Saying Goodbye: Bereavement Support

Before I start, we are not mourning at either of our schools. No-one from our school community has died before people I know start reading this.

An old friend who teaches in Portugal, got in touch out of the blue this weekend to ask for support as a colleague has tragically and unexpectedly passed away over the Christmas break.

I turned to the hive mind that is Twitter and my PLN to ask them for support and advice to share with her as I have not been in this position as a Headteacher, as yet. In my 15 years of teaching we have lost 3 students, but the DHTs/ Heads of Faculty and Heads of Year always dealt with it.

Personally I have never been to a funeral, bizarre as I turn 40 this year I know. I have just been to one memorial, so I am not sharing experience nor expertise, just crowd sourced advice, support and guidance.

My tweet clearly hit a chord  as it received 58 replies offerings condolences but also practical, experience based advice:

“An old friend who teaches abroad needs my/ our help. A teacher at her school has died over the holidays. Any recommendations for bereavement support, advice, resources for the school community? It is the moment I dread as a Headteacher”.

I also had a flurry of DMs from people who led school communities through a loss and who shared their contact details for my friend to contact them for a chat. Moments like this are when Twitter is a source of positive support, is why I tweet! Thank you everyone who shared.

Silhouette of an anonymous man sitting on a bench alone

Below I have attempted to compile the suggestions:

Internal Considerations:

  • Tell the staff in an appropriately timed briefing – give them time to process
  • Tell the students in pastoral time/ tutor groups
  • Identify key members of staff for people to talk to
  • Write a letter home
  • PSHE/ Safeguarding lead to deliver an assembly – share input from different staff on how they cope with grief as we all grieve differently
  • Allow the students to arrange a memorial/ tribute/ceremony
  • Keep in contact with the family but streamline communications
  • Self-care for the staff managing the emotions of the community
  • Daily plans for adjustments to the routines
  • Daily debriefs for staff
  • Reflection time/ space – somewhere quiet for people to go and talk
  • Review cover and see how you can release/ cover those who want to attend the funeral/ memorial
  • Shut the school for the day – this one is to be carefully considered

External Support:

  • Bring in the school nurse for drop in sessions
  • Bring in a school counsellor
  • Bring in an Ed Psych to work with staff and students
  • Find your LA’s guidance on critical incidents and trauma
  • Draw on your LA’s funding from ‘critical incident’  funding pot
  • Supervision for the DSL/ Headteacher/ lead teacher

Memorial Ideas:

  • Plant a tree
  • Plant bulbs
  • Create a memory book/ condolence book
  • Create a memorial garden
  • Display a picture/ portrait
  • Install a climbing frame/ bench with a plaque
  • Sculpture/ art piece
  • Balloon release

“We had a memory tree where the girls wrote their memories on ballet shoes- one was our dance teacher, they were sent to her family. We had a remembrance event where family members were invited. Rose tree planted, rooms named. Counselling offered.”

“We created a reflection room where school comm can visit and pay respects – leaving a note, photos, tributes. They will be gathered for the family in a memory book. We are also planning a celebration gathering with a tree planting and some poems/songs from students and staff, and a tribute from a friend. Family, students, staff and parents will all be invited”.

“We bought bulbs, students planted one with a message on a lolly stick. When they flowered it was beautiful. Sts need to be shown how to grieve, I think it’s a hugely important life lesson so we felt quite a lot of pressure to do it right, so your friend will need support too”.

“Staff, parents & children had different needs, but all benefited from openness & honesty, led by family, with a small memorial garden planned/planted by the class”.

“Find a wall in a corridor that is blank. Put up fun pictures of staff member with students on school trips/activities. Then leave out sticky notes for kids/teachers/parents to write a note. These two things we have done at our school when a students or staff member passed”.

“Set up a table at school with origami paper and instructions for cranes. Have various teachers man the table during break times. Kids will silently remember, or need to talk, in the end many cranes can be made into cool hanging decoration on campus that sparks remembrance”.

Recommended Organisations:

Recommended Books/ Reading:

Recommended Resources:

Thank you to everyone who contributed and shared, my friend is very grateful. I think these two tweets of advice are what really stay with me about being mindful of the person’s family and ensuring that their wishes are respected.

“Keep in mind what the teacher’s family would want shared regarding information or memorials etc”.

“Please listen to the person’s family about what they want”.

bereavement 3

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Supporting my friend through this loss

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • As and when I need to lead our school through a tragedy I am a bit more informed, not that you can ever really be prepared

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The generosity of my PLN on Twitter

#Oneword2019: Joy

My #OneWord2019 is Joy. Shortlisted were also Wonder & Awe.

I chose Joy because I want more Wow moments this year. More moments when my heart pounds, my skin tingles & my eyes fill.

I want 2019 to be  a year full of joyful memories.

I want more memories that are Joyful & Joyous, fewer moments that are Joyless.

Joie De Vivre is my commitment to 2019:

  • Joy of Teaching.
  • Joy of Learning.
  • Joy of Leading.
  • Joy of Living.


So I saw the New Year in feeling the Joy of being on the beach in a beautiful part of the country.

I breathed in the fresh air and space of 2019, I exhaled all of my stresses and pains from 2018.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Celebrating a positive start to the year.
  • Ensuring that my glass remains half full.
  • Finding problems to solutions as they arise.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am still on ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama.
  • Becoming… lighter… becoming…joyful.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My friends and family  who I have caught up with over the break.
  • My acupuncturist who releases any tensions I have in my body.




Integrity Matters: A Promise to Others

Integrity is one of our 12 values at Aureus School and Aureus Primary School.

It is probably the hardest one as adults for us to define, explain and breakdown for our learners.

A phrase we use a lot to aid understanding is this quote from C.S.Lewis:

integrity 3

When I did an assembly with my Drama Club (yes I am a Headteacher but I run a weekly enrichment after school) last year we came up with a physical gesture for each of our 12 values to bring our Aureus Homily to life in our assemblies.

Our gesture for Integrity took us a while to decide, but our then Year 7s decided that if our values are moral compass that keep us on the right path, then integrity is our compass pointing North. So our gesture is we tap our heart/ our moral compass and we point in front of us as our heart, our values, guide our decisions, our actions.

integrity 7

Professional Integrity is something I pride myself on. I am an ethical, moralistic person. I work hard for our community, I strive hard for our learners.

