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


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

@AFLTeachingSch   |   @lisafathersAFL

Happy Valentines!

Love is about social connection, kindness, empathy and as we celebrate Valentines Day we reflect on how we can facilitate those things at school level and across the TSA.

Jointly written by Lisa Fathers- Director of Teaching School & Partnerships at the Alliance for Learning/BFET & National Trainer with @MHFA England and Patrick Ottley- O’ Connor Executive Principal with the Essa Foundation Academies Trust. Essa Foundation Academies Trust schools joined the TSA in 2016 and have become strong partners with a shared focus on wellbeing. Both organisations work very closely with Ambition School Leadership.

Schools are challenging, relentless, day after day teachers are giving 100% to the school they work in. Every class or form is different, different personalities, different behaviour, varied learning needs, individual targets, differentiated schemes of work and this is without even thinking about evening work load or that lesson observation that might be looming in the future…….

So, yes teachers have to be resilient but school leaders have to be sensible, supportive and place staff wellbeing at the heart of every decision. Teachers & Support Staff are without a doubt the best resource in school and we have to role model ‘putting our own oxygen mask on first’. The Alliance for Learning Teaching School has been supporting schools develop their wellbeing offer whilst providing quality CPD. Teachers do one of the most valuable jobs in our society –yet we know retention data in our profession is alarming. At the ‘Alliance for Learning SCITT’ ( School Centered Initial Teacher Training) we not only ensure all our trainees complete MHFA (Mental Health First Aid) but we actually go and deliver this at cost to lots of other ITT providers too because fundamentally we believe it is as crucial for our new teachers, as learning classroom management techniques.

Whole school approaches……It is essential that schools have a wellbeing strategy and that specialist CPD like ‘Mental Health First Aid’ and ‘Mindfulness’ fits into that. The Essa Academies in Bolton have been making full use of the teaching school offer whilst leading from the front with all sorts of wellbeing initiatives.

At Essa Academies in September 2016 a real drive on creating a culture of wellbeing across the family of schools was launched. Staff talk openly about & celebrate mental health and wellbeing every single week. This builds on the analogy of putting on our own oxygen masks on before helping others and has been instrumental in supporting the academies realise the values based vision where ‘All Will Succeed.’ Staff are encouraged to support all staff to see, own, solve and act on their own wellbeing, whatever that may look like. On a Friday there are ‘Wellbeing Stars of the Week’ (weekly nominations by staff for staff to recognise their support for each other’s mental health and wellbeing). In addition, there are regular #teacher5aday wellbeing activities, such as random & themed acts of kindness, strawberries & cream during Wimbledon, wellbeing bags, Crunchie Fridays & the ‘Wheel of Misfortune’; a Russian Roulette style prize-giving of lovely & cringe worthy surprises!

The wellbeing approach is not a soft option though and it allows staff and students to be their best. The Alliance for Learning & ESSA believe that children get one shot at school and it is vital that they receive the highest quality experiences & teaching to equip them for life and their next steps in education, training & employment. The ESSA schools have taken a hard look at things and made changes, including:

• reviewing of all policies considering wellbeing
• creating new classroom, staff bases & counselling spaces to address wellbeing issues
• significantly increasing the CPD budget, to facilitate coaching triads for all teachers, bespoke coaching for all leaders and Mental Health First Aid through the Alliance for Learning for staff
• increasing the use of developmental support plans, occupational health referrals and counselling for staff.
• increasing PPA to a minimum of 20% for all teachers & 50% for Core Middle Leaders.

This approach has seen some staff come back from many mental health difficulties to redefine their passion & ‘mojo’ to enjoy the profession once again. Of course like all health- mental health is a continuum and the support doesn’t end.

