March Partner News


Diverse Educators logo


#FastForwardDiversityInclusion #IWD2021 special: DEI Leadership Programme:


Opogo are running a number of events that will be of interest to our community.

If you would like to contribute a piece for the EdBook then please do contact Nilakshi:


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Big Change

We recently released a report with IPPR detailing how Covid-19 has disrupted learning in an unprecedented way, and how we might rethink educational priorities to build back better. This means preparing children for life, not just exams & tackling inequalities outside, as well as inside, the classroom. Have a read here:


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Leeds Beckett University - CollectivED

CollectivED 3Rs; Read, Reflect, Review Ever read a paper and thought you’d like to hear more from the author? Ever wondered how other readers reflect on ideas from papers? This is your chance to join a new form of education CPD. Each 3Rs session webinar will be led by CollectivED Fellows but open to anyone to participate in.

The session will be based around a published CollectivED working paper. Participants are welcome to read the paper before joining the session if they choose to. Thurs 22nd April 7-8pm ‘Should the planet be on the coaching agenda? A think piece working paper’. Paper author: Rebecca Raybould @RaybouldRebecca Host: Paula Ayliffe @PaulaAyliffe Key reader: Richard Holme @richardjholme  For booking please complete the registration form here:

CollectivED Hub Events Free Participatory CPD Thurs 13th May 6.30-8.30pm CollectivED Hub meeting- a chain reaction conversation and discussion on coaching For booking please complete the registration form here:

Integrity Coaching 


NEU to Support New Headteachers and Aspiring Heads

Over the last 12 months, the pressures of being a Headteacher have grown exponentially.

The NEU has recognised this and so alongside Integrity Coaching, have designed a new heavily subsidised, Early Headship Programme for aspiring Headteachers and those in the early stages of Headship.

Consisting of expert 1:1 coaching and bespoke leadership development sessions, the programme has been designed to provide highly personalised support for those who are stepping up into Headship and learning how to shape the role and make it their own.


To find out more or apply, please visit:


Hannah Wilson 

Hannah Wilson logo

Group Coaching: Regaining Your Mojo programme:

Leadership Development Programme: Navigating Uncertainty:


Supply Well

Here at SupplyWell we are celebrating being winners as we have been recognised as one of the ten most exciting early-stage technology companies in the UK as part of a prestigious competition run by national growth platform, Tech Nation! The Rising Stars competition is the only national early-stage tech scaleup competition in the UK, designed to showcase the most exciting companies at Seed to pre-Series A from all areas of the country. As a top ten winner, SupplyWell beat stiff competition from over 330 UK companies and is now recognised as a company that is at the very forefront of UK technology.

Our CEO, Michael Heverin worked as a teacher for 15 years, eventually the pressure and stress of the profession took a toll on Michael’s mental health resulting in his departure from the education sector. However, recognising that there needed to be a fundamental change in the way schools and recruitment agencies functioned to support the needs of teaching staff, Michael co-founded SupplyWell with recruitment specialist Raina Heverin and marketer and technologist Dan Price in 2019. Today, SupplyWell is a successful EdTech company run by teachers for teachers. It prides itself on ensuring that the happiness and wellbeing of educators and supply staff is at the forefront of its ethos and operations. In using the SupplyWell platform, schools across the Liverpool City Region are saving significant sums of money, reducing teacher absence, whilst improving teacher pay and wellbeing. On average the Rising Stars winners go on to raise £352k after the competition and grow their workforce by 70%, something which SupplyWell’s team of co-founders hope to achieve as a result of the national recognition they’ve gained. SupplyWells Thoughts Our Co-Founder & CEO Michael said: “It is a massive privilege to be recognised by TechNation as one of the Top Ten Rising Star Tech Companies in the UK. Only 18 months ago, we were a small start-up company operating from one desk. We have grown immensely since then and now employ almost a dozen staff with immediate plans to hire more as we look to expand across the UK.

What’s more, we’ve not only survived, but thrived despite the challenges of the pandemic. “It was my personal experiences as a teacher that has shaped and underpinned SupplyWell’s ‘tech for good’ ethos. We are serious about the problems we are solving in education and we hope this award will enable us to help even more schools, teachers and students.” More about TechNation Rising Stars Tech Nation is the growth platform for tech companies and leaders. Tech Nation fuels the growth of game-changing founders, leaders, and scaling companies so they can positively transform societies and economies. Tech Nation provides them with the coaching, content, and community they need for their journey in designing the future. Tech Nation has years of experience facilitating and helping UK tech companies scale, both at home and abroad. Over 20 cohorts and 600 companies have successfully graduated from Tech Nation’s growth programmes. Alumni include Skyscanner, Darktrace, and Monzo.

