Why middle leadership development is crucial

Blog written by Lisa Fathers, Director of Teaching School & Partnerships for Ambition School Leadership.


Middle leaders are the engine room of the school, you sit at the heart of school improvement.

They lead teams of teachers and turn senior leadership strategy into outstanding classroom practice on a daily basis.

They are a bit ‘closer to the action’ than senior leaders. High-performing middle leaders drive consistent teacher quality in their areas of responsibility through curriculum leadership, data analysis to identify pupil underperformance, lesson observations, holding staff to account, and developing staff.

As school leaders, we occasionally forget that the role of a middle leader is a challenging one. This is why access middle leadership CPD is essential. Whether it’s NPQML or Teaching Leaders, these courses will expose you to leadership thinking and theory. They will challenge your perceptions, and also ensure you network with middle leaders from other schools and colleges, which is absolutely crucial.

At my Teaching School Alliance, The Alliance for Learning, we have been seeing the impact of middle leadership, and genuinely feel it has transformed many of our middle leaders.

Many middle leaders and aspirant senior leaders in our partner schools and trust schools attend these courses as part of their entitlement to ongoing professional development, and the feedback is always excellent.

Here are a few of the things I’ve learned from putting my middle leaders through training programmes:


Some leaders are almost so future-focused, that they don’t ‘nail’ the job-in-hand first.

Whether it’s a department or a pastoral role, ensure your middle leaders understand every bit of the role, lead others well, and are able to have difficult conversations.

Be fiercely loyal to your team, and champion them, but always put the pupils first. Don’t accept mediocrity even if you are in a challenging school: you create your own weather.


Professional development programmes are a great way for middle leaders to learn how to become a good coach. The best way for them to develop themselves and their team is to coach them.

How you talk to yourself is as important as how you talk to others.

I truly believe that coaching gets the best out of people. I’d even consider having a coach yourself – to give yourself time to reflect and refine your ongoing leadership journey.

I’d also recommend reading books that encourage positive voices in your own head, then recommending them to your middle leaders. The Chimp Paradox is a great place to start.


Encourage your middle leaders to show that they are ambitious (sometimes this is harder for women!), because being ambitious is a really positive thing.

Why shouldn’t you want to get on and get up? They should be vocal about where they want to be, but be humble about the support they might need to get there.

Direct them towards stretch projects, such as supporting whole-school initiatives which will expose them to a different world, possibly external stakeholders, and help them start to build new skills.

Always nurture ambition in others too!

Finally, I read some great advice from the CEO of Coca Cola who said, “ Imagine life as a game in which you are juggling some five balls in the air. They are work, family, health, friends and spirit and you’re keeping all of these in the air. You will soon understand that work is a rubber ball.  If you drop it, it will bounce back.  But the other four balls – family, health, friends and spirit – are made of glass.  If you drop one of these they will be irrevocably scuffed, marked, nicked, damaged or even shattered. They will never be the same. So, make sure you prioritise the important stuff and achieve a balance”

If you’re considering developing your middle leaders, Teaching Leaders is our flagship development programme and recruitment for the 2019 cohort is now open.

To find out more click here.


What does homelessness and poor housing have to do with schools? ……….Quite a lot actually

As temperatures continue to drop we start dreaming about Christmas dinner, Baileys by the fire & mulled wine! Or maybe that’s just me! For rough sleepers the colder weather marks the start of a gruelling few months of trying to stay alive. Finding a safe, warm place becomes harder and harder. That’s why in Greater Manchester our Mayor Andy Burnham has launched “A Bed Every Night” with the ambition that no one sleeps rough in Greater Manchester.

Six million children in Britain live in housing that is overcrowded, temporary, or run-down. That figure is so huge that those of us without ‘mathematical brains’ like me struggle to comprehend that figure. Some of the children in our classrooms will live in housing that’s making them ill. Many are missing out on school altogether. I often talk about anxiety in my Mental Health work well imagine being shuffled from one place to another………that would make anyone have chronic insecurity which leads to anxiety.