As a Headteacher, I do the right thing, I make the hard decisions, I stand up for what is right.

As a Teacher, because yes I still teach, last year 4 (double) lessons a week at the secondary school, this year 2 (double ) lessons at the secondary and cover/ leadership release lessons at the primary, I have these challenging conversations with our learners. Yesterday, in a lesson about Diversity we discussed the Integrity of our society and how we accept and tolerate differences.

A character tribute that some of my peers could do with developing.

My tenacity, my grit, my character, my resilience are what get we through the hard times.  So imagine how I felt when one of my colleagues after congratulating me for being elected on to the Chartered College of Teaching Council as a Fellow, asked me how I felt about Andrew’s Blog. I of course did not know what they meant, as the sub-tweeting and the sub-blogging had not tagged me to discuss, but had been done instead in a surreptitious way so that I could not respond.

integrity 6

I was more than a little taken aback to see that the newly elected CCT Council were under attack. I was more than a little dismayed that someone had painstakingly detailed the professional accomplishments of each of the elected Council Members.

I am going to emphasise, as Natalie Scott did in her tweets on the weekend, that everyone has been elected into this role. Voted for by the 25k strong  CCT community.

A word we focus on in the #womened community is ‘choice’. We collectively challenge the system and affect change to removed the barriers that prohibit choice. We also inspire and empower the community to find and use their voice.

I modelled these values in putting myself forward, I did not expect to be voted in, I was delighted to find out that I had a seat at the table. I would have been as delighted if another one of my peers from the educational world had been elected in. It is an act of courage and being #10%braver to put yourself out there. But as with elections and politics, I believe that if you don’t vote you shouldn’t criticise the outcomes. Perhaps the naysayers and critics of the CCT should instead contribute, constructively to the discussion.

integrity 4

I personally think that CEOs, University Professors, Chairs of Governors, Consultants who are retired Headteachers, Headteachers, Senior Leaders, Teachers, Coaches, Mentors, Governors all have their place in representing the diversity of our profession.

For me, there is not a hierarchy in teaching. For me I do not judge if you have a contract, or if you are supply teacher; if you work part-time, or if you work full time; if you work in the private sector, or if you work in the state sector; if you work in primary or if you work in secondary; if you work in a grammar school or if you work in an academy.

Teaching is teaching. Schools are schools.

We are all educators. We are all equals.

Our system is broken and needs fixing.  Our profession is fantastic and needs celebrating.

Please can the mud slinging, nit picking, school shaming, sub-tweeting and sub-blogging stop?

We all work too hard and care too much to waste time and energy on being drains. Let’s all be radiators instead. We need to direct our precious time and energy into finding solutions, not problems. Please?

integrity 5

For the record, last year we had 10 teachers at Aureus, I was 1 of them. We had a small team and Professional Learning was going to be hard to personalise and differentiate. 7 of us were working towards Lead Practitioner accreditation. We encouraged everyone to join the CCT, half had done it independently already. We offered to cover the first year’s membership from our small CPD budget to encourage the others. Many of us went to the inaugural event, some of us spoke at CCT events, we all accessed the research. It was an investment, not a bribe.  Only a few submitted a claim as they all saw the benefit.

For the record, I may be a Headteacher, but I am also a teacher, a Governor, a Trustee, a SLE, a TSA lead, a coach for WLIE, the co-founder of #womened, an advocate of #bameed, #lgbted, #disabilityed, a Fellow of the CCT, a Fellow of the RSA. I am confident I can represent the diversity of our teaching profession and educational community.

For the record, yes two of us were elected from our school, neither of us knew the other was applying, we did not intend to run against each other, we have discussed how we will make the logistics work. I have also said I will be speaking to the CCT about whether they would like to release my seat for someone else to take. Please do not take away from my DHT Julie that she has been elected into this position. She embodies the value of Integrity.

For the record, I don’t like being sub-tweeted about nor sub-blogged about. I have challenged this before. I have asked politely to be left me alone. I believe that we can  co-exist on Twitter without always agreeing.

For the record, I was brought up believing that if you have not got anything nice to say then do not say anything at at all. Moreover, that if you cannot say it to someone’s face then you should not say it behind their back.

For the record, please speak to me, if you have a problem with me.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The educational professionals who conduct themselves with integrity.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I am reading the feedback from our open evening –  we have received some lovely poems from some prospective students and some thoughtful emails from prospective parents about our school and our values.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • My CCT peers who have put their head above the parapet and who have put themselves forward to affect change.

Seat Belts On: Strapping in for the Ride

I might be an adrenaline junk and thrive under pressure, but I don’t like roller coasters. I don’t mind speed nor heights, but think it is the lack of control that freaks me out. I like speed when I am in control or I know and trust who is in control. I don’t like danger and don’t put myself in dangerous situations. I also don’t like fair rides, I had a bad experience as a teen where I hurt my neck as it was unsupported as I am so tall, which put me off going on rides.

The last week has felt like I am on a roller coaster, one that is being driven by someone else, one that could become out of control if I don’t get in the driving seat, one that has made me look for my seat belt. I have ended the week in one piece, but the warning lights have made me stop, look, listen and think.

seat belt

I have pinged from one meeting to the next, I have bounced from supporting one issue or solving one problem to the next, I have rushed from one school to the other and back again. I have apologised a lot to everyone  as I have felt like I have not done anything 100% and I have not given anyone 100%. My brain hurts from all of the thinking and problem solving.

On reflection, Week 1 of being an Executive Headteacher across two sites was calm, positive and although it was hard work and I juggled lots, the week ended well and I felt like we had achieved a lot.

By contrast, Week 2 was busy, really busy, it was exhausting as I worked silly hours, I juggled lots but dropped lots, thankfully our DHTs and my PA caught them mid-air. The number of meeting requests nearly pushed me over the edge – there is simply not enough time in my diary! The week ended messily, compounded by me leaving my keys at work and being locked out first thing when I had gone in to attack the to do list. I left on Friday feeling like I had not scratched the surface of my workload, I felt physically and emotionally zapped.