Case Study: Life After Headship



In offering my experience as a case study, I hope others will read this and recognise they are not alone in experiencing difficult times in their job. I want others to share my thoughts and learning arising from difficulties so that they can look at their experiences from a positive angle and realise they can benefit from personal hardship even if it doesn’t feel like it at the time.

I worked in secondary schools for 30 years, 11 as a head. Much of my experience was positive, uplifting and inspiring. On the whole, I’m happy I did it but accept I have very mixed feelings about my experiences, successes and failures. I have learned to accept that some things went well and others did not. That’s it, that’s the way it is. This hasn’t defined me, it’s just part of me.

I don’t feel the need to go into the specific details around my departure from the job. I would rather reflect on the thinking and learning that has seen me through. However, I recognise value in broadly outlining the issues because readers might want to gauge their challenges against other experiences. In short, like all heads and leaders, I faced regular challenges around issues such as finances, standards, Ofsted pressures, managing staff accountability, balancing the belief in being an inclusive school against issues of behaviour management. I have firm beliefs on all of these (obviously) and was always prepared to stand my ground. I had backing from my governors and the Trust I took the school into. Then circumstances changed and I felt the backing disappeared. The new Trust CEO tried to put pressure on me. I was very frustrated by this and frankly felt betrayed. My response was to get ASCL involved and with their help, walked away. ASCL were superb.

Being a head instilled a great deal of self confidence and assertiveness in me. Ironically, it was this that led me to walk away. I backed my values and convictions and told myself I would no longer put up with attitudes and ideas I didn’t agree with and the way others tried to impose them on me which was causing me such misery and anxiety. My values and beliefs told me it was wrong so I summoned up the strength to reject it. Others tried to push me around and I said “no, you aren’t doing that to me”.

About eighteen months before I left my role I began to feel worn down by it all. I found it harder to focus on the job overall and gradually felt my resolve and passion weakening. Top sports players will acknowledge that being only a few percent down on top performance will guarantee defeat. I reflect that my losing my edge by a similar few percent, while not leading to something as immediate as a specific defeat, did lead to me losing appetite for the job. I found it hard to care as much about the usual challenges.

My advice would be to seek someone out who can listen and support objectively. It is only now that I realise many leaders have some sort of coach to work with. I tried to reach out and express my feelings but hadn’t got the appropriate person to do that with. Governors/trustees should look out for your well being in a serious, committed and professional manner but should not be the one/s you confide in because there can be a conflict of their interest in your well being and their role and you are unlikely to feel confident or comfortable. I will say, I did try this with my chair of governors and my CEO. Both let me down personally and I wish I hadn’t reached out to them.

Some heads and leaders in other fields invest in a coach of some sort and some are fortunate enough for their school/trust/employers to provide this. It has become clear to me that this should be provided for all heads as a formal feature of their conditions of service. We must have the well being of our leaders at the forefront of our thinking. It is the humane thing to do but it is also inefficient and negligent not to do this. On a personal level, I am now astounded that I was ignorant of this issue. For heaven’s sake, I coached all of the leaders in my school in one way or another but didn’t have such a resource in place for myself

I think there are examples of my learning throughout this piece but overall I learned to trust myself in terms of backing my ability to come through challenging times. The strategies I adopted to help me move on from headship worked. I now know that the attributes I have, and developed as a headteacher, will stand me in good stead for whatever I do in the future. This has given me great self confidence and strength.

I reckon heads do the vast majority of their job really well pretty much all of the time, it’s a hard job requiring a vast range of skills and attributes, yet we dwell disproportionately on what doesn’t go well. In small part this is a personal mindset issue but is much more to do with the nature and culture of the system we work in.

The obsession with defining and then measuring children’s academic progress and using that as the basis for identifying schools as successful or not is at the root of the problem. So many other facets of education are being held up as more or less important and valuable on the basis of their relationship to so called progress measures. Our system measures and evaluates education, learning and therefore individuals and schools in a way that is inevitably culturally biased and discriminatory. It gives a monopoly on the narrative of what is valuable to an elite minority with the unhappy consequence that we have a system that contributes to our unequal and divided society which currently appears to me to be getting worse not better. Education, we are told by so many of the great minds and leaders in society has the capacity to be the answer to the world’s ills and yet in this country it actually contributes to them. This must change.