Often homeless children are an invisible group, even child poverty doesn’t always touch us teachers because we don’t see the homes these children live in. We see them arrive at school sometimes without the right bag or pen but we don’t see the huge effort it’s taken for that child just to be in school dressed. They deserve better than this.


  • More foodbanks are being used now than ever before
  • More than one million children live in overcrowded housing.
  • More than 70,000 homeless children in England are living in temporary accommodation & in the NW 10,500 are officially homeless
  • Bad housing has a massive impact on children’s lives, affecting everything from their health and educational achievement, to their emotional well-being and overall life chances:
  • Health: children living in cramped accommodation experience disturbed sleep, poor diet, higher rates of accidents and infectious disease
  • Education: children from homeless households are more likely to suffer from bullying, unhappiness and stigmatisation
  • Emotional well-being: about half of the families taking part in one study conducted by Shelter said their children were frightened, insecure, or worried about the future as a result of their homelessness]
  • Life chances: The health and educational impact of poor housing may affect children’s future job prospects and financial well-being.
  • The impact of all of the above can be fatal if families become homeless or people start sleeping rough.


Primary & Secondary Schools

One thing schools can do is work with children and young people to try and make sure those families are signposted to the right support and also just ‘be the family’ & shelter at school to give them that safe haven. All schools do this and most try their best to:

  • Create supportive, affirming and loving environments where children and young people feel safe, nurtured and supported and they are more likely to talk to you about struggles their parents might be having.
  • Remind staff about how to spot the signs of neglect or or housing instability.
  • Connect students to in-school and community support services. Coordinate with mental and physical health service providers as well as housing agencies to meet the needs of children and their families to the greatest extent practicable.
  • Consider- what may look like lack of attention or concentration may be due to hunger or lack of sleep. Providing free breakfasts club can help ensure nobody goes hungry while trying to learn
  • Volunteer- Many shelters and day centres need volunteer to help, especially over evenings and weekends. Although you have to be over 18 in most cases, perhaps students’ parents or extended families may be interested.
  • You can also volunteer by way of fundraising or donations. For example, schools can make things to help make a house a home for people who have nothing.
  • Make picture frames in woodwork. Wall hangings in art class, healthy and cheap recipe cards in cooking. You could make hygiene packs. These can be made up of roll on deodorant, baby wipes, sanitary products etc for people to use.


More ideas and lists if what’s needed in greater Manchester is updated daily here: https://streetsupport.net/ 

For 6th forms & colleges

As young people make the transition to adulthood it can be a difficult time, both financially and emotionally. A number of additional factors make this transition more difficult for young people in vulnerable housing situations. Many of the causes of homelessness, such as unemployment, shortage of housing, and family problems, affect young people across the spectrum. However, there are some young people who are more at risk of becoming homeless:

  • care leavers
  • runaways
  • young offenders
  • black and minority ethnic (BME) groups
  • asylum seekers
  • refugees
  • young people from rural areas


This year instead of our traditional Christmas Poetry Competition we are asking our schools both in our Teaching School Alliance @AFLTeachingSch or just schools in GM to write their poems to highlight the issue of homelessness. Please do encourage your students to join in.

One of our judges is Amanda Berriman. Her novel ‘Home’ started life as a short story (‘A Home without Moles’) in ‘Stories for Homes’ – a charity anthology published in 2013 to raise money for Shelter. She intended to leave it as a short story but found her narrator, four and a half year old Jesika, had more to say and her story grew into a novel about the difficulties of raising children in poverty with limited choices and a lack of safety nets. In Home, Jesika lives in a flat with her mother and baby brother and she knows a lot. She knows their flat is high up and the stairs are smelly. She knows she shouldn’t draw on the peeling wallpaper or touch the broken window. And she knows she loves her mummy and baby brother Toby. She does not know that their landlord is threatening to evict them and that Toby’s cough is going to get much worse. Or that Paige, her new best friend, has a secret that will explode their world. ‘Home’ is currently available in hardback and e-book. The paperback is due to be released in February 2019.41NJjPFBmpL__SX309_BO1,204,203,200_



If you want to do more …… please consider donating to:


  • SHELTER who help millions of people a year struggling with bad housing or homelessness – www.shelter.org.uk



Did you know that today is World Mental Health DAY (WMHD)?