I know this is exasperated by the need to get myself and others back into a new routine and that things will settle as we move into the new term, and the new year, as the team settles and routines are embedded.

I shared the change curve with my team at the start of term. Change is tiring and we have been through a lot of it in the  last year, and moving in to our next chapter we are going through as much again. We also talked through the imminent changes at the end of last year with our students and then again at the start of term to guide and support them through the changes affecting them. Their little bubble from year 1 has well and truly been popped with the arrival of lots more staff and students.

change curve

I have seen the emotional responses to the changes reflected on the faces of staff and students all week. The braver ones have voiced it to me as the week has progressed:

“We thought year 2 would be easier…”

“You told us working in a start up school was hard and we would need to be resilient but this is really intense…” 

“We need to clone you…”

“You must be spinning…”

Teaching is hard. Leadership is full on. Start up schools are intense. Headship is extreme. Executive Headship is highly-demanding.

pulled in different directions

Friday was dinner with a friend who is a fellow Headteacher, so she gets it, we had a good catch up, dinner and wine, lots of laughter but she understood when I exited at 10pm. Saturday was lunch with the #WomenEd team to plan our calendar for 2018-19. Both topped me up and made me smile.

On reflection do I (and other teachers) socialise with my friends in education during term time because they get my lifestyle and there is empathy and no guilt, nor judgement?  Similarly, do I (we) socialise with non-teachers during holidays because I am on better form and don’t want to talk about school?

I came home on Saturday after a lovely lunch and thought a quick power nap at 3.30pm would be a good idea.  I woke up confused and dazed at 1.30am. A quick nap was not going to fix my fatigue.  A deep sleep would catch me up on myself.

Why am I sharing this? Well mid-week I reached out on twitter to see if there are other Executive Headteachers who work cross-phase who can share workload and wellbeing tips with me. Following 3 days of working 6am-9pm and having dinner from the M&S garage in the car on the way home each time,  I was looking for some advice from those who had broken the back of it.  Part of the #WomenEd philosophy is to share ‘warts and all’ to not paint a rose tinted image of our profession. I am pragmatic and know things will settle and calm but think  it is important to share each bend and dip on our journeys as leaders.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Establishing a daily and weekly routine.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Talking to the other cross-phase EHTs via a DM group on Twitter to learn from their experience.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Our team who rock.


Feeling Blessed: Sibling Schools

It has been a FAB-U-LOUS start to the new academic year.

Being the founding headteacher opening a new secondary school was an exciting prospect last September. Our first year at Aureus School was full on but fantastic. We established lots, we achieved lots, we learnt lots. This September we have opened our new primary school. Our sibling school Aureus Primary School. We are just as excited a year on, opening our second school, but we are calmer, as we have a reference point for lots of the newness to build on from last year.

As an English teacher, who encourages learners to interpret the pathetic fallacy in texts, it has felt appropriate that the sun has been shining on us all week.

So Monday 3rd September was a memorable day as our Aureus team grew from 25 to 70. We can no longer fit our team into the community room nor the library for  training sessions and meetings. We now need to use the main hall to fit everyone in.

The scale up has been significant. Recruiting 45 new team members means that we interviewed in excess of 220 candidates last year. We have been inundated with applications for roles, when we long list we keep our talent pool interested in Year 2,3, opportunities as well as the live vacancies. When we shortlist we usually interview 4 candidates for operations and 6 for teaching roles. We have appointed a fantastic team and have still only paid for 3 adverts out of our 70 roles! All of the money saved goes into the staff professional learning budget. We take PLD very seriously, we are committed to our staff being life long learners.

So this year we have 17 team members based at Aureus Primary School and 53 team members based at Aureus School, but many of them are doing specialist operations roles across the two schools, such as Finance, Admissions, Catering and Site. Longer term we will have teaching roles across both schools too. As I shared the numbers of student and staff numbers over the next five years, as we grow from 25 staff and 120 students to 200+ staff and 1600+ children, I took a few deep breaths.

We spent out first day together reflecting on our values, discussing how they shape our culture and ethos, sharing how we can work together as a team on providing a holistic, values-based education for our 2-16 learners. The GLF Schools MAT is an extended family of schools, we celebrate our individuality but share our mission for education that enables our communities to grow, learn and flourish. Our Aureus Schools are siblings,  we will share our vision and values but we will interpret and embody them in a personalised way. We are not an all-through school  as we are on two sites, a 10 min walk/ 5 min drive apart, but we will come together for community events and once we have KS2 we will be able to collaborate more on the curriculum.

There has been a palpable nervous energy in  both schools all week. The 45 new staff have been understandably nervous getting their heads around new roles, new systems, new faces and a new culture. The founding team, our trail blazers have also been nervous as our small bubble, our intimate team dynamic, has changed. Everyone has a lot of change to manage, so we have taken a few moments to reflect on this.

As we welcomed our 210 Year 7s (our Class of 2023) to Aureus School on Wednesday our school began to fill busy. For those of who have come from large urban secondary schools, it began to fill like a ‘proper’ school! As we welcomed our 120 Year 8s (our Class of 2022) back on Thursday, they too were feeling apprehensive: who were all of these small people invading their space? We all have a lot of adjusting to do! My welcome back assemblies invited our learners to reflect on their Hopes, their Dreams and their Fears. We acknowledged the fact that everyone is feeling a myriad of feelings and that is okay.

Whilst the secondary team adjusted to having triple the students and double the staff in the building, the primary team spent the week in training: a new assessment system, a new phonics programme, a whole school singing curriculum. The team bonded before my eyes, the school came to life as resources were unpacked and classrooms were prepared. On Thursday Sue Webb joined us from VBE to scope the teams values. As I dipped in and out of the session emotions were high and relationships were strengthened as the team met each other with their core values, their shared vision and their collective mission.

Everyone on our Aureus team is on the same bus, heading in the same direction. A values-based recruitment process has enabled us to attract and recruit a team who are passionate about a holistic, inclusive education model. As I sat in on training sessions and meetings, I heard our values reflected back to me, I heard our shared language used, unprompted. The time and energy we have invested in our culture and ethos makes the strategy easier to implement as our why and our what is clear, it is just the how that will evolve.

fab teams

In September, our value of the month is Wellbeing, we will nurture the students, the staff and the parents through the stress points of the transition into a new school, a new year group and a new role. Mindfulness is a core part of the inner curriculum at both schools. At the secondary 360 students will do a carousel of activities each morning to mentally and emotionally prepare them for learning, at the primary 110 pupils will have a micro mindfulness session at the start of each learning session, settling them as the come into the classroom from break, lunch and playing outside.

