Lightening the load of school leadership

Viv Grant, Founder of Integrity Coaching, explains what to expect from this year’s inaugural Education for the Soul Conference

On 19 October 2017, headteachers and school leaders from across the country joined Integrity Coaching for its inaugural Education for the Soul Conference. The purpose was to provide a different type of school leadership conference; one that would provide a space for school leaders to overcome the stresses of their roles and find new ways to maintain their ability to lead and inspire others. 

From the keynotes, workshops, shared experiences and moments of genuine care, laughter and empathy, three key lessons emerged from the day: 

1. The importance of self-care – The conference challenged the false belief that wellbeing is optional and only something to be considered when individuals are in crisis. Speakers shared how self-care and attention to one’s innermost needs are integral to being able to thrive as a school leader. 

2. Make values central to your school and your leadership – One of the key learnings from the conference was the importance of values in education. Dr Neil Hawkes shared how now, more than ever, our schools need to play a vital role in shaping the values of the pupils and sta within them. 

3. Don’t be afraid to share your vulnerability – The conference provided a safe, non- judgemental space for delegates to truly understand what this meant for them within their own contexts. School leaders opened up about the emotional cost of leading in education and through sharing their stories were able to identify multiple moments of courage and new solutions from their shared reflections. 

What more can be done to lighten the load of school leadership? 

Currently there are a plethora of initiatives being trialled and examined to address this issue. Many are focused on minimising the external pressures of school leadership, such as ways to reduce workload, minimise marking, etc. 

It is my belief that the load can also be made lighter to carry when school leaders are listened to and engaged in conversations that connect them back to their original passion, purpose and sense of vocation. 

School leaders need conversations that help them understand how to best take care of the person in the role. When these conversations are had, they set in motion a whole chain of physiological, mental and emotional responses. These responses help the mind and body to recalibrate and nd a place of inner equilibrium. As a result, when engaged in these types of conversations school leaders can begin to regain: 

● Perspective
● Their sense of agency and purpose

● Hope and belief
● Their sense of vocational vitality. 

Ultimately, they begin to discover for themselves how to make their particular leadership load that much easier to bear. 

Extending the conversation 

This year’s Education for the Soul Conference on 18 October, is on the theme of ‘Creating new narratives for the school leader’s journey’ and aims to embolden school leaders to craft new and inspiring leadership narratives for themselves and those they lead and manage. 

Through keynotes, workshops and round-table discussions, the conference will enable school leaders to: 

● Challenge the damaging narratives in our education system that focus on competitiveness, data and scarcity – and instead help them to develop new and empowered responses to the challenges they face

● Understand the stories that have made them the leaders that are today, so that they can determine which stories serve them best and which they may need
to let go of in their current context. 

● Regain ownership and control of their leadership story, so that they can lead in a way that is authentic, ful lling and achieves their unique vision for their school. 

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