 1This provides a really good opportunity to get more people talking about mental health and wellbeing in young people and adults.

Why? Because approximately 70% of mental illnesses can be diagnosed before the age of 25, which makes adolescence a critical time for mental health promotion, prevention, early identification and effective treatment of mental illnesses.

In addition to that one in four adults have mental health problems in any one year and in the workplace this prevalence increases to almost one in three employees. This means it’s very likely either you or someone you know has experienced mental health problems this year.

I am excited to be part of the national training team with MHFA England where we seek to make mental health a normal part of everyday conversations; to challenge the stigma associated with mental health and to create a society that is literate in mental health, where we all have the skills to support our own and others’ wellbeing.

We have made huge strides forward and more people are starting to recognise the importance of supporting positive mental health, promoting wellbeing, and ensuring when we experience mental distress or illness we can get swift access to support services we need.

On Monday MHFA colleagues gathered in the Houses of Parliament to ask businesses and politicians to support our call on government to reflect mental health in workplace First Aid regulations. In addition on Monday Natasha Devon MBE and Luciana Berger MP delivered the Where’s Your Head At? Campaign petition to Number 10. Signed by almost 200,000 people, the petition calls on government to ensure every workplace – including schools, colleges and universities – have as many Mental Health First Aiders as they do physical First Aiders.

As you know our Teaching School is a leading provider of mental health training and we have been leading the GM Mentally Healthy Schools Rapid Pilot which is a ground-breaking partnership supported by Jon Rouse.

The GM Mentally Healthy Schools Pilot was a ground-breaking pilot aimed at supporting young people’s mental health and wellbeing. Between March and July 2018 we worked alongside the Youth Sport Trust, Place2Be and 42nd Street to provide a comprehensive package of support to 31 schools across Greater Manchester.

2.jpgThe project embraced a whole system approach combining high quality CPD for leadership teams in schools, ‘Mental Health First Aid’ training for staff and students, using physical activity, life skills and athlete mentors (including former World Thai Boxing Champion Rachael Mackenzie) to year 6 and year 11 students with follow-up targeted student groups and Young Health Ambassadors given the opportunity to shape future provision in their schools.

Please read a blog from one of our partner schools http://allianceforlearning.co.uk/blog-rapid-pilot-at-essa-academy-assistant-principal-pastoral-lead-chris-airy/


We are really excited to be able to share that this pilot is being expanded & all the existing 31 schools will continue to have the investment & support by our 4 partners AND another co-hort of schools will be starting phase 1. This is so exciting for our teaching school & of course for the young people in all our schools who will hugely benefit.

What can you do for WMHD?

In support of this year’s theme, MHFA England are excited to launch a new set of resources for young people’s mental health – the #HandsUp4HealthyMinds toolkit. Please click here to access

The toolkit is for anyone who works with or lives with young people aged 8-24 and aims to provide you with a set of bitesize facts and tips on young people’s mental health. It includes:

  • An interactive quiz to test your knowledge about youth mental health
  • Infographic posters – perfect for sharing or printing, covering topics such as how to start a supportive conversation and tips for young people on tackling stress
  • Downloadable PowerPoint slide deck with facts on youth mental health and why it matters
  • A directory of helpful resources and organisations for further support


We hope that schools, colleges, universities and youth organisations will find these tools useful beyond WMHD, both for their own practice and for engaging with parents and young people around the topic of mental health.

Healthy mind, healthy body

In addition, we at the Alliance for Learning genuinely believe in physical activity – health is health and we believe in healthy mind, healthy body. We work closely with YST https://www.youthsporttrust.org/ who are the UK’s leading experts on the power of PE and school sport to deliver whole school positive outcomes to improve attainment, physical and mental wellbeing and inclusion.

