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Keep the Wheels Turning

The Monthly Coach - May 2024

As exam and interview season are upon us, we are starkly reminded of the vulnerability of our organisation: our children’s outcomes rely on the quality of our staff and when we can’t find or keep high quality professionals, we can be plagued with practical challenges and personal worries.

It was almost a year ago when we read “7 bleak findings: School recruitment crisis is intensifying" with research showing that 39% of secondary leaders and 27% of primary had “reluctantly” appointed candidates who may “lack adequate qualifications or have performed poorly in interviews”. And we know things aren’t getting any better on a national level.

While we wait for public opinion and government initiatives to work their magic and attract an influx of passionate, talented professionals to our doors, how can we keep the wheels turning?

Nurturing and developing talent from within is the ideal solution. Imagine high staff engagement, self-driven professional development, a self-sustaining process to develop internal capacity, and a robust culture of belonging and wellbeing. Achieve this and surely the occasional vacancy you do have will be quickly filled, saving you time and money in the process!

At Leadership Edge, we are school leaders ourselves and are not naïve to the reality, but we are also in the privileged position of having worked with over 150 schools, seeing many examples where these things have been achieved. Indeed, our first ever school, East Park Academy in Wolverhampton, has now helped to embed our pure coaching approach across all 9 schools in their Trust, which has recently been shortlisted for the national MAT Excellence Award ‘Wellbeing Trust of the Year’. And where people feel well, valued and developed, people stay… at least for a bit longer!

When we worry about the national Recruitment and Retention Crisis (which is outside our circle of control), could we try refocusing our efforts on a localised People Strategy Challenge? It is too risky to simply hope to hang on to people; we need a strategy, to invest time and attention into actions, work to earn the discretionary effort of our teams and show gratitude for the loyalty and support of our colleagues.

“People want to know they matter and they want to be treated as people. That’s the new talent contract.” Pamela Stroko, expert in workforce trends and talent attraction, retention & development.

So how can we help empower individuals to feel a sense of control and satisfaction in their current daily experience, despite the deep and widespread challenges? And, moreover, how can we engender some hope and excitement about their future personal and professional growth within the sector?

Thankfully, many school and trust leaders are talking publicly about their efforts to address this People Strategy Challenge on a local, school or trust level. Nigel Whittle (Oasis Academy Oldham) at ResearchEd Warrington reminded us that line management is the most influential factor in activating discretionary effort. So how do we know if this is being done well? Lisa Fathers (Bright Futures Education Trust) at the Optimus conference on School Improvement asked, “What assumptions are you making about people’s reasons for dissatisfaction? How do you regularly audit what people are not getting?” Sufian Sadiq (Chiltern Learning Trust) pointed out at the MATPN Workforce Deep Dive that finding and keeping employees has to be a proactive strategy, we need to go out and meet them where there are, both physically to find and recruit them, and metaphorically to listen and retain them. I’m enjoying Dixions Academies Trust online updates on their flexible working initiative. Today, I will be listening to Karen Ann Rose (E-ACT) discussing ‘Structure and Culture in Harmony: Making your Setting a Great Place to Work’ at the Schools & Academies Show. And I’m looking forward to hearing Jonny Uttley’s (The Education Alliance) talk on ‘Resilient Organisations Start With Strong Succession Plans’ later this year.

There is no quick fix. But we can plan. And we can start taking action now. We know the right direction: to focus on the wellbeing, engagement and development of our current workforce. Not just teachers, but all staff: the cogs which keep the wheels turning.

I invite you to consider the following questions with a particular focus on critical roles and areas where your succession planning is vulnerable. 

What can you put in place to:

  1. Understand the needs, aspirations, and motivations of your colleagues? (Engagement)

  2. Provide opportunities for personalised professional growth and development? (Development)

  3. Support employee wellbeing to address dissatisfaction, avoid burnout and enhance belonging? (Wellbeing)

Of course, there are many different innovative approaches you can take to build and retain leadership capacity for times of growth, departure or absence. But if you’d like to explore how our 3-Tier Coaching Accreditation can help you achieve this, please do get in touch.

"Experiencing this process firsthand allowed me to truly understand the power of coaching. As a coachee, the programme provided a transformative experience in self-awareness, growth and empowerment. It has expanded my communication abilities and leadership capacities. While challenging at times, being a coachee allowed me to embrace vulnerability as a catalyst for growth. I would highly recommend the Leadership Edge programme to others because of the impact it has had on me, both as a coachee going through the process and in developing my own coaching capabilities. Our Trust leadership team have done this as a group and there has been a strength and togetherness by undertaking it in this manner. Ultimately, the Leadership Edge programme has been transformative for me and for our Trust." - James Roach, CEO Inclusive MAT

And if you are at the Schools & Academies Show today, please do come and say hello to us at stand K43 (Workforce Area, obviously 😊).

Warmest wishes

Catherine Hulme


Leadership Edge is a growing team of experienced school leaders who have seen person-centred coaching create high-performing, happy and healthy cultures within our schools. Our mission is to empower other school leaders to create positive workplaces where staff are solution-focused and actively responsible for their own personal wellbeing and professional development.

Our 3-Tier Coaching Accreditation Programme is low-cost and self-sustaining, providing a systematic and structured model for staff across your school to become powerful coaches for each other, enhancing colleague relationships and their feeling of being valued as an individual within a supportive school community.

Connect with us: Twitter/X @EdgeSchools | LinkedIn: Leadership Edge – Coaching in Schools

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