Are you a new leader, like the idea of leadership but struggle to find the balance between teaching and leading? Are you someone who wants to lead or be a leader, but not knowing how to get there, feeling a bit stagnant? You might be a leader developing, but in the wrong organisation? You might not see leaders like you? This is why Step Up was set up.
Step Up is a new network for new and aspiring leaders in education, particularly at middle and senior leadership levels in schools. Upon starting the social media account, and subsequent network, we surveyed people to find out who our community are and what they want/need. This has been incredibly useful. It’s been great getting to know our community.
From this research and insight, we have constructed five ‘leadership themes’ that we base our content and output around. We base our speakers, events, blogs and much more around these themes. The five themes are: Leadership Journeys, Leadership Barriers & Challenges, Leadership Development, Leadership Wellbeing and Leadership Diversity. Now, whilst many of these will overlap when people speak, present and write to these.
I personally as the founder wanted to ensure that whatever we do, we are inclusive and that we are diverse in order to create a community where our network members belong. Now, as a heterosexual, white, able bodied, cisgender man who doesn’t have children and is fairly financially stable, I know I’ve had it easier than others. However, I have always committed to be an inclusive ally and a HeForShe ally also. I have been a keen supporter and champion of Diverse Educators since signing up to social media and their journey started. One thing I have released is that I’ve continued to learn as an ally.
One of the biggest learning curves was Step Up’s Launch Event. As I co-hosted alongside one of my fellow network leaders, WomenEd’s own Elaine Hayes, I listened attentively to our speakers. I listened to their vulnerability; to their negative and positive experiences; to their struggles; to their hopes and wishes; to their experience and tips. I felt quite emotional in parts listening to in some cases abhorrent behaviour that they (or colleagues, friends or family) had been subjected to as part of their journey.
I’ve summarised some of the key takeaways from some of the presentations, that may be useful for the audience reading this…
Parm Plummer, WomenEd’s Global Strategic Leader and a Secondary Assistant Headteacher based in Jersey presented on Women in Leadership. Her talk initially started with sharing the fantastic work of WomenEd: their campaigns, partnerships, networks (including their global reach) and the development opportunities they provide for female leaders. Parm then went on to help navigate the process of stepping up as a female leader. Initially, sharing the only image of a woman that came up during a Google search; before going on to provide tips to write a job application through to negotiating your terms. Parm gave tips including finding allies and joining networks.
Helen Witty, a neurodivergent Lead SENDCo based in the East of England who gave a pre-recorded video on Neurodivergent Leadership. She shared an insight into her job and life, as a SENDCo with ADHD. She shared about how being open about her ADHD at her job interview and how it positively impacts her life and those who she works with. Helen also gave a fantastic insight into the role of a SENDCo, for all those who aspire to this role.
Stephanie Shaldas, a secondary deputy headteacher leading on diversity and inclusion based in London. Her talk Leadership in Colour: Senior Leadership as a Black American Woman started with a story from March 2021 whilst she was working as an Acting Co-Headteacher. This story was based around Prince William visiting her school. What was a forty-five minute visit, led to a weekend of trending on Twitter, including one Tweet: ‘Who dressed up the secretary in African cloth and trotted her out?’ Stephanie went onto talk about her journey and how she felt like school leaders didn’t look like her, when she was in her early career. She shared her inspiring path to leadership including her own education as well as teaching and leadership roles at middle and senior level spanning both curriculum and pastoral. As Stephanie said, “If I can, then you can!” – find your why and explore your passions!
Mubina Ahmed, Head of Science Faculty, based in London gave a presentation titled: ‘Using my minority lens to lead.’ Mubina went on to talk about how she used her minority ethnic background to her strength in her leadership journey. She posed the key question: ‘Do we have equity in teaching?’ Mubina used research and evidence to back up every piece of advice and information that she gave; talking about building allies to help you bring your chair to the table.
Albert Adeyemi, co-founder of Black Men Teach and a Head of Year based in the East of England gave a talk based around wellbeing and belonging in leadership. He spoke eloquently about the importance of wellbeing, how every interaction with others builds up to this. He narrated the sense of being needed versus feeling wanting and knowing what you need to fill your cup, to achieve wellbeing and belonging. The part that really blew me away was a surprise from Albert, a spoken word about belonging; a part of the event which brought a tear to my eye.
Jaycee Ward, a phase leader in a Yorkshire primary school, spoke about imposter syndrome, based around her journey as a young senior leader. Jaycee narrated her journey to date and how she has completely changed her narrative and inner critic. She shared her five top tips for combatting imposter syndrome: Seek Support, Embrace Vulnerability, Celebrate Achievements, Self-Compassion, Self-Reflection. Something, everyone at the event resonated with.
Nicola Mooney, a secondary deputy headteacher based in the South West of England, who also volunteers for WomenEd and MTPT Project, gave an interesting presentation on ‘non-linear career paths’. She shared her journey through her career to date including multiple maternity leaves and periods of IVF. Nicola shared how by not going through the ‘traditional’ upward trajectory has enabled her to be successful both as a teacher and as a mother. It was a talk many welcomed, knowing it is not as simple and always useful to be continually promoted.
I feel very privileged to have spent time in the virtual room with these fantastic Diverse leaders. Step Up (and I) will continue championing for diversity, equity, and inclusion within the education leadership sector; and will ensure everyone has the chance to share their stories. If you want to get involved and find out more, then follow us on X (formerly Twitter) @StepUpNet_Ed and check out our website: www.stepupednet.wordpress.com.