We also whole heartedly support the DAILY MILE! https://thedailymile.co.uk/

This is one of our own schools Stanley Grove Primary school who have even got over a hundred parents involved in their Daily Mile & the impact has been huge!

Keep talking about wellbeing & mental health & let’s make these topics part of everyday conversations.

Thanks for your support

Lisa Fathers

Director of Teaching School & Partnerships

MHFA National Trainer


Rapid Pilot at ESSA Academy – Assistant Principal Pastoral Lead Chris Airey

IMG_1564We have been lucky enough to be part of the Teaching School Alliance for Learning for a couple of years now. As well as great CPD & fantastic school to school support we have had the opportunity to be part of an innovative Mental Health Rapid Pilot.

I can only describe the pilot and in particular the MHFA training as eye-opening and enlightening. Despite being steeped in the myriad of issues surrounding pastoral care and having a general awareness of Mental Health issues, the staff who underwent the training were amazed at the depth of the issue. We were able to take so much from the training delivered by the Teaching School ‘Alliance for Learning’ a detailed introduction to mental health and really useful statistics & practical advice that we have been able to include in our own training sessions. The billions of pounds lost to mental health issues and workforce absence is astonishing. The MHFA training has focused our Pastoral Team and as a direct result of this training we include mental health specifically in our weekly Pastoral Team meetings. We now have a designated member of staff who is a fully trained counsellor to pick up any concerns or MH issues at an early stage. We feel more confident in identifying MH issues and acting upon them. As a result we reached to and worked with more students via our early intervention unit ‘Ivy Cottage’.

We now have Pastoral Briefings every week where we can discuss MH, alert staff to issues and increase vigilance and awareness around school. This has resulted in a whole school ownership of MH.

We also now include the SEND Team in our weekly meetings due to the training. I feel it has also made us think more about the ‘grey middle’ who don’t always show the more obvious signs of MH problems. In short, it has made us take nothing for granted.

The training also made us look at staff needs and the effects of an incredibly stressful job on us a staff. CPD has been tailored to staff wellbeing with a real drive on Team ESSA. There has been a palpable impact with a staff BBQ and other social events. I really feel there is more of an emphasis on team work and solutions rather than the ‘toxic’ staffroom and culture of complaining that some schools have.

The athlete mentor Neil Danns (former European skateboarding champ!) from Youth Sport Trust also had a huge impact on our students. He was enthusiastic, outgoing and incredibly funny and the students took to him straight away. To have such a streetwise and successful mentor was a real boost to our chosen students. I observed several of the sessions and I saw students confidence growing before my eyes. They were really keen for the follow up sessions to come around. These sessions were a real highlight.

We couldn’t attend the Etihad event because it clashed with our Sports Day. We were disappointed to miss out on this especially when the feedback from the schools that did attend was so positive.

Every element of the pilot working with Place 2 Be, 42nd Street & Youth Sport Trust with the teaching school made a really well blended package for us. I have to say that we, as an Academy, feel that the pilot has been a huge success and we would like to see it continue and develop.

In praise of fantastic females….

Lisa croppedInspiration is all around us – in newspapers, magazines, on our smartphones and tablets. Rarely a moment goes by without us being persuaded to do or be something and with social media this is often in the form of an idealised image or lifestyle that we’re encouraged to replicate. Whether we admit it or not modelling ourselves on others is part of human nature, it’s how we’ve survived this long and its why parents, teachers and leaders are so important when it comes to role modelling.

When it comes to defining who we are and what we stand for, friends, family and colleagues are a good starting point. All three present plenty of opportunities to review and refine our behaviour, hopefully with the aim of becoming the best version of ourselves.