We must learn to evaluate our educational leaders on as broad a spectrum of factors as there are involved in the job. We must ensure that we then give due recognition, praise and value to our leaders so that they are motivated and encouraged enough to carry on when aspects of the job get tough. We must ensure appropriate support is in place for these leaders


I now work for myself. I laid plans from about 2 or 3 years before I left headship. I began to put the actual business in place from the moment I met with my CEO and decided I was going to leave.

I refer to my business as an education support business because that’s what I want to do; support those in the system. I work with Local Authorities, MATs, individual schools and with individual professionals as well. I am very open minded on how broad this work can be and have so far been lucky enough to earn pretty much the same incoming money as in headship. I am well aware that this type of employment is very risky because I cannot be sure money will always be coming in, that’s the fact of it. That said, at the moment it's fine and I really love the work I do. It’s sad I couldn’t say that about headship; certainly not in the last year to 18 months.

My message to others in similar situations is to make sure you assess your options and identify what other opportunities there could be for you. Have a potential exit strategy. Even if you don’t decide to leave headship, you will feel more in control of your situation. If you do feel the need to leave, trust in your skills, qualities and experience. You have so much to offer, you will move on positively with your well being and self esteem in tact.

Case Study: I am not my job



I joined HeadsUp in July 2020 after a very difficult 18 months. I became the headteacher of a failing inner-city school in September 2013 at the request of the LA. I led the change from a failing grade to a good school over the next three years. The school joined a Trust in November 2018 and I believed that myself and the trust CEO were on the same wavelength. That we had the same values and vision about education and my school. Sadly, this was not the case, after a turbulent six months I resigned from my position in April 2020. Then Covid happened which has made it difficult to find a new job. It did mean I had the opportunity to home school my two boys, which was great, but it was a big change to go from leading over 600 people on a daily basis to sitting at the dining room table with a seven and an 11 year-old.

Whilst I was in the middle of the situation I didn’t always see the big picture. Now I have had time to reflect I understand how and why it happened. This is a simplified account of the events that led up to my resignation. I am sure it is not a unique story and I know it is not a unique outcome.

Before we joined the trust, the CEO talked about support for all children, a value that I believe in whole heartedly. I am certain that all children should be supported to achieve the very best outcomes possible, including and perhaps prioritising, those most vulnerable children who may not reach ‘expected’ at the end of each key stage. I believed that as a school we should set up a nurture unit for children who were struggling with behaviour needs. This was a costly proposal but the SLT, governors and most staff knew that the children needed us to do this. Unfortunately, this was not a view held by all stakeholders. I went ahead with the nurture unit and it was a success for all children who attended. I stuck to what I knew was right however I did not raise standards at KS2. I was called to a meeting and was offered an exit package under the guise that three members staff had made complaints about me and about the direction of the school. These we not official complaints and the whistleblowing policy was not followed. I refused as I knew I had made the right decision. Six months later I was called to another meeting whereby I was offered another exit package, however, this time is being worded as take the package or you will go onto a support programme. With advice from my union I took the exit package.

As the school joined the trust I believed that my vision and values were similar. However, during the first 12 months of the school being a member of the trust I realised that there was a miss-alignment of these values. I therefore took a principled decision to resign so that I can be a leader I am proud of.

Throughout those 12 months and as I was coming to the final decision my feelings were that of disbelief. Is this really happening to me? After my resignation I went through the five stages of grief:

This was definitely not a linear journey but a complete rollercoaster with loops and returns to the beginning. I am now at ‘acceptance’ but it has taken me a while to get there.

I suppose the main learning outcome from this experience is that I’m not on my own and it is not my fault. This has happened to many heads but until it happened to me I wasn’t really aware. The experience is very isolating. I have learnt a great deal about myself as a person as my job formed part of my identity. Therefore, I felt that part of me had been stolen, I was bitter, angry and lost. I spent months reflecting on myself as a leader but more time on me as a person. The list of learning is not exhaustive, just the highlights.

