From Burnout To Brilliance: Strategies For School Leaders With Suneta Bagri and Catherine Hulme

From Burnout To Brilliance: Strategies For School Leaders With Suneta Bagri and Catherine Hulme

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Are you or your colleagues struggling to cope with the stress and challenges of working in a school? Are you reaching burnout?

In this thought provoking interview, Suneta Bagri and Catherine Hulme reveal strategies to ignite a well-being revolution in schools and empower leaders to create positive change.

Important links:

Visit the Leadership Edge website to access a free coaching quiz here

Find out more about how you can support your colleagues using the Teach Well Toolkit here

Get our FREE SEND Behaviour Handbook:

Download other FREE SEMH resources to use in your school:

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Show notes / transcription

Simon Currigan  0:00  

If your team or you personally are finding working in school stressful or draining, then you'll know how important it is to look after our own mental health as adults because unless we do that we can't give the best possible care to the kids that we look after. In this episode of school behaviour secrets, you'll walk away with a systematic approach to use in your school, to support your staff with their mental health, concrete strategies to use with your team, whether they are in the classroom or part of senior leadership and some brilliant insights into why some approaches to mental health support do work in school, and they fail in others. 

Hi there. My name is Simon Currigan. And this brand new episode of school behaviour secrets is coming at you at the velocity of truth. Oh yeah.

Emma Shackleton  1:23  

What are you talking about?

Simon Currigan  1:25  

She was trying to set up the podcast a bit make it appeal to a bigger demographic TEDx reach that kind of thing. 

Emma Shackleton  1:30  

Well pack it in. 

Simon Currigan  1:31  

And the voice of reason you just heard there was my co host, Emma Shackleton. Hi, Emma.

Emma Shackleton  1:36  

Hi, Simon.

Simon Currigan  1:36  

Emma, if you don't mind, I'd like to open the show by asking you a quick question. 

Emma Shackleton  1:40  

Go on then 

Simon Currigan  1:40  

When you were still teaching in the classroom, Is there anything that made you think about quitting the profession?

Emma Shackleton  1:46  

Oh, crikey. That's a bit of a hot topic, isn't it? Where do I start? Well, I loved the kids. I loved the staff team and most of the parents. But what I really hated was all of the red tape, you know, all of the pointless admin and the stuff that you have to do that, you know, really isn't making a jot of difference to the children's education. That was the stuff that used to really get me down. Is that the sort of thing? You mean?

Simon Currigan  2:12  

Yeah, absolutely. I'm completely on the same page, it was all about the admin. I used to love the bit with the kids. And some of the paperwork, I could see the point of that it's part of the job. So fair enough, but the paperwork that was just there to tick a box that didn't actually make a difference to the teaching or learning and things like marking in 20 different colours. At one point, it was asked to hand in lesson plans to subject coordinators for lessons that were never going to be observed or commented on. Attending meetings that could have been an email, I used to feel like I'm busy enough trying to get everything done without you literally wasting my time on this right Rant over.

Emma Shackleton  2:47  

I'm thinking this might hit a nerve with a lot of our listeners. So why do you ask?

Simon Currigan  2:52  

Well, this week, we've got Catherine Hulme and Suneta Bagri on the show, who are here to talk about what we can do practically, to support teachers in school with their mental health, they're going to share their holistic approach to getting structures and systems in place to do this effectively. So this is definitely going to be of interest to you if you're a school leader, or a teacher in the classroom.

Emma Shackleton  3:14  

And of course, one cause of stress for teachers that we see from our work at Beacon school support when we're visiting schools and working with teachers face to face is having difficulty understanding and supporting the needs of pupils, especially those with behavioural special needs. And that seems to be a group that's growing in number. So that's why we've put together a free download on our website, and we've called it the SEND behaviour handbook. And what that does is it helps you to connect the behaviours that you are seeing in class with potential underlying needs such as ADHD, autism or trauma.

Simon Currigan  3:56  

Yeah, as teachers, it's not for us to try and make a diagnosis. But if we have the right knowledge, we can get the right support agencies involved and get early intervention strategies in place.