Friday was our history-making, legacy-building moment at Aureus Primary School as we formally welcomed our Reception, Year 1 and 2 pupils in to their new school for the first time. As parents, carers and pupils lined up outside our stunning new school to sign in, I smiled at the pride our pupils had in our lovely school uniform, I welled up at the beaming faces radiating their joy at joining us. I think there were more tears (of joy) from our team than there were from the children and their parents!  The pupils settled quickly into their new learning environment as their parents and carers settled their nerves with a cup of tea in the school hall.

More shared team training mid-week saw Ann Marie Christian joining us for a hard-hitting safeguarding session and our week ended with Mike Armiger from Pivotal Education delivering a dynamic session on our restorative culture with relentless compassion at its core. Our staff had spent their first week with us and had met our pupils so they could now reflect on how our values come to life in how we interact with our stakeholders, how we model our values and nurture hearts and minds, how we embody our high expectations and deliver our challenging curriculum in a holistic way.


Our first week as Aureus sibling schools was a whirlwind of activity – I met myself travelling between the two schools on several occasions and I left stuff at the wrong school/ on the wrong desk more than once but that is the change for me to get my head around, how I clone myself to support two teams, how I split my time and attention to nurture both schools. This year the plan is that I will be spending a half day at each school each day so that my presence is felt and I am a constant in both schools.   Once we settle into the routine of our working days and weeks I will review this in discussion with my four Deputy Headteachers.

So I am feeling blessed. Blessed for the opportunity to be an Executive Headteacher, blessed to now be a primary school leader after leading in secondary schools for 14 of my 15 year career, blessed to have recruited a brilliant team, blessed to have attracted a parent body who are as passionate about a holistic, values-based STEAM education as we all are!

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Year 2 of Aureus School and a bigger operations team to support the growing teaching team in embedding our routines and systems.
  • Year 1 of Aureus Primary School and nurturing the hearts and minds of our 2 year olds who will hopefully one day become our 16 year olds and amazing Aureus Ambassadors who are values-led global citizens.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Our new staff will be reading From the Heart by Dr Neil Hawkes this month, our trailblazing team will be reading High Challenge, Low Threat by Mary Myatt and I am going to proposed to our Aureus Leadership Team that we read Legacy by James Kerr.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The brilliant training from Ann Marie, Sue (VBE), Jo (Voices), Natalie (GLF), Gareth (RWI) and Mike (Pivotal).
  • The patience of our team as we navigate start of term issues with IT and orders!
  • My fabulous PA, Zoe, who has kept the plates spinning this week, across two sites!
  • Our brilliant Deputy Headteachers, Nicola, Kate, Bennie and Julie who are swans gliding through any chaos and keeping the calm at both schools.

grateful 1

Messages from the Heart: Volunteering in Mozambique with Action Aid

We got back from Mozambique on Wednesday and it has taken a few days to catch up on ourselves and process our experience as volunteers. It is really hard to put into words how profound our trip was. It is a bit like trying to capture a picture of a beautiful sunset/ sunrise when you know the image is not going to do that moment true justice.

The opening ceremony was a full community welcome to the Condlana Primary School. As our minibus bounced down the sandy road, we could see a crowd and a group of children stood up and stepped forwards with their Choir Director. They started singing and I felt my heart pound and my eyes fill before I had even climbed off of the bus! It was also hard to get off of the bus as we were swamped by everyone eagerly wanting to welcome us with a smile and a high 5.

Community 2

The whole school and the local community had come out to see us to put on a welcome ceremony, on a Sunday afternoon, to bless the building site and project before we started the next day. We were treated to songs from the pupils, speeches from the community officials, a theatre performance from the school’s girl leadership group, and dancing from the local community. Which of course we were obliged to join in with!

Community 1

Seeing the reality for ourselves for the first time, emphasised why we were there. The school serves 450 pupils. The school has 3 classrooms. The pupils attend school in shifts, morning or afternoon sessions, or are taught outside, under the trees on the school grounds. Our fundraising and volunteering would create 2 new classrooms for the school and the community to use. More space than they currently have but still not enough in reality. Mozambique is by far the poorest African country  I have visited and the reality of how little resources the community have was stark.

We could really see and feel the difference the classrooms would make to the children and the community. We felt the pressure to rise to the challenge and do our best for them in the short time we had there. We also felt compelled to fully invest in this community and not just donate some money and leave.

Before we could start the building work we needed to pay our respects to the stakeholders invested in the project so we  visited the Action Aid Mozambique office to meet the team and went to the District Governor’s office, where we learnt about the challenges they face in the district where their budgets dictate their teacher training and deployment, where they are handcuffed by the state over school expansion, repairs and resourcing. Education is valued, but not prioritised. They expressed their sincere thanks to our team for helping to provide a better education for the children in the district.


We could then finally head to the school site and start the building work. Our first job was digging trenches and flattening where the classroom floor will go. We also spotted the school farm/ garden area which was a patch of wilderness and we decided to help tame that by clearing the surrounding area and defining the boundary.  Our enthusiasm, spirits and energy were high and we could quickly see the fruits of our labour begin to take shape.


As the week progressed we moved from digging and hoeing to metal work to create the supporting structures that would be concreted in to create the shape of the building and to reinforce the supporting walls. Everything was done by hand, everything was moved by hand. We developed lots of new practical skills and found muscles we did not even know we had!

It is fair to say that nothing is easy in this context, in this climate. As a team we moved truck loads of breeze blocks, sand, stones, water and concrete back and forth across the site in buckets, wheel barrows and by hand. As we did this the locals watched and followed, we communicated with smiles and hand gestures as they had no English and we had no Portugese! Despite this we operated as one team. It is funny how relationships and friendships can be built through eye contact and facial expressions alone. There was laughter, a lot of laughter, as the local women with babies tidied to their backs in a cloth, carried more water on their heads than we could carry in a bucket in two hands!  And yes we did the obligatory try and carry water on our heads in a bucket!