Collaborative working……..We are really excited that news of the impact of our joint working has spread and as a result Bolton SIG ( Bolton Supporting School Improvement Group) are facilitating every single secondary school in Bolton to access Mental Health First Aid Youth with the Alliance for Learning Teaching School and phase two will include MHFA Adult and a wellbeing audit to support schools improve in this area even further. This cluster approach follows the success the Alliance for Learning has had delivering mental health training across all Warrington secondary and primary schools and in Bury too. Creating wellbeing clusters and the dialogue across schools working together is an important aspect of sustaining the work and ensuring impact. Collaboration is at the heart of all we do. The Alliance for Learning is also delivering MHFA Lite to Future Leaders co-horts with @Ambition_SL 

Essentially, leaders lead well, teachers teach best and learners learn best when all feel supported and wanted within their school. Please do contact Lisa or Patrick for any further information @lisafathersAFL @ottleyoconnor and follow @HealthyToolkit for lots of other ideas! ON VALENTINES DAY WE URGE YOU TO CHOOSE LOVE AND LEAD WITH COMPASSION.


Whole body, whole mind, whole school

So let’s start with body, the mental health benefits of becoming more physically active are becoming more and more well known.

Let’s think about how we feel after we’ve done some exercise? Even if we’re absolutely exhausted and breathless and red in the face we feel pretty smug & good! Once the initial tiredness subsides we feel more energetic and for me personally my problems do not seem quite as big. Whilst out running or walking or whatever I’ve chosen to do I’ve managed to gain some perspective and headspace? These things are not an exact science but they are more important to many than exercising to keep in shape. We know many GPS will now prescribe exercise for low mood because it is clear that exercise stimulates positive endorphins.


New research from the department of health October 2017 reported 12% of cases of depression could be prevented with an hour of exercise each week.

Make this 3 times a week and the risk of depression reduces by 30%.

What about stress? Yes regular exercisers have more grey matter in the prefrontal cortex which governs stress management. Exercise stimulates serotonin the natural feel good neurotransmitter. Exercise helps with anxiety and is fantastic for helping you bounce back in difficult times. Different types of exercise can be used for different things for example, yoga and Pilates are very relaxing. It’s horses for courses though and important that we remember this. I prefer to release my tension by doing a spinning or combat class or a really long run.

Nutrition for mental health……..


Of course when we think about body and mind we have to think about nutrition too. We often don’t hear about the link between nutrition and mental health yet nearly two thirds of people without mental health problems eat fresh fruit or juice every day compared with less than half that do report mental health problems. The pattern is similar with fresh vegetables and salad. We can protect our mood and encourage greater feelings of wellbeing by ensuring our diet is balanced and that we are eating enough essential fat and vitamins and drinking plenty water. We should also look to reduce the amount of processed food sugar and alcohol.

Whole school……..

I believe that we shouldn’t think about physical and mental health as two different things; the two things are one and the same.

If we take this thinking to our role as school leaders how can we ensure our schools are genuinely active places and I don’t just mean the children? We also need to consider how we can we ensure that our children and staff are making positive nutritional choices. It really is about having a whole school approach and the Youth Sport Trust @YouthSportTrust is well placed to support schools with this.

If we get these two things right and use the PE department who are really well placed to drive the wellbeing agenda we are half way there. What we can’t have is PE departments who don’t know who the ‘least active’ are.


Of course I can’t blog about mental health without advocating for Mental Health First Aid training  and  this is an essential part of ensuring students and staff receive early help. I also believe that embedding a coaching culture is essential to achieve a supportive and happy school environment which allows staff and students to thrive but that is a whole other blog…..

Across our Mat at BFET we have strategies around all those things:


Finally, in terms of a whole school approach there are some great resources on the Mental Health First Aid England website – for example: the Line Manager Guide is excellent: I particularly like the diagram on page 19 which looks at a holistic approach to staff wellbeing at work.  Another great resource is the NCB Wellbeing Framework for Leaders and I really like the diagram below taken from that:


Thank you for taking the time to read by blog and Happy New Year!

Lisa Fathers

Director of Teaching School & Partnerships



Should Schools Be Engaging With Teaching Schools?

Blog by Lisa Fathers, Head of Teaching School / BFET Co-PrincipalDJCNPWcV4AAT7tPTo me this is a question with an obvious answer!