Emma Shackleton  4:06  

And the good news is the handbook is completely free. And it also comes with a set of fact sheets about conditions like PDA, and ODD so we'll put a direct link to where you can get a hold of the handbook in the episode description. All you've got to do is open up your podcast app. Look at the text that goes with this week's episode, and you'll see the link just tap on it and you'll be taken straight to our free download.

Simon Currigan  4:32  

And while you've got your podcast app open, don't forget to subscribe to the show, so you'll never miss another episode. In fact, subscribing will make you feel so good. You think it should be subjected to punitive taxation, quick and elastic.Good joke there for the economists in the room

Emma Shackleton  4:49  

Of which we've got none. And now here's Simon's interview with Catherine Hulme and Suneta Bagri I'm really looking forward to this episode as Simon and I will look enough to meet Suneta and Catherine in person at the inspiring leadership conference in Birmingham earlier in the year, and we had a really good chinwag. It was great to meet them and hear about the work that they do in schools.

Simon Currigan  5:13  

Today I'm very excited to welcome for the first time two guests to the show. Catherine Hulme was a secondary English teacher and assistant head teacher before qualifying as a well being and executive coach and coaching supervisor. She also has vast experience as a primary school governor receiving an NGA finalist Award for Outstanding governance. She's also director of Leadership Edge, an organisation focused on nurturing the professional development and personal well being of teaching staff. Sunita Bagri has worked as a senior leader, head teacher and executive principal in a diverse range of schools, including a special school, free school and a range of multi Academy trusts. She's also a multi award winning coach, wellbeing consultant, and a DFE approved trainer for senior Mental Health leads. She is also the co founder of the Teach Well Toolkit. And in 2019, she won The Woman who Inspires Award. Catherine and Sunita, Welcome to the show.

Catherine Hulme  6:12  

Good morning, Simon. Thank you.

Suneta Bagri  6:14  

Morning. Thank you.

Simon Currigan  6:15  

So today we're going to talk about teachers mental health. Now based on your work in schools, how do you assess kind of the state of the nation when it comes to the mental health of teaching staff and school leaders?

Suneta Bagri  6:28  

Really interesting question, Simon, thank you for having us on. So very recently, myself and my business partner, both cofounders of Teacher Toolkit have actually published a report, which addresses the state of the nation, our report is actually entitled that, so we work predominantly with colleagues in education, who are just as passionate about this around promoting and advocating the mental health and well being of staff, alongside children, because our philosophy is that both must work in tandem and must work together. And we need to really prioritise both. So some of the issues that we use to support our colleagues are very much around, we have to assess the situation. And we can do that by being really active ourselves in education. So being really current, staying abreast of certain issues that are coming up, such as cognitive load theory, the exploratory learning strategies, direct instruction, some school leaders, applying and implementing a no excuses behaviour policy, looking at trauma informed practices, looking at the impact of those things, that how do we know that we're just two single people, aren't we in education. We take our information from being really active in groups, certainly, you know, on threads on LinkedIn on act. I'm a fellow of the chartered College of teaching. So I'm really active amongst colleagues there. It's just about being really, really involved, really active and talking to colleagues. And I think both Catherine and I are very fortunate in the work that we do, because through coaching and supervision, we work directly with head teachers. So not only do we know what's happening in our local areas, we actually know what's happening across the country as well.

Simon Currigan  8:11  

In your research, did you find any sort of general themes about how teachers were feeling or things they were saying about their mental health? Because when you look kind of anecdotally, you talk to teachers, or you look at the kind of the figures for recruitment, you see more and more teachers leaving the profession. And when you ask them about why they're leaving, they'll name things like behaviour, or their mental health or work pressure and not being able to see their families. Did you see any themes coming up in your state of the nation research?

Suneta Bagri  8:34  

Not particularly for this report. But if I can reference our working experience, I'm sure Catherine will agree, in my view, certainly, I am going to be a bit controversial and say there's a bit of a blame culture, in that it's easier to say our pressures all belong to workload. And that isn't true. I think the work that we do is very much about evaluating all of the contributing factors, which impact upon our mental health and our well being. And yes, workload is one of those. But I think we also know that the DfE are doing a huge amount to support that agenda. So not specifically in my report, but certainly in the work that we do more experientially I can say that, you know, as you said in the introduction, we work with training senior Mental Health Leads. So we've worked with hundreds of senior Mental Health Leads over the past few years. They are all saying that trying to fire from above to support the mental health of our colleagues is futile. It's a futile effort, because systemically there are challenges, and we understand that and we agree with that. It's so much bigger than that. It's so much wider than that, because there are environmental factors. There are personal factors. There are systemic factors there are you know, socio economic factors. And then we're also dealing with the COVID aftermath as well, aren't we which is had huge impact.