I am not my job. (Some people know this about themselves but I wasn’t one of them)
It is not my fault. (The route of the issue is in the current education system)
I will be a better leader because of it. (The time I have spent on reflection, including the importance of my values and vision has solidified my belief in the fact that this is the best job in the world)
If I do nothing about this situation the system will continue to do this to leaders. (I need to stand on my soapbox and make the changes from within the system)

I am braver than I believed
I am stronger than I seemed
I am smarter than I thought
What the system could learn

Value the leaders
Value the staff
Value all pupils

Listen to the leaders – they know their staff
Listen to the leaders – they know their pupils
Listen to the leaders – they know their communities

Change the accountability of the Education system
Change the remit for OFSTED to that of support
Change the education system so that it is not part of a four-year political cycle

I am looking for a job and will continue to do so, it is not easy for me as I find interviews difficult. The last few years have been an emotional rollercoaster but I don’t want to get off!

How Are You?

“We see the things they will never see” Oasis – Live Forever

It has been the most extraordinary 6 months.  Against a backdrop of uncertainty, fudged guidance, rapidly changing parameters and unhelpful rhetoric Headteachers have put their ‘game face’ on and led their schools and communities.

As is, increasingly, the norm, every decision is scrutinised and laid open to public debate, on social media, in the playground and in the staffroom… an echo of the wider societal problem created by social media and the ‘meme informed expertise’ culture.  A slow erosion of trust in the skills and expertise of Headteachers, school leaders and school staff.

It’s infuriating!

In normal times it is hard enough to explain the sheer breadth of the work that goes into running a school: Educational leader; Business leader; community leader all coming with their own accountability and risk management.  During Covid-19 the responsibilities of the Headteacher, have been expanded to include Public Health leader and all-round buffer to the complex consequences of the pandemic.

As a Headteacher you soak it all up… most are modest to the core and therefore quietly get on with it. It seems that no-one is interested in the pressures and the stress and to try to explain does little to overcome the well-established tropes about teachers… we accept that few will understand.  HTs remain silent, accepting that “We see the things they will never see”.

The problem is that this quiet and stoic resilience becomes the norm and everyone assumes all is well… until it isn’t – “oops, we’ve broken our Headteacher, where can we find another one?”

Who is asking “How are you?” of our leaders?

It’s a question I have asked and been asked countless times in the last 6 months, in conversations with Headteachers and leaders across the country.  In the current climate it seems important to ask but inevitably it is only a pre-cursor to the actual content of the call/online meeting, a nicety to start the conversation off.  As time is so precious it’s quickly brushed aside with something along the lines of ‘yeah, Ok’.  There is an unspoken agreement not to delve too deeply into the actual answer, both parties realising that to go there would be to open Pandora’s jar.

“Ok” will suffice.

It begs the question, who is actually checking how our school leaders are?  Who is taking the time to make the question “How are you?” the reason for the conversation?

At HeadsUp we don’t think it’s Ok.

We think to be a Headteacher is the best job in the world, but we recognise the risks, many of us have been there and have the scars to prove it.  Many of us have walked along the cliff edge, only to blown away by an unexpected and unforeseen gust of wind…

We believe it is time to be intentional in supporting the well-being of our school leaders and at the same time create a new narrative about this brilliant subset of the education profession.

At HeadsUp we believe that:

  • school leadership is the most challenging and most rewarding job in education
  • Headteachers do not get the recognition, positive feedback or support that they deserve
  • Education has become overly focussed on deficit and negativity when there are so many inspirational moments happening everyday, in every school in the country and we are missing them
  • the application of accountability systems and school performance tables have led to large numbers of Headteachers being ‘scapegoated’ out of education - cliff edge accountability and ‘football manager’ syndrome
  • the time is right to challenge and reframe the perception and treatment of HTs
  • it is time to celebrate and promote values-led leadership and the emotional intelligences of school leadership
  • if we are to see real cultural shift and progress in the way we educate our young people then HTs should be free to deliver their vision and their strategy for their community.


Our Vision:

“All Headteachers, past, present and future, are given permission to be the leaders they set out to be”


Our Mission:

  • celebrate the skills, experiences and vulnerabilities of school leaders
  • provide ‘crisis’ coaching support to those HTs being treated unethically
  • provide guidance and advice to HTs who are unsure of their future career options
  • highlight the issue of ‘disappeared’ HTs
  • challenge the systems and organisations that are driving the unethical treatment of HTs
  • campaign for system wide mentoring and coaching support for HTs free at point of access.


Our offer:

  • someone to talk to at times of crisis - coaching and advice
  • a supportive network of like-minded values-led leaders who can share their successes and concerns without judgement or accountability through access to weekly HeadsUp network Video Call events
  • The time and space to think about a future model of education through regular themed network Video call events and HeadsUp conferences
  • The opportunity to share our stories, anonymously or otherwise, so that we and the system can learn from them
  • Leadership advice and training that focus on the emotional intelligences of HTs and the tools to put this into practice within your organisations.


