March Partner News


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#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.

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.

Case Study: Local Authority Let Down

Being a headteacher can be the best job in the world, but it can also be soul-destroying. Sitting at home, on a September weekday for the first time in 25 years, I can actually appreciate how much of the latter my job had become last year. I needed to step away and do something different.

There wasn’t a specific point that made me step away from the job I had really enjoyed for 14 years but reflecting on something in Autumn 2019 brought home what my life had become.

My wife and I were waiting in a hospital ward for our daughter to come back from surgery. A nurse popped her head round the curtain, explained that there had been a few complications, but there was ‘nothing to worry about’, and it would be just be a bit longer before we would be able to see the patient.

So, as the curtain closed, we looked at each other, said something like ‘we’ll just have to wait then’.   Then, I got out my laptop to work on the school development plan and my wife started marking the bag full of books she’d brought.
What had our life come to? 8pm on a weeknight, our daughter was in a recovery room, and our first reaction was to fill the time with work… Worryingly it felt so normal.

I considered myself lucky too. I had a great team to work with, a supportive governing body, and a family that understood the demands. I had strategies I used, like exercise, journaling and meditation, to manage the mental pressure that is a constant in the role of headteacher. But all I did was work and do things to help me survive work.

Once the decision that life wasn’t working was made, weighing up what I should do next was hard. I told myself that if I could take the school, away from the local authority, away from OFSTED, then I could continue.

The positive impact we had on the lives of the children could have kept me going. The smiles on the gate, the buzz on the playground, giving out the personalised stickers for amazing work I got to see.

But it was the feeling of unfairness in the wider system, and the pressures that existing as a leader within it, that meant I needed a break.

A big part was the OFSTED inspection framework that hung constantly like the sword of Damocles over my head.

I’d been lucky – RI was the lowest rating we’d got, and we were still a good school. The reality of the lived experience under the framework is that some schools will always find it harder to reach the hoops set for all school. We had the two challenges of being in a pocket of deprivation in an otherwise leafy county and being a school that attracted children with specific needs, often encouraged by other schools who couldn’t meet those needs, another bone of contention. Put those together with a framework that is based on outcomes rather than provision and it just doesn’t seem like a level playing field.

Or a consistent one. We had five inspections in 14 years, and each one was different. Yes, the framework was different too, but it was the inspectors that walked through the door that made each so different. If felt such a lottery; we never knew if our ticket was going to be a lucky winning one or a ripped up losing slip.

I do understand accountability is important and schools do need to be inspected to ensure they are’s doing what they are meant to be doing. But if that system doesn’t seem fair, any judgment lacks credibility and the uncertainty of the process creates anxiety.

The local authority played its part too, or at least didn’t play its part. In recent years, support got less and less, and processes harder and harder to manage as the functions of finance, HR or school support got commissioned out and that work got more and more time consuming. This all meant frustrating time-consuming distractions from the job I should be doing. New computer systems which were a confusing mess, with lots of necessary ‘work-arounds’ hidden within a unfathomable manual, and where mistakes felt more likely, and higher and higher costs for less and less support. And where was the challenge for schools who thought inclusion was sending their children to us?

As someone who feels that Local Authorities could be great structures to support and challenge schools, mine felt like they had given up and wanted us to go and be an academy. And that didn’t feel fair.

In January, I decided I needed a break from Headship, I wanted a fresh challenge. I asked my shocked Chair of Governors to start the process to find my replacement, saying that I would offer an open-ended resignation, leaving when my replacement could start, to ensure continuity.

At the first time of advertising, they got a good shortlist and appointed someone for new new school year as lockdown started. I had hoped and assumed that I would find a role ready for September, but maybe due to Covid, any opportunities seem to have dried up and I find myself having time to reflect in September without that pressure that comes with starting a school year again.

I’d like to be a headteacher again in the future, to get back to that amazing role that can make such a difference to the lives of many children, but not yet. I’m hoping the education system will improve, it really has to, and I can go back into it.

I am missing work. I like the hard work and pressure that comes with leadership and ideally want to work in an area that makes a difference to the most vulnerable members of our society. Hopefully something will come up soon.

I’m not looking for an easy life, just one that feels fair.