Simon Currigan  9:58  

So the answer, as always, actually is it's more complicated than that.

Suneta Bagri  10:02  

More questions! 

Catherine Hulme  10:03  

And if I just come in there around corroborating Suneta's point there around that the lack of sense of control that teachers and leaders and any member of staff in school can feel because we're part of such a big system. And this is public sector work, isn't it. And obviously, independent schools will be part of big, big systems as well. But there is often that that sense of lack of autonomy, because you're part of a big system, and that can have detrimental effects on Yes, your mental health and enjoyment of the role, and your motivation. And as a result, your well being. And I was just when you're talking about research, reminded of some research that was done back in 2008, actually, which was by Maslach. And it identified six causes of burnout, and one of those was workload overload, but there are five others. So as Suneta's addressed there, yes, we should be looking at workflow. But there are also the other factors, and I'll just go through those briefly here. One is lack of control, which we've just spoken about briefly, lack of reward, as well. So this might be an external need for, you know, validation, but more so we know that people get the most satisfaction and reward from their direct line manager, and their team and their colleagues. So there are things here that we can do internally, that we do have influence and control of which can really impact our staffs wellbeing. Similarly, lack of community. So how are we actually within our school body? How are we supporting each other and feeling that sense of belonging? The next one is lack of fairness, noticing what's happening with colleagues what's happening elsewhere around the school and in other schools, and that can also have a real detrimental effects emotionally, and therefore physically, if it's left to fester over time. And all of this really comes down to the sixth factor, which is a mismatch of values and feeling that what you're trying to achieve and what you're trying to contribute, isn't recognised, or isn't also valued by the organisation in which you're working. So there are questions around, as Suneta said, the environment, your actual school that you're working in, and is there another school which your well being would flourish more because you're more aligned to their systems, and they have a better setup for you to feel rewarded and to feel part of that community so that we can empower people from the inside. So you're not looking outside to feel better. You're doing what you can both internally as a person and internally as an organisation to bolster people's well being. 

Simon Currigan  12:31  

What is the impact not just for individual members of staff themselves, but also for the bigger picture about teachers might be struggling with their mental health for all of the reasons that you've just described, which is described as a complex system of interacting variables, what's the impact of that for the way we run our schools, the way the schools function and the impact on our students when that isn't working? And when teachers mental health isn't where we would hope it would be? 

Suneta Bagri  12:57  

It's a ripple effect. Because what we do know from research, even if we look at education, support the leading charity for mental health and well being and we look at the teacher WellBeing Index, we also know that the ripple effect comes from burnt out leaders Thanks Catherine for sharing, Maslach's burnout index, we use that in our training. And it's really interesting to look at all of those six causes of burnout. We work directly with head teachers so much, we are often working with teachers that are at the brink of burnout. And I think if you think about how exhausted our school leaders are, that are then leading schools, I mean, they're the prime candidates for exhibiting presenteeism, and then that just dominoes into the rest of the staff and the colleagues in school.

Simon Currigan  13:45  

Can I just ask you just to explain what presenteeism actually means for people that are coming across the term for the first time?

Suneta Bagri  13:51  

Of course, So presenteeism is basically turning up to work every day, even though you are not well, and that could be physical, but we're focusing really here on stress, anxiety, depression, other mental health conditions, that could be impacting upon your well being, your levels of vitality, and energy, tenacity, all of those things that you bring into work to be able to do a good job. But you're coming into work without those, even though you are well aware that you don't have those, those are not intact for you to be able to execute your role effectively.

Simon Currigan  14:27  

So if you're not in a good place in terms of your health, or psychologically, you're not really in a position then to support the teachers that you're working with who might also be struggling with similar issues.