Moreover, everything we did had an audience, as the children who were not in lessons shyly observed our every move. They grew in confidence and were desperate to help us. Again with no language, through modelling, they quickly understood what we needed and would help us collect sticks for the fence, stones for weights. They were keen to be involved, eager to please and followed our every move. Every time I turned around from doing a task, a support group of smiley faces and helping hands would appear.

The school site was littered with debris, as there is no bin collection in this area and there are no school bins, litter is a real issue throughout the country in fact. We wanted the school community to take pride in their space, so we started a litter pick. A few of us started it quietly, quickly filling bags up with food wrappers, broken glass, decaying fruit and ripped sheets from old school books. The word spread and a large group of children came running, picking up bin bags, buckets and wheel barrows, keen to help us. In less than an hour we had filled 20+ bags. The smiles on their faces as we high-fived them all to say well done and good job really touched us. As we went to take a water break, the litter picking continued in our absence and the new game became one of them being the teacher high-fiving everyone saying “good job” which made us smile.

Cement mixing to form concrete for the next layer of the floor became the next mammoth task before we could start building the walls and really see the classrooms coming together. The team of local builders said with 20 extra pairs of hands that they achieved in a week what they would have achieved in a few months. As you can imagine when they heard they had a group of 20 women coming to help them build they were a little bit alarmed, but we showed them how tenacious and hard working we are.

We might not have been skilled and we might have lacked experience on a building site but we made up for it in enthusiasm and energy! There was no whingeing from the team, no-one gave up, the resilience and the ‘can do’ attitude was testament to what a brilliant group of volunteers we had.  If anything Ant, our building project lead, a volunteer from the UK had to keep telling us to pace ourselves and take a break. We applied ourselves as we do in our schools, making every minute matter!

Alongside the building work there were also opportunities to connect with the community and understand more about the challenges they face as children and as adults. We sat in on lessons, we met the Girls’ Leadership Group, we met the local teachers and we met the Women’s Reflection Circle. It was meeting 35 adults who walk 3-7km once a week for Literacy lessons that really moved me. They were so grateful for our support in expanding the school site. Before they started the adult classes, they could not read and write to the extent that they could not catch a  bus as they did not know the destination and they could not sign paperwork. Over the 2/3 year programme they had closed the gap on the skills they had missed out on at school.

In Mozambique only 40% of children stay on for secondary school and only 10% of the country are employed. The local Women’s Circle shared their gratitude in improving the life changes for them and their families. This safe space enables to them to support each other through issues of domestic violence and learning literacy.

They were keen to show us their new skills. As they stood up and moved into a circle around the black board, they broke into song. They sang a beautiful harmony together as they passed the chalk between them and came to the board to show us they could now write. It is moments like this that we will not forget. It is moments like this that donating money to a charity without seeing how it will be spent and without appreciating the impact it has on the lives on others does not capture. It really made us realise the wider impact the classroom build will have on the wider community.

MZ 16    MZ 25

The song was poignant and uplifting, so with tears in our eyes we went back to continue our work on the school site. The classroom walls finally began to take shape and we saw the building rise above ground level! We took it in turns joining the mortaring team to cement the gaps between the breeze blocks.

As the school’s classrooms progressed we also finished off sourcing and creating 90 meters of fencing around the school garden we had rejuvenated for the community. We planted maize, peanuts and cassava with the help of the local women.  We are proud of what we have achieved, but we are also conscious that we are just scratching the surface of the external support that this community needs.

The farewell ceremony from the community was emotional to say the least. We had arrived as a group of strangers, to do our bit, we were leaving as a team of friends, with a special place in our hearts for this humble village community in southern Mozambique. Maria, the headteacher and her school community, showed their gratitude to us through singing and dancing. The speeches from each community stakeholder group were moving. Our translator explained the heart felt thanks. The “messages from the heart” of each person who spoke heightened the emotion in the community circle, under the trees, beside our build. A teacher representative thanked us for working shoulder to shoulder as equals with the community. A community representative thanked us for not “bringing fish, but bringing fishing rods and for teaching us how to fish”. The impact of us getting our hands dirty, of teachers giving up their summer holidays, of mothers leaving their children behind to volunteer were sincerely appreciated. The legacy we had co-created was the beginning, not the end of our collaboration.

Nancy impressed everyone by learning a few words of Portugese to articulate our gratitude for the  warm welcome we had received. We then handed over our gifts of books, pens and pencils, balls. Basic school resources for us that would be treasured in their community.  Our final gift as a group was to sing. Overnight we had learnt the lyrics and the tune to ‘Lean On Me’ to perform to them in exchange for their singing and dancing for us. We gave it everything we had and sang our hearts out –  we stood and took our applause with smiles on our faces and tears in our eyes. Apparently there is video footage which we are yet to see/ hear!!

MZ 31

The women of the community then gifted us all beautifully patterned wraps, which they dressed us in to sing us and dance us off to our bus to much hilarity from everyone!

MZ 32

Following the closing ceremony we headed to Maputo for our final night together, and we were joined for dinner by staff from Action Aid Mozambique and the local partner Nadec. I had been too emotional on our last night in Bilene to give a speech but had promised Jill and Nancy I would say a few words after dinner. I emotionally thanked everyone for joining us on this project. When we talk about being #10%braver in the #WomenEd community this experience and journey has been more like being #100%braver for some of our group. Many of our team were totally out of their comfort zone flying alone, fundraising a large sum of money, leaving their families at home,  travelling with strangers, using a hoe/ shovel/ trowel, singing in public, eating local cuisine to name just a few of the experiences and challenges each person faced.

#10%prouder does not really encapsulate what a wonderful group of friends we have made, what brilliant memories we have made, but more importantly what a significant impact we have made on another community. We are already talking about arranging a return visit in summer 2020 so watch this space.  If you are interested in potentially joining us send me an email to and we will be in touch once we know whether it is possible to develop the connections we have made.

