What I am learning is about has been how the past has and conitnues to influence my values and behaviours. The research I intend to undertake will enable me to focus on the future and begin to indentify how I am influencing others in a rapidly changing
educational climate as a leader who is in an influential position as a school improvement advisor.
Why do I want to undertake this living research?
Possibly using a narrative methodology from a unique position
allows me to influence others who find themselves in school leadership roles, so that others too feel further connected in a tangible way and hence hopeful.
I think the reason I like a narrative methodology is for a variety of reasons,
but principally because I have for 30 years studied and worked in a business that means that my real voice is often curbed. I am constrained because, as I will explore later, I tend to suffer more than most when I do present a viewpoint that others don’t
hold or understand. Whilst valuing the need for ethics in research methods I can still at least, if not wholly, present a viewpoint without retribution or fear that I will lose my job.
I recognise that my ontological values constantly evolve,
which influence my thoughts and behaviours. Ultimately the core values I hold now are the values that I have held since I recognised I was a person. It is these values that have been the sun to my universe and just like the sun, have kept me grounded.
I am keen to explore further how my values have influenced and how they can and might influence my life and that of others similar to me in my role as a primary school improvement advisor.
I share the belief with Jack Whitehead as
he states -
I believe that each person has a responsibility to try to enhance their educational influence, while realising their other myriad responsibilities to: themselves; their family and friends; more distanced people such as employers and local
community; and to contribute to the flourishing of humanity.
Whitehead, Jack. Living Theory Research As A Way Of Life . Brown Dog Books. Kindle Edition.
My truth is created by my meanings and experiences and if I can share my unique position
as shown in my research by the diagrams in the opening of this blog, then it may be able to influence others and be used to contribute toward the flourishing of humanity.
The drive to feel connected with others, even if this means
At a lecture in 2019 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-28gv8W8B0s I was asked to look at the image of black people malnourished. During this lecture we were told
it is very important for us to understand suffering, because it makes us human. I interpreted this as it helps us to feel validated and connected to our world - ontology. In the words of Yuval Noah Harari ‘If you want to know the
truth about the universe, about the meaning of life and about your own identity the best place to start is by observing suffering and exploring what it is.’ https://twitter.com/wiserhumans/status/1106604827151384576
There is no doubt, like others I have suffered. In the two and half years that I have been discussing theories and theorists with the group, I have learnt so much about influencing values, theories and dynamics, and it has
enabled me to be even more reflective, not just in my role as a primary school advisor, but also as a human and the other roles I play in this life - mother, wife, neighbour etc.
Being made redundant from the role of executive headteacher was a humiliating
experience for me. The immediate lead up to and post the event I felt like I was in and then recovering from a major car crash. Not only did I have a complicated fractured leg to manage, but also the crisis that ensued in my mind from the rejection and possibly
unjust treatment I was experiencing at what I considered to be the height of my career.
http://www.pandagoeswest.co.uk/441366097 I turned that anger and frustration into finding out more about
human behaviours, epistemology, philosophical theories and global education climates. I became determined initially for my story, reflections and later the beginning of my research led process to continue and for any theory or outcomes to be not just about
me, but people like me to influence others. I determined that my story not to end, but for that car crash like journey to be a junction that I would walk away from, and use those scars to emerge even more empowered, resilient and later share and celebrate
my values. I didn't walk away from that crash on my own. I had many helping hands who showed me their compassion and love too. I have embraced the past since and intend to use the lessons with an aim to influence the motivations and capacity of future leaders
in a climate of diverse school leadership models to meet the needs of an English contemporary society. I believe that it has been the realisation that what happened during the lead up to and during my redundancy was a culmination of events, some of which
were in my control, some were not. What I remain keen to research is what values and behaviours do successful black leaders hold and develop that help them to thrive, despite the unique challenges they face.
I continue to hone and
identify my values that lead to my subjective and at times objective understanding of the world and ultimately form the bedrock of my thoughts and behaviours.
I do not yet know what my theories are. I have a variety of opinions, so may
consider using those as a bedrock to my initial research, so that I can metamorphose them into theories. My opinions constantly evolve as my ontological values evolve.
Here are some
- Regardless of the colour of your skin, how you identify
as a person determines the opportunities open to you
- I believe people of black heritage are pitted against in the UK, sometimes outcomes happen because of racism or bias of some kind, but sometimes bad outcomes happen because bad choices were made
and the outcomes were not predicated on racism or bias.
- Successful heads are successful 360 degrees if they desire to constantly take risks through developing and improving their understanding of communities, organisations and pedagogy – they
are humble servants to the profession and their communities first and last.
- The flooding of the public sphere even moreso today, with opinions and inaccurate information, has fuelled a seismic shift in influencing global politics -
- The voice of the retired community is more influential today than it has ever been
- In the drive to be accepted, I believe we spend the majority of our time investing how our impression will influence others.