Suneta Bagri  14:37  

Exactly. I've just come out of a headship. And I can honestly say, 70% of the workforce, were exhibiting presenteeism, and I've worked in many schools, as you mentioned at the beginning, this is a repeating pattern. So what is the impact ?it's huge, it's significant. We're looking at recruitment and retention being affected. Absenteeism, we're looking at people that are running schools. that are stressed themselves. And then if you think about the way that, you know, society is going, and I speak from experience with my own young teenage children, now they are looking for instant gratification, they're looking for rewards straight away. So those good old fashioned skills and characteristics, such as perseverance, and tolerance and persisting, and persevering and showing that level of resilience to do a job is just not there, those areas, they're not being nurtured enough for us to be able to show strength of character, some people are choosing to be absent, instead of facing some of those things that, you know, we could be growing. And that's where coaching and supervision are beautiful resources to have in your toolkit because they help you to grow and nurture that development personally and professionally.

Catherine Hulme  15:54  

I was just going to add as well we know from neuroscience, don't worry that when somebody is feeling stress, then they will go into fight and flight, their amygdala, their emotional responses will start kicking in which we know mainly from when we teach our students. But this is also true for staff for teachers and for leaders. And when Suneta mentioned about directive leadership, obviously, our coaching approach acknowledges that there are very much a time and a place where that is necessary, given the context and the needs in that moment. However, the coaching approach, which is non directive not only frees up the leader from having to have all the answers, it actually empowers other people within the school to find the answers, which then cyclically helps the leaders to distribute the leadership across the school. So in terms of the individual members of staff themselves, but also the the function of the whole school, it becomes a cultural shift, where pressure is released, because it is distributed. And I was just thinking about something that one of our head teachers said about using coaching, which was if we're able to replicate even a fraction of the things that were initially seeing in those involved in the coaching programme, then I expect as an organisation, that our staff will become less inclined to look to senior leadership to solve issues and instead become much more autonomous, resilient and willing to take risks. And that I believe, is the basis of a culture where well being can thrive. Because not only do people have that sense of of autonomy and purpose. But there's a community there where you can share and communicate what's going on for you, and really listen to each other openly, rather than just hearing what you want to hear. So I think it's a cultural improvement.

And I think that's massive, isn't it, if you personally, as a teacher, feel empowered, and you have choice and autonomy, then you feel like you make a difference, you feel like you turn up. And the choices you are making have an impact on the organisation as a whole the school as a whole, but also the kids that you're working with, it enables you to some extent to express your personality, you don't feel just like a cog in a machine that can be replaced by another cog at any time.

Exactly and this goes back to those causes of burnout. And what you've just described, that is rife across all of those causes, you know, people want to be heard, they want to particularly teachers, and people in school, they're in it because they want to contribute, they think they've got something of themselves that could be of benefit to others. And if we deny them that opportunity, then that's going to build up frustration and a lack of purpose. And, gosh, I've got all this workload and all these frustrations. And for what actually it's not balancing with the sense of fulfilment that I'm receiving.

Suneta Bagri  18:36  

I certainly know from my headship experiences that when you apply a authentic, vulnerable leadership approach, which is very much about culture, and the premise is about building positive relationships, staff will go over and above and beyond their remit of what is on their job description. It is ultimately all about culture, isn't it Catherine? 

Catherine Hulme  18:57  

It is isn't it? There's a great quote, which I'm going to try and remember from coaching supervisor called Robin Stewart, which is something along the lines of rules are there when love is not. And we can get very heavily process driven, you know, and directing people to do this and do that, where it's actually when you build a community, and you build it on love, and respect and shared values, people want to contribute. And we'll do their very best to do that. But they will also look out for each other. And so they're heavily directed Leadership isn't as necessary. It's a backup for when things might go wrong, rather than the other way around.

Simon Currigan  19:34  

So one of my favourite quotes is from Peter Drucker who said, culture eats strategy for breakfast. 

Suneta Bagri  19:40  

Yeah, I love that quote. 

Simon Currigan  19:42  

There was a school leader listening to this podcast, if it begins with culture, I think that's what we're saying, isn't it? Where do you start? I mean, how do you start developing that culture and having the team that you work with believe in that culture?