So a big thank you to everyone who has supported us and this project – your generosity has really helped this community. Action Aid are a brilliant charity and the work they are doing for girls’ education globally, but for us in Mozambique is significant, but it is going to take a lot of time, energy and resources to maximise their impact. We are going to continue our fundraising to ensure these classrooms are resourced and that future projects are full funded. A family in Mozambique lives on 90p a day, any contributions would be gratefully received here.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The difference that charities like Action Aid make.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I read my first fiction book in a very long time this summer – the new Dorothy Koomson.
  • I still have a pile of EduBooks to read once my head is back in work mode!

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • The generosity of the volunteers who gave up time and energy to help the building project.
  • The support of our PLN who donated to fund the project.

Pressing Pause: Reflections & Recalibrations

We broke up ten days ago for the summer and I pressed pause. I needed to breathe.

It has been a really full on founding year as a new Headteacher of a new school and I was feeling physically, mentally and emotionally zapped. More so than I have ever been before. The fatigue was compounded by the early termination of my May half-term and the stressful start to our final Summer 2 half-term due to the Daily Mail!

pause 3

When I say that our last 7 weeks were full on, it is probably an under statement! I felt like I pinged from one big school event to another across our two school sites and was on an assembly writing and delivering conveyor belt!

At Aureus School – our Year 6/7 transition days (in Didcot they do 2) had to be split as we could not accommodate all 240 for 2 days with the size of our current team; we held a successful Year 6/7 parents’ welcome; we continued to hold open events for prospective parents and carers. At each I ‘shot the elephant in the room’ and spoke directly to the headlines. We held our final Governors’ meeting of the year, we held our end of term/ end of year celebration assembly and we hosted our inaugural Sports Day. None of these events are different to other schools, but each was our first, each was planned and delivered by our small team in our huge site!

At Aureus Primary School – we had the site final completion and it was signed over to us; we continued to log our ever growing snagging list; we prepared for and passed our Ofsted pre-opening inspection; we did multiple site tours for our new parents, carers and pupils; we hosted our welcome evening.

Interviews for our operations team, which is tripling in size next year, took up a lot of our time in the summer term but we have made some brilliant appointments for roles at each school and hybrid roles across the two.

Our new staff induction day was epic – there was a moment of dawning as we welcomed 45 new staff members for the day. 45 new members of staff, for which we have not paid for a single advert! Moreover for which we have interviewed in excess of 250 candidates! I love recruitment but it does feel like a full time role some weeks!

In sharing our vision and values, in reflecting on our culture and ethos, in detailing how we would scale up, I had a moment.  I realised how far we have come as a team, and I realised how much we have achieved in Year 1. As I played Emilie Sande’s ‘Wonder’ I was taken back to our induction day last September. It honestly seems like a life time ago! Time passes so quickly in schools, I remember someone saying to me in my NQT year not to wish away each half-term to a holiday, but we all know we do this. The momentum this year has meant we have needed seat belts and crash helmets at times!!

All of these whole school events were done around the normal exam marking, data entry, report writing and Parents’ Evening cycles but for us we only have 11 teachers, including me, who all teach all 120 students, so this was also intense! No wonder we were on our knees.

So week 1 of our official summer holidays I was still spinning, my head was still busy, my To Do List for school and home was still epic. As for the state of my house, my washing/ ironing pile and my fridge, well, they were feeling neglected to say the least!

pause 5

So how did I start to recalibrate?

A staff night out with cocktails and dancing set the tone for my first weekend off. Nights out have been few and far between this year. Weekends have been about sleep and recuperation. The weather was still beautiful so I then hung out with friends who had come to visit and we chilled out on the river. The real treat came on Monday when the alarm did not go off, I still woke up like a robot at my standard 5.30am, but I rolled over and stayed in bed. This felt like the biggest treat as I  normally bounce up and out.

I have learnt over the last 15 years that for me going away on holiday straight away does not work. I need to tie up loose ends and get my environment tidied, resources organised and admin completed to go away guilt free and truly rest. So I went in to school for 3 days – I spent a day with my School Business Leader to sort our finances, a day with our Primary Deputy Headteachers to get things ready for our opening and a day with my PA to get our start of year organised.

Around our office and admin sorting our fabulous site team sorted a very long list of jobs for me so that the site will look spic and span to welcome our new staff and students in September. My Site Manager, my School Business Leader and I reminisced on a year ago when it was just the 3 of us rattling around in the massive school all by ourselves, before the staff and students started. It felt like a full cycle had been completed.

Each night I slept a bit earlier and a bit deeper, each morning I woke a little later and felt a bit more chilled. My osteopath tells me my body is like a tightly coiled spring and I felt the coil slowly begin to uncoil.

My first proper day off, not in school, was spent in London, ironically. I had a lunch date with Shirley Drummond and Jill Berry to catch up on our last 12 months, preceded by my emergency jabs and visa appointment for Mozambique as my personal ‘life-min’ was somewhat in disarray. Over a long leisurely lunch there was much laughter, lots of story telling and quite a few cocktails. A tradition we started last year when Shirley had just completed her first year and I was in my designate role. Jill and her book ‘Making the Leap’ have been a source of advice and inspiration for both of us on our journeys to headship.  #WomenEd friends and support network are invaluable in having those professional conversations that your non-teaching friends and family do not really get nor need to get. I did then go home to Devon for a long weekend and was less tired and work focused than I normally am as I had already decompressed!

As my mind began to settle I began to reflect more deeply on Year 1. A quote I keep going back to is one of my favourite by Maya Angelou about surviving v thriving. We have most definitely been in survival mode this year. I don’t think any of us could have anticipated how difficult it was going to be at times, how demanding and draining it would be. It is a cliche but it has been an emotional rollercoaster. The highs and lows have been quite extreme at times. I have felt the need to be both a rock for everyone on my team but also an emotional sponge for them. The role of emotional supporter also extends to our vulnerable students and their families  – some of who I have spent a considerable amount of time with this year too.

angelou thrive survive

As a DHT this was also my role but it has intensified as the buck now truly stops with me. I feel very responsible for our team who have made career and life choices to join us on our journey. I feel very protective of our students who topped us back up again with their lovely values thank you cards to show gratitude to all staff members on the last day. I feel the pressure from our parents/ carers who took a leap of faith on us, on me last year.