At HeadsUp we do see the things that they will never see.

The HeadsUp network is run by InspirEDucate.  The Network support offer is free of cost, due to the generosity of the HeadsUp collaborators and Partners who support our work.

What We Have Found Out So Far

It is an unfortunate fact of life that careers do not always work out as planned. On occasion, this can result in a headteacher moving on from their post. There is a perception that once someone has left a headship in difficult circumstances there is no way back. On the evidence of the many conversations I have had in recent months the truth is very different. The good news is that in nearly every case there is a positive outcome. This narrative needs to be articulated more often.

HeadsUp (@HeadsUp4HTs) is a free support service set up by former headteacher James Pope. It is led by headteachers for the benefit of their peers. Initially the remit was to support those in crisis, particularly colleagues either in the process of leaving or had recently moved on with no idea of what might come next. Over time this has extended to those who can see the end coming in the near future, are wrestling with their conscience about whether to stay or go or just need someone to listen. After engaging with Heads Up some of those headteachers went on to leave their posts, but usually of their own volition and feeling they had made a positive choice. As one who made contact put it “if you want to leave it will be for a reason, listen to yourself.” Others stayed in post with a clearer sense of what they really wanted and turned a corner.

There is an overwhelming consensus  amongst those who have experienced difficult circumstances that it is wise to take some time out if at all possible. For some it was a couple of months, for others a year. Few stuck to their original plan and found their instincts guiding them. Almost all realised that their final months in post had taken more out of them than they thought. During this time one person realised that he had “done too much bargaining with myself” in their previous post and “compromised on things I shouldn’t have. This was not obvious to me at the time”.

Some applied for headship posts too soon and without being in the right frame of mind. It was only at interview the realisation came that they had not invested enough in their recovery. Others found a hybrid position, where the opportunity arose to work on a part-time or interim basis at an equivalent level to their previous post. ‘Dipping a toe back in’ was a theme and commonly led to a surge in confidence. Sometimes this led to a realisation about what they definitely wanted to do, and sometimes the opposite, but all valued the experience.

For everyone came an opportunity to reassess their lives and their health and see what they really wanted for the years ahead. After years of working with multi-agency teams, plenty found it second nature to organise a team around themselves of family, friends and specialists such as coaches, counsellors and mentors. As another put it “bouncing back requires resources”, particularly if what was described by many as a “burning sense of injustice” could still flicker from time to time. One commented that “you aren’t the best person to comment on your own well-being”. The most difficult moments were often not those anticipated in advance. For some it can “take longer to process the nature of the departure more than leaving itself”, particularly “when everyone else goes back for the next term and you don’t.”

Some concluded that they wanted to get back into headship, and others opted for a change of tack. For the former group the much feared reputational damage was not the issue they had imagined (“people know less about your story than you think”), even when a simple internet search showed the details. There are those who found themselves waiting for a job longer than they might have expected and others, to their surprise, got a job they really wanted at their first attempt. The kudos of having once been chosen to run a school, despite other circumstances, outweighed more recent events particularly when they could describe their positive impact and “own their truth.” Those who held out against “downgrading yourself in terms of your own expectations”, including an inaccurate assumption that they would have to take a step backwards to move forward, reaped the rewards in the end.

For those who wanted to look elsewhere the possibilities turned out to be broader than anticipated. The modern educational landscape offers more in terms of career opportunities than was the case ten years ago. Networks and contacts came through as vital time and again, emphasising the importance of building them on the way up. Some gained permanent work as a result, others a growing range of assignments. Those whose career had all been in one organisation found it could be more difficult to get going, but never impossible in the end. Some found their “capacity to work and absorb pressure”, was a significant asset in other settings.  A high proportion of their knowledge and skills was also transferable beyond a headteacher’s desk.

HeadsUp’s services are now growing to a broader agenda that is now pro-active as well as reactive. It is becoming a network that enables heads to sustain each other in the job for longer and where coaching and professional development are on offer. It also encourages heads to be ‘positive disrupters’ in the education system and think beyond how they lead and look beyond a narrow range of accountability measures. Having peers to talk to beyond sector, local authority or MAT boundaries can make all the difference.

Alex Atherton (@alexatherton100) is a former headteacher.

James Pope (@popejames) leads Heads Up.