Suneta Bagri  19:56  

It is about adopting a coaching approach It's about adopting and implementing a style of leadership, which is compassionate at the heart. It's about a leader investing their time and energy into developing the individuals in their school community. It's about making a commitment to help those people grow. And to help the people grow, that are going to help the children grow. It is about being full of energy, passion determination, it's about having a certain charismatic style, it's about being driven about getting the best for the children, but not at the cost of caring, at the cost of investing in the people that you work with. It's about helping others to focus on their professional development, promoting that love of lifelong learning. Because that's what we want to instil in our children, as adults that are around the children, we've got to promote that we've got to show that it's about helping our colleagues to be able to, you know, have goals be very focused around what is the direction of travel for them in the school in the job that they're doing. It's about being excellent at communicating as a effective leader, full stop. But certainly as a coaching style, you need to be asking questions all the time of your staff and encouraging them to be curious, and to ask questions back, which is completely what Catherine was describing when she was talking about the non directive approach. That's what we do in the space with our colleagues. It's about giving them the time giving them the space, not giving them the answers, but actually giving them the opportunity to be able to think, reflect, evaluate, it's about being humble. It's about, you know, not necessarily having all the answers, but about asking and showing that vulnerable side of yourself. Catherine, what do you think?

Catherine Hulme  21:55  

Absolutely, and I was just thinking about that vulnerability there. Because if we're asking our, our members of staff and our colleagues to be vulnerable with us, particularly for its cultural shift, and it's not something that's happened up to now, really, we're looking at building trust, and that, you know, in answer your question, what do you do build trust? Well, that's not step one, is it? Because how would you go about building trust? And I always think of Brene Brown's example of the jar of marbles, and that every comment, every facial expression, every opportunity that you have is like a marble going in a jar and it builds up builds up builds up until eventually you've succeeded in establishing trust. But one look, one comment, one initiative, you knock it over, and you're starting, again from scratch. So really, I think the leader themselves or the leadership team have to be able to put themselves in a vulnerable position through, I would suggest, of course, having a coach because then they are not asking of their staff, anything that they're not willing to do themselves. And that is one example of how you build trust, is by showing that this isn't a done to thing. This is actually something that's benefiting all of us. And I'm a lifelong learner, too. I make mistakes, too. I need someone to talk to as well. I've got my own questions that I'm asking off myself and my leadership style and my leadership team. And we ask those questions of each other as a leadership team. And by starting that way, other members of staff and colleagues will start to see, okay, this is safe. We've got permission to have these conversations and to behave in this way.

Suneta Bagri  23:23  

Absolutely. The key is you can't adopt or implement a coaching style unless you really understand coaching yourself. And I think this space for coaching for school leaders ensures that they're being very introspective, that they are very, very acutely self aware of themselves as leaders. It's critical actually to their own development, and giving them time to be able to self evaluate and process what's going on, so that they can then filter and cascade, which is the word I know we're really passionate about using when we work through leadership edge about cascading and empowering and really just disseminating that style across. It doesn't work unless the leader themselves is committed to having coaching themselves.

Simon Currigan  24:08  

I think what you're saying if I've heard it correctly, and it sounds intuitively the right approach to me is in the past, I think there's been a danger that we've had like a mental health morning on an inset Day everyone turns up, there's an in inverted commas initiative where we sit down and talk about something and then all that information. All that talk just seems to go nowhere and fizzles out. It's not a one and done. Is it what you're talking about is input over time. It's proper coaching, investing in the long term?

Catherine Hulme  24:34  

This is mindset, it's mindset. And it's relationships which develop over time and beyond that it's being very aware of people's differences. And yes, suggesting an initiative or a time that people need to go home by or a food that's going to be brought in on a Friday. These are not respecting people's individuality, their own circumstances at home their own sense of what wellbeing is to them. And we're all different, creating a culture and an environment where people are allowed to express those differences and feel safe to do so. We hear a lot in the social media at the moment about psychological safety. And that's part of this conversation. Because when you're looking at how can we protect or nurture mental health in our staff, we need to be really clear here, that we're not as a staff body or as a coach going to be diagnosing anybody with any mental health diagnosis. And we would help them to find specialist support to do that, what we're looking at is an ongoing healthiness within their mind and within the internal dialogue that they're experiencing. So if they feel that that is potentially at risk, they know that they've got support around them to process that and to work out their next steps. 