  • Are we better together ?
  • Is deep collaboration which includes support and challenge helpful ?
  • Do you want to find creative ways to retain your best staff?
  • Do you want to provide cost effective, personalised CPD?
  • Are there any subjects in school that didn’t perform as well as others?
  • Would you like your schools profile enhanced with no extra cost to your school?

If your answer to ANY of the questions above is ‘ YES’ then you might want to consider contacting a local Teaching School and having a conversation about opportunities. It’s a two way street, contributing to a Teaching School and being able to access what your partner Teaching School is offering is mutually beneficial.

There is sometimes a misconception that Teaching Schools are just out to ‘make money’. The truth is far from that. At the Alliance for Learning (AfL)  we are driven by a deep desire to improve outcomes for all children and that’s it! Using a sensible business model we are in a position where we can cover most costs, but for a long time it wasn’t the case. Equally our SCITT ( School Centred Initial Teacher Training) isn’t a ‘cash cow’ either – the money comes in and goes straight out, supporting the training of new teachers. We are passionate about creating the next generation of fantastic teachers and we want our partner schools to grow their own future workforce.

Another misconception is that Teaching Schools don’t want to work together with other Teaching Schools. This is not the way we work! Teaching Schools are full of generous people who are outward facing and who genuinely believe in the power of collaboration and networking. We are part of the GM LLE Collaborative – a group of local Teaching Schools working together to train and designate LLEs. The AfL is currently supporting two newly designated Teaching Schools to launch and we are sharing good practice about our SLE model with two additional Teaching Schools. Also I’m coaching three female colleagues as part of the” Women into Leadership” coaching model supported by Women Ed.

We use our partner schools to deliver all sorts of things for us and they obviously get the credit for this along with a share of the income.  And to clear up some confusion on who can join what:

If the Teaching School Alliance you want to join is part of a MAT, you can join that Alliance without having anything to do with the MAT .

You can be in a separate MAT and join a Teaching School Alliance

You can be part of more than one Alliance as they can offer different things that you might want for your school- it’s an open network.

On a practical level, in the current funding environment it’s essential that schools proactively market themselves and being part of a Teaching School is one way to do this. For many schools results are not the ‘whole story’ and bring part of something bigger gives you a way to sell your schools positives on a much larger scale.

Teaching Schools can help to get your overarching messages across to a wider audience through channels such as social media. Teaching Schools can endorse the things you say about yourself ( as long as we know it’s true!). Networks and partnerships are so crucially important and they all start with human relationships ❤️.

Why not pick up the phone to your local teaching school and arrange for them to pop in for  coffee and a chat about what they can offer your school? Some schools are already in Alliances –  but not making the most of the relationship ….. is it time to refresh those partnerships, share your vision and find new exciting ways to work together? In the last year absolutely loads of our partner schools have improved their Ofsted grades and I know my Teaching School made a significant contribution to all of their journeys. We’ve trained over 1500 delegates in the last year and we have over 70 high quality SLEs but we need more. And that will probably be the case for Teaching Schools all across the country. So please do get in touch!

I’m so excited about this year.  If you want to chat to me about your school just give me a shout. If you want to join a Teaching School Alliance I can point you in the direction of your local TSA as well.

If you know a school that still doesn’t even know what a Teaching School is –  my call to action is that you help them understand!

Lisa Fathers

Head of Teaching School / BFET Co-Principal

When CPD is brilliant there are a plethora of positives

When CPD is brilliant there are a plethora of positives, some measurable and some less easy to quantify. But generally great CPD leads to improved teacher morale, better outcomes for students and improved Ofsted grade. Crucially in this time of teacher shortages it also leads to a stronger professional profile for the school and therefore better retention and recruitment of the best staff. When schools invest in their staff this clearly improves ethos and culture because the whole school community feels valued and ultimately this impacts on the wellbeing of staff and students.

When the CPD comes through a Teaching School or a Math’s Hub then you have the added benefit of real school to school collaboration and a two way partnership. Schools in a Teaching School Alliance (TSA) not only receive CPD and support but also give back too, it’s reciprocal.  Schools are just ‘better together’ and I’m not biased at all…..

