In 2017, The Girls’ Schools Association (GSA) and the Association of State Girls’ Schools (ASGS) launched a mentoring scheme with Bright Field Consulting to develop female headteachers. The scheme encourages women teachers to learn the characteristics and skills required for senior leadership in schools via regular meetings with a mentor. The scheme is also completely free for women teaching in GSA and ASGS schools, and participants can sign up at any point in their career.
This is an exciting scheme, especially in the current climate as women are under-represented at headteacher level. But, as teachers already have busy schedules, how can they make time for their professional development?
“It’s one meeting per term, so it doesn’t need a massive amount of cover time, and actually taking colleagues away from school is important as it gives them a different perspective,” explained Ian Wigston, Founder of Bright Field Consulting, the company co-ordinating the scheme. “One of the things that we challenge the colleagues on is actually being prepared to be selfish about their own professional development, because with their careers they are generous of giving their time to others but not good at focusing on themselves.”
“It’s 100% a small time-cost,” agreed Rebecca Tear, Headmistress at Badminton School, who has a colleague going through the scheme. “I have already seen people engaged in my school and they have immediately lifted their heads and been inspired. The small units of time that we are giving them is of low cost to our schools and we are more than happy to support them.”
“This scheme is all about partnerships and leaderships and it goes beyond the boundaries of education.’
This support from schools is incredibly important when encouraging women to pursue leadership roles. Sharon Cromie, Head at Wycombe High School and Joint President of ASGS, explained how women have complex lives, juggling family commitments with work, and might find aiming for leadership roles difficult. This where the mentoring scheme can help.
“Coaching gives them space to reflect and help them to achieve their dreams,” said Sharon. “The mentors help them to break down boundaries and find a solution.”
The mentors on the scheme have been chosen from non-education spheres so that they can share a variety of leadership expertise and skills. For example, Sandhurst’s first female Lieutenant Colonel, Lucy Giles is one of the mentors and will support mentees over two years.
The scheme also places a strong importance on partnerships, as they pair independent school teachers with state school teachers during the mentoring.
“As a headteacher I’ve really appreciated the opportunities that I’ve had to get to know those in the state sector,” said Caroline Jordan, GSA Vice-President and Headmistress at Headington School. “I don’t think our middle managers have that opportunity and I think this is a very powerful part of the programme.”
Currently the scheme has 63 participants and one teacher has already gained a headship position, proving that the only way is up!
“What’s exciting is where next?” said Rebecca. “This scheme is all about partnerships and leaderships and it goes beyond the boundaries of education. We all know that the skills world is enormous and moving fast, so this is a strong model for the future. This is exactly what we need to keep moving forward.”