Simon Currigan  25:48  

That sounds great, setting up the culture, putting in place an ongoing coaching programme to support the mental well being of our team. But I can imagine that there are some leaders listening to this right now. Saying I have got so much on my plate right now, what would you say to someone, you know, a school leader listening to this and saying, Yeah, I just don't have the additional time, I'm already overloaded with work as it is.

Catherine Hulme  26:13  

Exactly. But you have too much to do. So let us help you create a culture, which changes that for you. And because the programme that we have at Leadership Edge is absolutely about cascading the skills amongst your workforce. So they provide that space for each other. So it's not about you delivering anything, although having the senior leader and the head teacher embarking on this journey, this learning journey and experience first is ideal. We have schools who've worked with us where we've had a part time MFL teacher starting it, trialling it and then feeding back to the school to the head teacher and saying, Yeah, this is worthwhile. And now I'm going to start coaching a couple of people, myself, so this is the participant, they then cascade it internally themselves. So you're not paying us to do that, because this is about making it sustainable, both timewise. And cost wise for schools. You know, we're Suneta and I and everyone on the Leadership Edge team have all got school leadership background, we want to support you, that's what we're in it for. So it's not time consuming. We're currently putting a compilation together of people saying that to us, our participants who have gone through the programme saying just give yourselves 45 minutes or half term. And you will find that you have a clarity of thinking that you have parked any issues that are just not actually going to support you moving forward. And that you know who you're going to speak to what you're going to speak about what your end goal is what you're trying to get out of it? And that clarity of purpose and realignment to what matters to you, then drives people forward. So it all becomes this phrase non directive. So in terms of the senior leader and head teacher saying I don't have the time or the energy to invest in this, we get that, but you have to start because otherwise what's going to change. So we want to help you make that change.

Suneta Bagri  28:02  

I want to just come in there and put two quotes together two of my favourite quotes, because we hear that all the time. So I'm in and I can only say from my own experience of having the mental health and well being background, having the coaching passion and knowledge and training. And then being a school head teacher, you know, I've got lived experience and it's with the benefit of knowing the difference that coaching makes, that no matter how time poor, I have been as a school leader, I will always, always, always make time for coaching and supervision because my two favourite quotes is, I know that I need to get off the dance floor stand on the balcony. And I know when I do that, that when I slow down, I go faster. And that is probably my favourite quote because it's true. When I slow down, I go faster.

Catherine Hulme  28:54  

I had just this week a coaching session which I thought oh, I don't have time for this. I've got so many things I need to do doo doo doo doo. And then you know that coaching session just allowed me to,  to slow down and to get a different perspective and actually look at myself doing doing doing and thinking is that who I want to be is that the life I'm choosing for myself? The behaviours that I'm choosing for myself? the perception that other people are going to have of me? is that who I want to be? And so you take stock. I came out of that coaching session as I do. And as I'm sure anyone who has coaching does feeling more in control, less like things are being done to me and that I have to get these things done and more. I am choosing to do this, and I'm choosing not to do that. And the impact on me this week, just from that coaching session on Monday has made me calmer, more present for my family more present for my clients in work, and just generally happier.

Simon Currigan  29:46  

Can you give us a specific example of a success story you've had using this approach? 

