Ever feel like you’re scrabbling around for scraps of cloth to cover the needs of the school? You are not alone. We have been speaking with lots of leaders in schools who feel this way. Some are spending two hours every morning sorting cover, absorbing colleagues’ full-time roles due to sickness, driving around the houses of persistent non-attendees, providing above-and-beyond support to colleagues who really are not suited to their role but it’s better to work with them try to find someone else, and wiping lunch tables.
There seems to be an endless list of the causes for current shortages: staff absence, recruitment issues, workload pressures, the approach of exam season, national pupil attendance figures, and ever-increasing strain on SEND provision, to name a few. These challenges can lead to a frustrating lack of consistency and challenging behaviour in the classroom to be addressed; and to make matters worse, there is the ever-impending Ofsted window and, of course, diminishing budgets.
It may be feeling like a time of crisis, with personal resilience and ingenuity being constantly tested. If so, it may be helpful to adopt a ‘make do and mend’ attitude, similar to that taken during the Great Depression and the Second World War, when materials were scarce.
Try taking a breath, looking around, and really noticing the resources around you. By doing this, you'll probably find there's a way through. One school leader we work with has coined his own mission statement “Seek excellence. Embrace imperfection”. Another has whittled down all her ‘wants’ to a short list of ‘non-negotiables’.
School leaders, at all levels, need to be intentional to prioritise the things which really matter with the current limitations. By pausing to consider how the resources at your disposal can be put to best use may not only unearth unimagined solutions, but perhaps even create a thing of beauty.
For example, delegating a task to a colleague who previously has not had such an opportunity could help them to flourish; connecting departments/colleagues to share their tasks could spark new relationships; meeting with support staff to explore how to make their roles easier could create new, more efficient systems and processes.
We invite you to take a few minutes to consider these questions:
What are the minimum, non-negotiable requirements of my role?
Where are my energies best directed to ensure the colleagues I lead have the most significant impact on the school and children?
Who can help me develop creative solutions?
We cannot think creatively while we are busy simply getting things done. Coaching, including self-coaching, provides you with dedicated thinking time to route through the “haven’ts” and “can’ts” to find the “haves” and “cans”. Once you have seen these, you can start mending the parts of your school which need the most attention and you may well end up feeling rather satisfied by what you and your team produce.
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.