Beyond our family and friends, we look at films, magazines, public life, and colleagues to find people on whom we can model ourselves and who can inspire us. Given that the top ranks of school leadership still seem stuck at a figure of about 20% for women at the top, it is particularly crucial for young women to find successful women who can be those role models. This is why the new Women in Educational Leadership Hubs are so important and why we are proud to be @womenED @WomenEdNW advocates

If I think about my female friends and colleagues I know that I depend on them. I have a small but perfectly formed group of close friends who I could call on day or night. We genuinely love each other. They have got me through many tough times personally –marriages, babies, bereavements, divorce, injuries, illness and yet sometimes we take these unconditional friendships for granted rather than celebrating them. If we think about the stories we tell our children –male friendships seem to be high profile- let’s take Disney for example with Mowgli and Baloo or Woody and Buzz. Even Winnie the Pooh is spoilt for male mates he only knows one girl Kanga the Kangaroo and she is pretty dull! I think Disney has got better though with positive examples like Moana- a young determined feisty girl who bravely breaks free of tradition- love that film!

If I reflect on my female colleagues now, here I find unconditional positive support and challenge too. I do not just consider my colleagues  to be those in the same school as me (although they are amazing) but the females I’ve worked closely with in other schools or through partner school work or projects too and I’m so lucky to be surrounded by the most fabulous women. Gone are the days of jealously it has been replaced by a genuine joy to see other women ‘getting on well’. I’d do anything to help a colleague out (male or female) and it’s reciprocated regularly. There are amazing men I include in my close knit circle of people I value and trust with anything but this blog isn’t about that! I’m also lucky enough to have a whole other circle of friends through my hobby as a fitness instructor (spinning) we are mainly women and are bonded together through a fun appreciation of what physical activity does for the body and the mind.

Supportive networks don’t happen by accident and friendships are not sustained without hardwork and consistency. This is why the new Women in Educational Leadership Hubs are so important. They bring not only the opportunities to ‘meet’ likeminded supportive women but the structures to sustain this too.  The aim of these hubs are to raise the profile of women in education, provide support for career progression, give high quality advice and high quality coaching and mentoring to encourage more women to step up to leadership.

These new hubs have just been developed and the teaching schools involved are:

If we think about the impact of @womenED @WomenEdNW we know these new hubs can only be a positive thing. WomenEd has 18.9k followers on twitter, over 60 regional leaders, 4500 plus events to date, has collaborated with the DFE on flexible working and has influenced the “women only” NPQH with @Ambition_SL (Ambition School Leadership – an educational charity building a network of school leaders).

Our hub is being jointly led by myself and the wonderful Melanie Wicks @mel_mwicks – Headteacher at Wellacre Academy in Trafford @WellacreAcademy. Wellacre is a strategic partner in our TSA and Mel is an inspirational leader and advocate for Women in Leadership. Mel is doing a fantastic job in continually improving standards and results at Wellacre, with the school now being judged as ‘good’ by Ofsted and the school celebrated another amazing set of GCSE results in 2017 with their students, yet again, achieving significantly higher than boys nationally in English and Maths. Being Headteacher of a boys school gives Mel a unique perspective and ability to influence how boys and men interact with women and girls. We are both strong #Heforshe advocates too.  Mel finds every opportunity to empower staff in her school- there are a huge number of her team who are on our SLE team and who engage in all kinds of school to school support. Often Mel will want her staff to become SLE’s for the value of the development to those  staff – and will also free staff up to help me out with school improvement work at very short notice. This is the value of partnerships and a mutual appreciation of our TSA core values https://allianceforlearning.wordpress.com/2018/04/19/the-value-of-values-and-our-journey-in-defining-ours-aflteachingsch/

Top tips for reducing stress in the workplace

Lisa croppedWe know schools are busy places, especially at this time of year. I haven’t missed the irony of Mental Health Awareness Week also being SATs week in primary schools.

And in secondary schools it is now external exam season and teachers are frantically trying to do last minute intervention, coaxing students to do revision and, in some instances, actually finish off the course!

This is why mental health first aid training is so important. Ensuring staff have the appropriate training gives a school the expertise and knowledge base to put effective stress reduction strategies into place and to intervene earlier and more effectively when colleagues and students are struggling.

So – here are my top tips for stress reduction:

1. Notice how full your “stress container” is

This is an essential part of keeping yourself well. We need to be able to recognise when things are building up to a critical level so we can employ some coping mechanisms. All too often we don’t pay enough attention to ourselves. The analogy of a “stress bucket” is also good to share with students- ask them what is in theirs- it’s a good way of finding out information you might be unaware of.