I think that is the major difference of becoming a Headteacher, I have always been heavily emotionally invested in the school and community I serve, but I feel the level of accountability more keenly. Not in a results, inspection pressure but in a people and relationships pressure. I just don’t want to let anyone down!

This year group, our founding students, are also always going to hold a special place in our hearts. The Thank You cards, messages and presents we received from students and parents/ carers were indicative of our successful year.

Taking on my first headship, changing trusts, relocating, agreeing to being Executive Headteacher in Year 2 before Year 1 was even finished, project managing two builds and founding two new schools could not have pushed me further from the minimal comfort zone I have. Not much phases me, but this change leadership is different to the turn around school improvement I am used to leading.

The magic for us has happened in our conviction in doing things a little bit differently, in our boldness in challenging the traditions of our system.

comfort zone

So I am off to Mozambique for 2 weeks with the Action Aid and Women Leading in Education team. A brilliant opportunity to totally detach from reality, to dislocate ourselves from our emails, from twitter and from thinking about work. Some time out to consider how I will move from surviving to thriving in our 2nd year.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • Our trip to Mozambique with Action Aid.
  • Our opening of Aureus Primary School in September.
  • Our second year for Aureus School.
  • Our brilliant new team and the energy, ideas and expertise they will bring with them.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • I read a brilliant piece yesterday about creating a good school culture which I will share with the staff in September.
  • I really enjoyed Jill Berry’s blog on do less and achieve more – encouraging us to subtract rather than add.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Surviving Year 1, relatively unscathed!
  • The resilience my parents have instilled in me as it got me through this year.


Streamlining Systems: Safeguarding Processes

Maria Alexander @Daring Optimist asked us to contribute to the launch of the Pastoral Toolkit. Our DHT for Culture and Wellbeing Julie Hunter contribute an article for the first edition here and I have contributed a follow up article in their second edition here.  

My article is below:

Safeguarding Information:

The first thing you see when you sign in at our school is the poster of the Safeguarding Team. Before you can sign in you also need to read and agree with our Keeping Children Safe protocols. You also need to read and agree to our school values.


Safeguarding Posters:

We use the back of our toilet cubicle doors as a way of drip feeding how to keep ourselves save from a range of risks.


We use digital signing in system for all staff and visitors. It takes your photo and stores it for when you visit again. You get a lovely sticker with your mug shot on it too!

The Senior Leadership Team, Receptionists and Site/ Lettings Team all have the app on their mobile. Which saves printing everything in a fire evacuation as we can see at a glance who has not signed out of the building.

Lanyards and ID:

All of our staff and all of our students wear a photo ID card. They use it for swiping for lunch, the library and in and out of school, when it is out of hours. The staff all have their DBS number on display for when they go to other schools. On the back of the ID card there is a quick reference guide with key contact numbers for MASH/ NSPCC.

Visitors who are known to the school and who are on our SCR received a green lanyard when signing in. This includes visitors from our MAT and our Governors who the staff may know but the students may not.

Visitors who are unknown to us wear a red lanyard and need escorting.  Our students know that a red lanyard means ‘stranger danger’ and if they spot anyone roaming unescorted they should alert a member of staff, and they do!


Media Consent:

We only have a handful of students who opted out of our Media Consent policy for photography. Their names are on our Media Consent register for staff to cross-reference when doing events, going on trips, sharing news. For events they wear a red lanyard to flag this to official photographers.

Safeguarding Pads:

I have worked with Ann Marie Christian in my previous role as Professional Learning Leader for a large MAT.


We launched a DSL & DDSL network for 42 academies in South London to meet half-termly to share best practice.

She has recently designed a 2 page pre-printed process pad through Doodle which you can buy online. We have bought all of our Safeguarding Team a few of them to make referrals quick and to ensure all the bases are covered.

Safeguarding Network:

I recommended Ann Marie to our new MAT and she has been working with the central team on standardising processes across our 27 schools.   Our MAT DSL and DDSL have also recently launched a half-termly face to face update to share topical issues, crowd source best practice and seek support from others in the same challenging role. One of the things we are currently looking at is how to broker supervision for our DSLs.

Mobile Phones:

All of our staff mobiles have a Yellow sticker on the back of them to demark whether they are ‘safe’ phones. All visitors are informed at reception that they are not allowed to have their phones out whilst on site. If they need to make/ take a call they request a private office. Our students are very confident in asking our visitors to politely put their phones away.



As a trust we use an online training platform for virtual safeguarding training and top ups. Following the face to face training at the start of the year – generalist CP for all staff and DSL training for the Safeguarding team – this is a great way to drip feed information and check that staff have absorbed it. Modules you can assign include:

  • An Introduction to Child Sexual Exploitation
  • Child Neglect
  • Child Protection in Education
  • Child Protection in Sport & Active Leisure
  • Equality & Diversity
  • Female Genital Mutilation Awareness
  • Online Safety
  • Mental Wellbeing for Children and Young People
  • Safeguarding Young People
  • Safer Recruitment in Education
  • The Prevent Duty


CPOMS is the market leading software application for monitoring child protection, safeguarding and a whole range of pastoral and welfare issues.

Working alongside a school’s existing safeguarding processes, CPOMS is an intuitive system to help with the management and recording of child protection, behavioural issues, bullying, special educational needs, domestic issues and much much more.

Using CPOMS, schools can ensure that students are safe and fully supported, whilst school staff can focus on teaching and providing support, instead of administration.

Every member of staff across school has an obligation to report any concerns which they may have. CPOMS allows them to record information in a central repository and have relevant people alerted immediately.

Senior leaders are able to build a chronology around a student and can produce reports on vulnerable pupil groups for Case Conference MeetingsGovernors and Ofsted at the touch of a button.

School Nurse:

We have an OCC school nurse who joins us for half a day once a fortnight. Staff can make referrals via our SENDco, but we have also introduced a self-referral scheme.

This has been especially empowering for those students feeling anxious, suffering from mental health issues or who we have concerns about self-harming as part of our discussion involves them gaining some control and completing the self-referral form to seek support from a specialist.


Student Message Board:

The images of the slides I have interspersed throughout come from our Student Message Board which is updated on a weekly basis to share key messages with our students, staff and visitors via our presentation screens.  Technology is a great way to drip feed this information to keep everyone informed.

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • The collaboration and generosity of EduTwitter.

