“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.