Catherine Hulme  29:50  

Our first school that we started working with was a three form entry primary in Wolverhampton called East Park. That was actually where the whole Leadership Edge journey started.  Jan was a coach for Haley who's the head teacher. And the school went when Haley brought OFSTED in, in the January when she started in September because she wanted to get the judgement that she thought the school should get, which puts the school into special measures. And then they began their journey of cultural change. So they started coaching their senior leadership team, and then cascaded that through this accredited process, to allow all members of staff to receive this time, and to receive this mind this headspace and empowering approach to start making real changes in the school. So the leadership team were able to focus on the strategy, the middle leaders were able to focus on the operations and the things that they wanted to change in terms of the teaching. Three years later, the school was outstanding in all areas and the DfE, top 100 schools. And obviously, the pupils results reflected that. So yeah, there's very tangible evidence of this approach. Working, it isn't a quick fix, it's not something that you're going to start in September, and by December, you're going to have new outcomes and so on. It's over time. But it's an investment in building community, and building practices, and communication styles, which bring everybody on board so they can do their best in their roles. But as we've said before, it's disseminated across so that's, that's one example. And then we've got numerous examples of individuals in schools who are working perhaps in the same school or across different schools, where, you know, the differences that they've seen in terms of improving their mental health might be their work life balance has improved, such as they're spending more time with their own children or on hobbies, or their physical fitness. They're improving their stress management strategies, you know, they're able to prioritise better and delegate better, they've got better working relationships with each other. Big one is about managing their self talk. So that impostor syndrome or self criticism diminishes, and just making career decisions with more clarity. So rather than taking a promotion, because everybody's telling them they ought to and they'd be really good at that role. They're actually thinking about that more clearly and think, Well, what works for me what's going to make me happiest and most effective at work. And just as we said, before, managing those frustrations about those things that are going to be frustrating in any organisation, but doing it in a way that you don't collude with other members of staff and become critical about it in the corner of the staff room, you address it openly and therefore, things change for the positive.

Suneta Bagri  32:26  

Can I just share an example of working with the head teacher myself and the feedback that she's given me in terms of impact that coaching has had for her, she reported that the trusting relationships that she has developed with the staff, but particularly with her SLT has led her to really gaining a strong sense of safety and security in her role as a leader. She has felt that all of the SLT report that she boosts their morale as a leader now, she feels that the priorities in the school that have been on their school development plan for the past couple of years, are starting to lead to sustainable change and change that because it's been delegated effectively by her. But ultimately, because it's been understood and the SLT feel so autonomous over the areas of responsibility that the changes have been quick, they've been rapid, they are now coming back to her SLT meetings and asking for constructive feedback of her so different to what she was used to in a previous experience. So for her, she's used the word transformational. It's been a transformational experience for her to have coaching. And then to apply that model, she feels that everybody's working really collaboratively. There's a very supportive working environment and culture, the whole well being and coaching is integral to the school development plan. It's right there from governance level everybody understands it is budgeted for from the school because the governors are committed to the process, effectively, the head said it was giving her a really good understanding of the SLTs leadership style, because of the profiling that she had done as well. So even for her to be able to communicate with her leaders, she knows that for some, a conversation is great, and they will get it after conversation. But for others, she knows that she needs to delegate and then follow up through emails and they know that that's the preferred kind of style. So really understanding at that practical level of how to communicate with their leaders has been really empowering for her.

Catherine Hulme  34:36  

I was speaking to a head teacher recently who I'll quote what she said actually, I'm in the process of reevaluating the entire performance management cycle in school. I want something intrinsically linked to staff mental health and well being and I totally believe that coaching is the approach that we need to be using. It's a done with a not a done to. 

Suneta Bagri  34:55  

A final thing I was going to say on that was around we know that workload and pressure on our colleagues comes from lesson observations and monitoring. And again, this head has flipped that as well, where we've worked really closely together on this. But now it's very much about lesson studies and triads and asking questions of reflection, not giving feedback, as you would expect, but very much about how can I improve what has gone well? Again, trying to help an introspective approach to develop.

Simon Currigan  35:26  

What we've talked about today is big. We've talked about culture and non directive coaching leaders being better asking questions rather than giving answers to big, big, big, big stuff. If you're a teacher, or a school leader, listening to this podcast episode today, what's just the first step you think they should be taking today to either take more effective care of their staff or even their own mental health, or the mental health of the people that they work with,

Suneta Bagri  35:51  

Genuinely, I would say to have a self audit of how they're going to manage stress, because it is inevitable, we all deal with stress. And stress can be really productive and really impactful when it's just at the right level, to help us perform at our optimum level. But when that pressure performance curve tips the other way, we also know that our performance will decline, can decline very quickly unless we recognise those very early warning signs. So my advice to anybody in education is very much always going to be focused around, be prepared to be stressed, because you will meet stress. And when you find yourself in a stressful situation, what are your early warning signs? What are the triggers? And how are you going to respond to those? So I would always encourage everyone in a school to have a wellness action plan in place.