Currently reading and thinking about:

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Maria and the Pastoral Toolkit team.
  • Support and Training from Ann Maris Christians.


Breaking the Mould: Creating Your Fit


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!

wonder women womened

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.


Breaking the mould slides for 77 (3)

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.

The Art of Public Speaking: Part 1 – Staff Oracy

All of our Leaders at Aureus are completing the Lead Practitioner Accreditation with the SSAT this year to keep the core business of Teaching and Learning first and foremost in our priorities. By January 10 of us will be accredited and then cohort 2 will start their journey.

We have coordinated our whole school foci by school priorities and I am focusing on Oracy. As an English Teacher turned Drama Teacher I think it is sacrilege that the GCSE has removed the Speaking and Listening component of the assessment, but understand why as this was part of the ‘gaming’ some schools reverted to, to secure GCSE passes.

As part of the accreditation you need to embrace an action research methodology. As a school we are a partner with Whole Education and we are using the Spirals of Enquiry research model designed by British Columbians Judy Halbert and Linda Kaser.

spirals of enquiry

Part 2 of my blog on Oracy will be exploring my findings from my initial hunches and my scanning questionnaires, moving into my impact action plan and pilot next term. I am looking forward to working with Voice 21 on it.

On  a personal/ professional note this morning I was working through my epic to do list for what is the busiest few weeks in the calendar for Leadership Teams in secondary schools.

This week I will be doing the following public speaking:

Assembly – we rotate as a staff and I do an official one each half-term and then priority ones as things arise like Road Safety after an accident or Knife Safety after a scare. Tomorrow we launch our 11th value, Confidence and I will be exploring the barriers to self-confidence and challenging our students to control their Inner Critic, practise the Power Pose and compose a Daily Affirmation. This will also be our transition assembly for the 7s as they become 8s.

Year 6  Student Welcome – Monday and Tuesday we have our 240 students from primary coming up for a transition day. We cannot accommodate all of them on one day so have split the 2 days in half and have 120 tomorrow, then we repeat with the other 120 on Tuesday. My assembly at the start of the day is a welcome to Aureus, and at the end of the day is a reflection on their experience to start building the bridge to September.

Ofsted Inspection – Wednesday we have our Pre-Opening Ofsted Inspection which is a compliance check. No formal presentation but a lot of information to communicate!

Year 6 Parent Welcome – Thursday night we have 2 time slots for our 480+ parents (blended families means there will be standing room only for some!) They heard me deliver the who we are speech last October when we had been opened for 6 weeks. They have chosen us and I will be reminding them what they have chosen. The home-school agreement and parent, student, school partnership officially begins from this week. The acceptance of key messages will ensure we have a smooth start to the new academic year. I will be shooting the elephant in the room and discussing the recent media coverage too.

#WomenEd Event  – on Saturday I will be opening the regional event we are hosting but always consider #WomenEd to be the most supportive and warmest of audiences.

Add to the list Governors’ presentations each half-term and open mornings, recruitment events, our MH & WB events,  plus conferences we contribute to and training we host public speaking is a vital part of the role of a Senior Leader and especially as a Headteacher.

I am not sure I have even seen  public speaking as a key quality, skill nor experience in a Job Description, Person Specification or advert before though?

I have also reflected today on how much training we get on this key skill as teachers and leaders. It is such an important aspect of transition to leadership and especially to Headship why is there not more investment in this key life skill?

See the thread from my original tweet here. With a helpful graphic for public speaking and oracy tips from Voice 21 here.

Moreover, it is not just about what we say, how we say it, but our whole delivery. We have all seen the critiques speakers get on what they wear rather than what they say. I read a brilliant piece on Sheryl Sandberg and Hilary Clinton’s stylist a while back on tricks to avoid the focus being diverted to your hemline or heel height rather than your message!

Sheryl Sandberg, MBA’95, Facebook COO and author of “Lean In,” gave the closing keynote of the W50 conference at Harvard Business School. In celebration of this year’s 50th anniversary of women being admitted to the two-year MBA Program, Harvard Business School. Katherine Taylor/Harvard Staff Photographer

My relationship with oracy – I was loud and clear at primary school so was always the narrator, although I cried as I wanted to be an actor in the play! I learnt to earn brownie points at secondary by volunteering early to present. At university I confess I would read the first book each term and volunteer to go first so there was less pressure to finish the rest of the books that module.

When I became a Head of Year my students used to tease me I would shake like a leaf, so I stopped having anything in my hands. As an Assistant Headteacher I was told to slow down my delivery. As a a Deputy Headteacher  I was told to stand still/ behind a podium/ lectern. Each of these tips were helpful in their own way but we never really discussed content nor rhetorical techniques. I knew this from being an English and a Drama Teacher but how do staff from other subjects develop these skills?

I absorbed a lot from organising the Jack Petchey Speak Out and the Shakespeare Schools’ Festival for our students, again I was exposed to this as a subject specialist.

I wrote a blog reflecting on my #TEDxNorwichEd talk about battling with speech impediment and lisp for most of my life. I have not said my Rs right since I lost all 4 front teeth in Infant School, despite my Speech Therapists best attempts!  This was one of the personal hurdles I had to get over.

So I am going to plan a bespoke #WomenEd event next year focusing on Public Speaking and breaking down the aspects we need to refine and polish as educators to enable more women to be confident in the public arena.  We need more women speaking at edu-events, speaking on edu-panels and delivering the key notes at edu-events. As although this training from RADA looks fab I don’t think anyone nor any school should be paying £3,500!!womened public speaking

Hannah, The Hopeful Headteacher

Currently feeling hopeful about:

  • My LPD Spirals research project and the impact it will have on our students.
  • The impact of #WomenEd on growing the community’s confidence in public speaking.

Currently reading and thinking about:

  • Lee Jackson has very kindly just offered to send me a copy of his book.
  • I need to read the Spirals Surveys my focus group did for me last week to see if my hunches were right.

Currently feeling grateful for:

  • Brilliant sharing from my Twitter #PLN on this topic.
  • The SSF workshop on my NPQH with Ambition School Leadership.
  • Public Speaking tips from Kym Andrews and Hilary Lyons through Jack Petchey Speak Out events and training.