We are very lucky to have a SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) at the Alliance for Learning so we are really conscious that the CPD journey is an important and life long one. From the moment a trainee teacher starts with us we talk to them about their ‘pathway’. Clearly there is no single pathway and staying in the classroom and ‘getting better’ is as equally important (and some would say more so) as progressing to Leadership. I have recently been asked to share the ‘Teacher Pathway’ document we use in our trust (Bright Futures Educational Trust) and our teaching school and it can be found here:


It will never been the finished article because the needs of children, staff, schools and of course context is ever changing but I hope you find it useful.

Over the past 20 years, I have honed my own teaching style and then gone on to grow and evolve as a leader. I continue to love to learn.  I’m passionate about my own learning and those of others. Recently, I was asked by some trainees about the best CPD I’ve ever had and I found it so hard to choose – for all the right reasons!  In terms of teaching I absolutely loved the Kagan training I did several years ago. But a light bulb moment for me was some training I attended years ago about “attachment and brain development” in children who had experienced early trauma. When I understood what this meant for me in the classroom and as a pastoral leader, it was so enlightening.

In terms of ‘leadership’ I thoroughly enjoyed completing the NPQH several years ago and it really did further develop my understanding of leadership theory. But possibly more importantly I developed a network of leaders in other schools and kept in touch with them. I believe that networks are incredibly important.  I can recommend an excellent book I read recently about this very topic called ‘Who is in your Personal Boardroom’ by Zella King & Amanda Scott – @myBoardroom . People often say that leaders are only as good as the people they surround themselves with. Do we think enough about that when we are creating our own unique networks that help us grow and flourish? Reading is an essential part of CPD and I’m enjoying ‘Hopeful Schools’ by @MaryMyatt at the moment.

As far as personal career development goes, I believe having a really good coach is crucial. At @BrightFuturesET we have embedded a three tiered coaching model which is really empowering. If you are a woman and are thinking about accessing a coach or becoming one do have a look at this free opportunity : @WomenEd is also a really supportive place to access ongoing support and advice whether you are male or female.

Finally, I have to mention Mental Health First Aid – which I believe should be an essential part of teacher training and indeed is at our SCITT. The feedback we have had for this course has been overwhelmingly positive and when we have delivered with clusters of schools working together as I have done recently in Warrington, the impact has doubled. It is part of our wider wellbeing offer:

I believe all teachers – young, mature, established or brand new – should be given the time to continue to learn new skills, new theories, new ways of thinking, share good practice and to read. CPD is not just ‘a course’ it is an ongoing diet- a journey. This is why I created the ‘pathway’ which makes it clear that we all have a responsibility for our own ongoing development too and CPD isn’t something simply ‘done to us’. Of course these kinds of ‘pathway’ diagrams have existed long before mine. I was inspired by something similar a long time ago which I have tried to emulate. If you have something similar or better please do share!

One think I haven’t talked about is the importance of a research based approach to CPD and being able to evidence impact. Whilst this is absolutely essential it is also a whole other blog so I’ll come back to that.

Like all teachers and leaders my ‘to do’ list never gets finished and I always have something else to do. But as I’ve said before in a previous blog, if you love your job then it feels less like work and more like fun! School to school support is also CPD, receiving SLE support or indeed being an SLE ( Specialist Leader of Education) is one of the greatest privileges ever and if you don’t know what an SLE is find out! Additionally, teacher to teacher CPD events like a Teachmeet are brilliant for all involved. Our next teachmeet is on the theme of Wellbeing at Wellacre Academy on 3rd July:

Save the Date - Wellacre Teachmeet 2017

I do believe that twitter has changed CPD for the better and I still can’t believe how many teachers and leaders are not on here! If you know a teacher not on twitter do send them this great guide:

If you would like to talk to me about our teaching school CPD offer which includes bespoke training too please do contact me @lisafathersAFL


Lisa Fathers

Head of Teaching School / BFET Co-Principal