2. Begin self-care at home

Make sure you get enough sleep. This is essential! We all need different amounts. Research suggests that it is a good idea to avoid screens (phones, tablets, and laptops) and exercise just before bed, but everyone is different and you know what works for you.

3. Take mini breaks in work

This is easier said than done in schools, but constantly sitting down really isn’t good for physical or mental health. So – get up, walk around and have a stretch every half hour or so to keep the blood moving. Even if you exercise regularly, prolonged sitting is not good for the heart.  Rather than emailing a colleague, go and have a conversation- connect and chat!

Mindfulness is also incredibly powerful – take 5 minutes to close your eyes and breathe deeply. Deep breathing increases the oxygen in the blood, improving mental clarity.

4. Ease up on the coffee

We all know that caffeine is a stimulant and can be addictive, but did you know that excessive consumption is also linked to many chronic conditions, such as high blood pressure and headaches?

5. Get active!

Exercise is the BEST medicine. I run nearly every morning- it helps my mood, it wakes me up and on days I don’t do it I don’t feel as positive. It doesn’t have to be running though- simply moving improves your mood. It can be walking, yoga, cycling- anything!

Doctors suggest getting active as part of any recovery plan- be that for mental or physical health. In Greater Manchester we have launched “The Daily Mile” and it is having a huge impact on teachers and children alike. In my own trust – Bright Futures Educational Trust – we have really embraced this.

6. Choose your attitude 

A positive outlook on life and work can reduce stress- you have a choice whether to view complexity as fun and see problems as challenges to be enjoyed. We all have a choice how we ‘frame’ events, relationships and tasks. Work place conflict does happen but do try to be empathetic and remember, we never know what is really going on for someone. It is helpful if we try to assume that people are coming from a place of genuine kindness and trying to do the right thing.

7. Switch off 

We might be in a culture of working evenings and some of the weekend but is that self-inflicted or an expectation? Challenge your thinking and take time off. You have the autonomy to manage your own work life balance- you don’t need permission to do this. Taking a break to do something you enjoy can give you new perspective and energy.

In the past I have become really exhausted by placing unrealistic expectations on myself. But I’m more sensible these days and family comes first. I love my job, but I know in order to do it well I need to stay healthy and energised.

8. Encourage school leaders to make wellbeing a priority 

This doesn’t mean making all staff do yoga or a spin class! This is about culture, ethos and relationships. It is also about ensuring that colleagues look out for each other. At my school, my team and I often go for walking meetings- it’s a great way to talk and get fresh air at the same time. Feeling part of a team is crucial- we all need someone to talk to.

Coaching is embedded at my trust and this is really powerful in terms of building a supportive culture. Good HR underpins wellbeing and being able to get quality advice is essential. Good training for staff, such as the Mental Health First Aid programme also underpins work place wellbeing.

Lisa Fathers is Director of Teaching School and Partnerships at The Alliance for Learning- based at Altrincham Grammar School for Girls (@AGGSchool).

Lisa is also a National Trainer for Mental Health First Aid England (@MHFAEngland) and represents the education sector on the Greater Manchester Health and Wellbeing Board. She is currently leading the “Mentally Healthy Schools” pilot across the whole of Greater Manchester, which brings together MHFA, the Youth Sport Trust (@YouthSportTrust), Place2Be (@Place2Be) & 42nd Street (@42ndStreetmcr) in an innovative approach to wellbeing in schools.

The Value of Values and our journey in defining ours @AFLTeachingSch

GLOVE AFL SHOT _211It might sound fluffy, but defining our core values has really helped us focus on the important stuff at our teaching school. Starting with asking ourselves ‘why’ has been part of the on-going mission to make the Alliance for Learning (the TSA I lead) as relevant and connected as possible.

