Leadership, Purpose, Uncategorized

It can feel lonely at the top!

By Cole Andrew, BA(Ed), NPQH, AdCert

Who knew 5 weeks ago that ‘self-isolation’ would be a concept we’d consider a core part of our daily lives in Britain in 2020?  In my 31-year career in education, 25 have involved leadership of teams and schools; the past 18 months supporting leaders as an independent consultant.  The last few weeks have involved conversations and activity supporting school leadership teams in navigating through uncharted waters in a way that I have never experienced before.

Nelson Mandela commented, “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  This is a moment where school leaders are necessarily at the front in potentially dangerous waters.

“Do not follow where the path may lead. Go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.” – John Quincy Adams

Seeing life’s challenges as opportunities is in itself a true measure of growth and success.  Effective leadership teams are needed now more than ever, more so than other worldly measures of success. Life and work have taught me that this requires strong inner leadership as well as acknowledging the responsibility for leading others.   Whatever roles you define yourself by, others are watching, waiting and/or filling the void where leadership is needed.  So, I present myself with a pause for thought and challenge you to do the same … am I leading well in this season?

In this season school leaders are giving all they can muster from within to show strength and chart new paths.  They have listened to the worries of pupils, staff, parents, politicians, family members and their own inner voices.   They have contained most of this with strong character, brave decisions (often not pleasing everyone) and above all been driven to do right by everyone involved.

“It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”  – Nelson Mandela

In the midst of this I have felt, heard and seen school leaders become more and more emotionally isolated despite physical connectivity with colleagues, family and friends; hence my opening title, “It can feel lonely at the top!”  So, I say to all Head teachers, CEOs, school leaders remember you are not alone, and the work are doing is a service to better the lives of future generations at a time when the current generation struggles to set meaningful measures of success.

Reach out, connect and share your stories, your frustrations and successes.   Like coals in the fire, staying connected with your teams will help you keep warm, keep the flames burning.   Although, you cannot do this physically there are opportunities to chart new paths and create new ways of staying connected   Clearly, the key measure of success in this season will be to survive and help as many as possible do the same.   Let’s also aim to grow through the challenges we face and be ready to thrive when the time comes to bear the fruits of our labours in due seasons to come.


Vigeo Partners Ltd is a leadership consultancy firm supporting leaders in schools to grow; ‘vigeo’: to thrive, to bear fruit, to live in honour.  We also work in association with #TeamADL 

One practical way we are supporting connectivity is to facilitate online School Leaders Network sessions.  They are free, weekly and aimed at helping school leaders worldwide connect and realise they are not alone.  Check out ‘Clear Heads’ events posted on Eventbrite.

For a more structured programme of support for your leadership teams through this season have a look at our programme #Virtual_SLT

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@Leadership_Cole             office@vigeo.org.uk            www.coleandrew.co.uk





The difference good governance can make to a school!

By Martin Matthews, Lord of Monivea, National Leader of Governance Twitter

When you first walk into a school if there are happy children in clean, warm and well-resourced classrooms chances are governance is good.

Governance is one of those aspects of school organisation where is obvious if its poor and almost invisible when its working well.

I firmly believe that there are three principal strands of any school organisation that underpin success; fantastic educators and leaders, great governance and amazing admin.

Governance starts by setting the ethos of how the adults treat each other. The tone of meetings and how governors interact with senior leaders sets the expectation. This in turn affects how senior leaders work with each other and the rest of the staff. Governors should follow the Nolan principles and see the same from school leaders. This matters as it directly impacts on teacher retention. Treating people fairly starts with the board.

Teachers are the ‘engine room’ of the school organisation and everything else is there to support them to be their best. The happier and more secure teachers feel the more they can concentrate on educating children. In turn this positively affects how and what children learn. Governors are part of how this is achieved.

Most teachers have little need to understand or work with governance. When it comes to pay decisions, they start to take more notice. This is one example of what governors contribute to the organisation. Teachers go above and beyond what most employees do and paying them fairly is crucial to building and maintaining trust within the wider organisation. Governors in maintained schools decide both what percent pay rise all teachers receive and who gets an increment. This is their legal responsibility and it must be done fairly. The pay process is there to protect both school and individuals. Governors guard against “We can’t give a pay award because of the budget”, unfair career inappropriate targets, unfair targets in general and some of the stranger things that pop up like “We can only have one UPS teacher”.

Governance is one of those aspects of school organisation where is obvious if its poor and almost invisible when its working well.

Governors and trustees have two main strands to their work; support and challenge. Challenge should never be aggressive or accusative. Its purpose should always link back to what’s best for the children. Having said that, there should be an intolerance of things that fail the children. Support has many forms from protecting school against the ‘noises off’ that plague education to the Chair working well with the head teacher. For example when the DfE made the decision to adopt an academisation policy, we worked on a Plan B for our school. We involved all the staff and made clear this was a ‘just in case’ to protect our school from enforced changes. This gave reassurance to the staff so they could settle and concentrate on teaching.

When staff understand that governors and trustees are there to champion the children in school and champion school to the outside world what’s done makes more sense. We are volunteers but not amateur and use the skills and experience we bring to make school the best it can be. Anything less is not acceptable. What motivates me as a governor is the sense that every child deserves an equal and fair chance to access the very best education we can provide. All children are ‘worth’ the same; who knows what they will become as adults?

We’d love to hear from other governors: what motivates you and what are the highs and lows of the role?

About Martin Matthews
Martin is a National Leader of Governance (cohort 1). Cumulatively he has been a governor for over 50 years. He has given written evidence to the House of Commons Education select committee four times and has the only MA Ed in governance.  You can connect with Martin on Twitter @mm684

Members of #TeamADL work with and train many SEN Governors.  In fact, some of our team are governors themselves!  Anita Devi has also written a SENCO and governor relationship toolkit.  To find out more visit www.AnitaDevi.com