me.

 

Grow, Learn and Flourish: Our Mantra

The ethos of GLF resonated with me as soon as I met my new CEO Jon at the Academies Show last spring.

I have spoken and blogged a lot about my values in the last year. I had become disgruntled, disenfranchised with my vocation and sought coaching to unpick why I was frustrated and unhappy. Through coaching I excavated my values. Through coaching I can now articulate my vision and values for education. Through coaching I now know myself better as a leader.

So why do we need to Grow, Learn and Flourish? Why do we need this vision in our current school system?

This metaphor works on the micro and macro level for me. As a system we are growing, our landscape and infrastructure are in a state of flux. We need to learn what is going well and what is going wrong in the diverse range of schools around out country. We need to learn why we are not recruiting and retaining our teachers. We need to focus on our communities wellbeing and mental health. We know our staff are stressed and unwell, leaving the system to find the light, we know our students are caving under the pressure. This is why the mission statement is aligned with everything I believe could  be right but is currently wrong in our school system.

How can schools and communities be supported in living these values?

I quote Mary Myatt’s new book ‘Hopeful Schools’ a lot. The statement: “we need to live, not laminate our values” has become my personal and professional mantra. We need to focus on the holistic education of our students. We need to focus on our staff’s mental health and wellbeing. We need to focus on the “souls in the roles” and the “names not numbers” in our schools. No human should be reduced to a job title, nor a number in a spreadsheet.

What does ‘Grow’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

Growth mindset is a good starting point. Planning and teaching all lessons pitched to the top and scaffolding down, removing setting, creating equality of opportunity in our schools for all stakeholders. For me growing also means employability, our CIAG is not strong enough – it is all well and good focusing on knowledge but without the transferable skills to apply this learning our young people will not be able to grow in their careers. Growing to me also means the opportunities to engage in the arts, to grow as a person and explore one’s identity. Being able to think creatively and express one self are skills that all our school leavers should be equipped with.

What does ‘Learn’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

“No school is an island” is another one of my mantras, but I extend it by adding, “no school leader or classroom practitioner should be an island either”. I passionately believe in collaboration, community partnerships and system leadership. We need to inspire and empower our students to “learn to learn” but we also need to reignite some of the candles that are being blown out in the profession. We need to ensure that our CPD offers in schools are inspiring and enable everyone in our school communities to learn and develop. I learn through tweeting, blogging, reading and discussing my thinking and experiences with others – I want to bottle the buzz I get from #teachmeets #leadmeets #womened #bameed and share this with everyone I connect with.

What does ‘Flourish’ mean to me for teaching, learning and leadership?

I want to be a teacher, a school leader and have a life. I don’t think is much to ask. I want to model a balanced perspective on teaching as a lifestyle choice, teaching as a vocation but also teaching as a career where you can also have flexibility and a family. I want to support the teachers who join us in the profession to flourish. I want to nurture the talent we have in the system to flourish and stay in the profession. I want to inspire and empower the educators who have left the system to return to teaching and to find a school with vision and values focused on #wellbeing, to find a school where there opportunities to work flexibly, to find a school where diverse educators are coached and mentored to so they can flourish.

This is why the mission statement for GLF is more than some words laminated and stuck on the wall. These values are lived and permeate through the community, our GLF family.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Growing, Learning and Flourishing as a Headteacher
  • Co-creating our MAT/ TSA conference framed by our GLF values

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am reading blogs and articles, attending events to shape our school systems at Aureus to support wellbeing and workload

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The coaches who have supported me in growing, learning and flourishing – thank you relighting my flame of hope – Viv Grant, Carol Jones, Eve Warren, the team at Graydin and Jill Berry for lots of chats.
  • Amjad for nudging me to write a blog about #growlearnflourish