As a former headteacher who is still bereft at leaving a position that was not just a job, but a huge part of who I was, and still am, I cannot speak highly enough of Headsup4HTs. If I had met them earlier and been able to access their range of services, my story would have been different, but they have been instrumental in ensuring I am still working in the education sector at all.

I left my role as a headteacher in a MAT as a result of a political and financial situation that arose, whereby it was not possible for me to continue as a leader in my school. The circumstances by which I was encouraged to leave a school I had led successfully within and LA, stand alone and a MAT system in excess of five years were distressing. This led to personal illness and professional crisis and my leaving a profession that I was deeply committed to and had been highly successful at, not just in my own school but as a speaker, coach and facilitator and in supporting other schools.

If Headsup’s objective wellbeing support and coaching, as well as external, safe peer support systems had been available to me at the time, I can only reflect on and speculate the possibility I may have felt well-supported to seek another headship or school leadership position in line with my values and vision before I reached this point, retained my self-esteem and been able to work within the system I care so much about. As it is, I found James and Headsup through a mutual friend at a point in my life where I had lost hope, confidence in the system, trust in leadership and where I couldn’t even find a reason to keep going as a human. Headsup 4 Hts enabled me to seek robust advice, establish a sense of identity and start to see the possibility of a future where I could still make a difference to children’s education and in supporting educators.

I accessed crisis support and coaching support before I could gain the confidence to join bi-weekly group support sessions. The networks that have ensued as a result of this, and the inspirational stories, support and encouragement have been personally instrumental in my survival, as well as enabling developments in a professional capacity. In addition to this, the Hopes 4 Ed sessions have really enabled me to enter into meaningful dialogue and work, as well as empowering me to develop my own programmes and initiatives. I have been inspired to undertake further training and to explore wider possibilities for using my expertise across much wider networks that I would not otherwise have anticipated.

Currently, with the diversity of structures for school leadership and the differences in governance structures, I see a problematic means of successfully supporting and nurturing leaders within environments that can range from high stakes accountability to looser structures where heads may feel alone in their journey. Wherever they work, the need for constructive and supportive peer support free from judgement or competition is vital.

In addition to this, a safe and accessible route to considering and discussing vulnerabilities and sharing confidential issues with experienced coaches and mentors, free from fear of accountably is also crucial.

Often the limitations of budget, or the freedom to seek support outside of a Trust may be problematic, or even just finding space and tune may pose a challenge. In some scenarios, leaders may be discouraged from networking wider than their immediate circle, or have limited CPD offers under financial or system controls.

I can see the opportunities for Headsup4HTs in developing a fair and equitable access to robust support, informed and relevant coaching and mentoring, values-lead leadership development irrespective of Headteachers’ own situations. Within the UK system, we currently have Headteachers leading in a range of management systems: privately funded schools, it maintained, diocesan or religious control, academies, federations trusts. There is no synthesised, cohesive and objective personalised support for their wellbeing.

Currently it is largely left to choice, chance, or expected that a school leader is invincible, or should conform to limited centrally provided sessions within a MAT or LA HR system, or support from a line. support manager where a Head may feel unable to admit vulnerabilities, for fear of accountability measures, or fear of explosure to competitors.

From my own personal experience, I understand how a head may feel unable to share vulnerabilities to someone within their own accountability framework, or being unable to afford private coaching. Heads up 4Hts provides a safe environment irrespective of context.

I can see a relevance to developing this service across all areas of Headship., but also for wider leadership wellbeing support across school roles. There is a potential to create levels of support and professional development to empower and develop leaders at all levels beyond constraints of specific governance systems, truly embedding ethical leadership at all levels.