It is a great exercise to go through and has made my team reflect on a few key things such as:

  • WHY the Teaching School exists
  • WHY we do what we do
  • HOW we should go about our work
  • WHAT characteristics should make us successful
  • WHAT we want our schools and Partners to think/say about us
  • HOW we can communicate and share all of this

The result of the 12 month collaborative process is this:


An important aspect of our work leading up to this was really thinking through how we define our values and what our MOST IMPORTANT VALUE WAS.

What do we stand for above everything else? What is THE most important thing to us? If there was only one value we could live by, what would it be? For us this was INTEGRITY. We felt if we didn’t have this then we had nothing. When you know the value that’s the most important to you it is a good base for starting to define the others that you hold dear.

INTEGRITY for us is about trust, doing the right thing even if it is hard, being honest which isn’t always easy and it also reminds us to always practice what we preach, which helps us stay authentic. Integrity also helps us remain consistent and ensures we ‘have grace under fire’ even in the toughest of situations.

Remember — Values Don’t Happen Overnight.

I have been in post now as Director Teaching School for nearly three years and developing the ‘core values’ for the Alliance for Learning was something I wanted to do in my first year. But it took much longer as it required time, work, further time to reflect, time to collaborate, a review of all partnerships and work streams and a chance to really get to know our schools, their needs and re-frame/refresh our offer. Part of this process also involved a reorganisation of our membership structure in the TSA and a review of strategic partners and also admin functions in the TSA team.

In undertaking this process, something interesting happened-the process of defining our organisational values really made me reflect on my own personal values and moral purpose as a leader educator.  I suppose this isn’t that surprising! As a leader of an organisation, it’s natural to both look to your own values to help you influence your workplace AND to want to work with organisations that are aligned with you. To do anything else would be failing to be true to you. It would be a compromise that would lead to a real dissatisfaction with yourself, your work and probably end up being really unhealthy.

On a personal note with my ‘wellbeing hat’ on now, I think it is really important to consider what are the things that matter to us ‘before work’. Is it spending time with your family? Or making the time to exercise every morning? Whatever it is, make it a non-negotiable and always put it ahead of your work. It might seem counter-intuitive, but protecting the things that are most important to us and giving them the time and attention they deserve helps us stay true to ourselves and actually to function well.


Alongside the TSA ‘Core Values’ process our brilliant MAT CEO also reviewed the trust values and introduced the overarching strap line “the best for everyone, the best from everyone” which I really like and this is part of who we are. Underpinning everything we do as a teaching school is the children and young people in the schools we serve and ‘going the extra mile’ to achieve this. Defining our core values has helped us embed some of our ‘none-negotiables’ too and has ensured we stay focussed on the right things. Too often as leaders we become very reactive and jobs are so busy we often spend less time on things like having coaching conversations and business and strategy development to ensure sustainability but our core values keep us more ‘tight’. We constantly reflect on the ‘impact’ of our work & make ongoing adjustments and tweaks.

Additionally whilst not one of the values listed above, one of my own is ‘courage’. A large part of leading a TSA is about being courageous. Courage doesn’t just mean embarking on a huge new project which could go wrong but rather could be anything from giving really difficult feedback to a school to securing an intimidating interview to pitch a proposal.

Finally, on any given day, there are an infinite number of distractions that can pull us away from what’s important. In those moments of distraction, we need something to keep us on track towards our goals. What’s the best thing to help us maintain that journey? Our core values. They act as our moral compass governing our decision making on every level.

We have to make our Core Values real now and embedded now so we have them on our website, in our newsletter, as part of our action plan and although it sounds a bit daft we have started to use them in daily conversations with everyone. If we act in a way not in keeping with our values we expect our partners/schools to give us that honest feedback and knowing our alliance schools so well I’m sure they will.

Positive already……this work has already had tremendous value for us in various ways. We have used our core values to think through which new projects to invest our time in, we have used them when recruiting for new posts and of course when recruiting our trainees for the SCITT. We have already started to ‘apply them’. We work with lots of new Teaching Schools to help them grow and develop and we always start with ‘why’.  I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this. Do take a look at our website www.allianceforlearning.co.uk

@AFLTeachingSch   |   @lisafathersAFL