Simon Currigan  36:51  

Catherine, what would your advice be? Would that be the same?

Catherine Hulme  36:53  

Experience coaching Simon, experienced coaching! Because yes, you're right, we're talking about this. And for somebody who hasn't experienced coaching, it might seem a bit airy fairy and not grounded, sensational, so passionate about this, because we've experienced it firsthand secondhand third hand over a number of years, the impact that it makes. And it seems so simple, that it's almost like it can't be that powerful. But it really is because we are human beings. And we need time to internally process what is going on for us, we know this with our students, we need it for our adults as well. So experience coaching experience, what it's like to have a space where somebody really, really listens and cares about what is going on for you and the impact of that if you experienced it as a leader, you will recognise its value. And you will recognise that actually a way forward could be to expand this and allow other members of staff to feel valued in that way. And it can really, really switch things around as we saw at East Park. So get a coach.

Simon Currigan  37:55  

How can our listeners find out more about you your approach or resources? Where should they go?

Catherine Hulme  37:59  

Yeah, for us, it would be on, or website there has some of our free tools. It's got a free coaching quiz to get going, where you can just answer a few questions. It's about two minutes to do. And then you get a report back about asking you the sort of things that maybe you would want to bring to a coaching session. And of course, it's got testimonials on there, from people who we've worked with and details of all our services and who we are and our mission to support schools in this really important work.

Suneta Bagri  38:24  

And for myself, you'd be looking at going on to the website I'm co founder of teacher toolkit alongside my business partner, Steve Waters, who has published recently a book called Cultures of Staff Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools, which really is my go to book because it shows impact of where 32 schools have talked about the culture of well being in their schools. And it's those case studies that we use in our senior mental health lead training, because we know it's tried and tested and worked effectively to be able to support our colleagues. So please give us a visit. There's lots of free downloads, we're very passionate about helping colleagues. So please get to know our website and contact us if we can do anything to support yourselves individually, or at whole school level.

Simon Currigan  39:12  

Perfect. I'll put direct links to those in the show notes as well for anyone that wants to click through easily. And finally, we ask this of all our guests who is the key figure that's influenced you or what is the key book that you've read, that has had the biggest impact on your approach to working with children.

Suneta Bagri  39:27  

For me, it's a book called Teaching that Changes Lives. It gives 12 mindset tools for igniting the love of learning and it's by Marilee Adams,

Catherine Hulme  39:38  

Ken Robinson, the element the late great Ken Robinson, who really fought for children to be within an education system which allowed their individual talents to be nurtured through personalising listening and seeing the internal genius of those children in a system that may not have originally or typically allowed that to flourish. And I just believe that the same should be true of our adults in schools as well. 

Simon Currigan  40:03  

Suneta and Catherine, it's been a fascinating discussion. Thank you for being on the show. I really enjoyed it. I feel like we went into quite some depth. Thank you for being on the show today.

Suneta Bagri  40:11  

Thank you. Thanks so much.

Catherine Hulme  40:12  

Absolute pleasure. Thanks for giving us the time to enjoy the conversation too.

Emma Shackleton  40:16  

You know, I really like that approach to supporting coaching and mentoring schools to achieve long term success. And I think it fits in really well with our ethos and the way that we support educators too.

Simon Currigan  40:30  

Completely agree and if you want to find out more about Catherine and Suneta's websites and the work they do in schools, you'll find I put direct links in the episode description, all you have to do is open up your podcast app and tap.

Emma Shackleton  40:41  

And if you find this episode helpful, please do us a favour share it with one or two colleagues that you know who would also benefit from listening in. That means that we can get the ideas and strategies to the people who would benefit from the most. All you've got to do is open your podcast app, hit the share button and send a direct link by email messenger or however you normally like to communicate with your friends.

Simon Currigan  41:07  

And that's all we've got time for today. 

Emma Shackleton  41:09  

So we look forward to seeing you next time on School Behaviour Secrets Bye for now.

Simon Currigan  41:13  


(This automated transcript may not be 100% accurate.)