- Black people tend to go to
arts events or into careers if they see themselves represented by other blacks. Although complex to generalise, we tend not to swim, play tennis or ride bicycles for the same reason white British disadvantaged families don’t. The reason I feel blacks
do not go into teaching is much more complex and difficult to generalise, hence why solutions are so difficult to identify and plan for.
Through any study I decide to undertake outcomes will provide both me and the reader a platform that may
further influence change.
http://insight.cumbria.ac.uk/id/eprint/3893/1/Whitehead_LivingTheoryResearch.pdf Theories are vehicles for explanation, prediction,
explanatory theory explains events by setting forth propositions from which these events may be inferred, a predictive theory sets forth propositions from which inferences about future events may be made, and a theory of control describes the conditions under
which events of a certain kind may be made to occur.
I want to contribute toward the knowledge base of all educators, specifically leaders who are often at the coalface of the political legislation, yet the implementation of their individual
interpretation of that policy influences their communities often significantly more than any government intended.
Major Events Timeline
- 1966 Born in
- Fostered for 5 months in and around Wiltshire
- 1966 Arrived with foster parents that would never formally adopt me but would be known forever more as mum and dad. In family of 2 boys, 1 adopted and the other was my parents’
natural son, another boy would join 10 months later. Hence, I grew up in a family with 4 children; 3 brothers.
- 1975 Became seriously ill and had nephrectomy, the disease which led to this surgery took approximately a year to be diagnosed and recover
- 1981 Physical assault on me by secondary school teacher
- 1982 Left school with no qualifications and went to local college; left with diplomas
- 1984 Left Wiltshire home, met future husband who was recently divorced with 2 children
(daughter and son) and moved to Bath
- 1985 and 1987 had two sons
- 1987 Visited Canada and USA – childhood dream come true and wetted appetite for more travel
- 1991 Achieved black belt and over a period of 2-4 years was British,
English and Welsh Champion of Tae Kwon Do across all 3 disciplines sparring, patterns and breaking wood
- 1996 Achieved BSc and QTS – started work in primary school as a temporary teacher in Bristol
- 1997 – started role as teacher
in Wiltshire – hometown
- 1999 Moved to Cambodia and left children (12 and 13 years old) at home with the intention they would arrive 4 months later with their dad
- 2000 Returned to UK and took up temporary teaching post in BANES (Bath
and North East Somerset)
- 2000 Took on permanent teacher role in a different primary school in BANES
- 2004 Started work as associate lecturer with the maths team at Bath Spa University as well as continuing class teaching in current school
- 2004 Father passed away
- 2005 - Achieved first diploma equiv. in education
- 2006 Moved to USA and became a Fulbright scholar
- 2007 Moved to London as deputy headteacher, retained home in Bath – first grandchild
- 2010 Moved to Devon to take up interim headteacher post in small village school and achieved NPQH – National Professional Qualification of Headteachers – 2nd diploma equiv. was awarded for being a top 5% school and
one of Devon’s most improved primary schools out of 500 schools
- 2011 Moved back to Bath – took up first substantive headteacher post in a primary school in Bristol in special measures
- 2011 Husband’s ex-wife and stepchildren’s
mother passed away
- 2013 Mother passed away
- 2014 Was awarded by Bristol as an inspiring headteacher and school was judged as good by Ofsted; the first time in the school’s history
- 2015 Took sabbatical and returned to executive
headteacher post across 5 primary schools, including previous school where I was the headteacher – 2nd grandchild was born.
- 2016 Brother passed away – achieved NPQEL – National Professional Qualification for Executive
Leadership - Executive Headteachers - 3rd diploma equiv.
- 2017 Broke leg, was made redundant and moved back to London where I took up a temporary primary headteacher post across two schools in a Multi Academy Trust
- 2018 Took a one
term interim primary headteacher post in Nottingham - 3rd grandchild born
- 2019 Took up a further 9-month sabbatical to look for future suitable role
- 2019 Moved out of London and sold house
- 2019 Moved to Bracknell to take
up post as school improvement advisor with local authority
- 2020 – I live in Bracknell and Bath. Have visited 37 countries. Although I love my job, I intend to retire in 2022 to travel more widely, study and learn. I have 2 stepchildren, 2 step
grandchildren, 2 sons, 3 grandchildren and husband of 36 years, play tennis, ride my bike to work and swim regularly.
The context of my research based process
CONTEXT – School Leadership and Observations in Bristol
NB that when I refer to BME I refer to non-white descent and when I refer to black, I refer to people
of black African or black Caribbean descent.
Since 2017, I have witnessed 24 leaders leave their school leadership team in London and Bristol, me included. For 100% of us, it was not our decision, none wrote or signed a resignation
letter without coercion from our governors or CEOs. The school leadership climate has been rapidly changing, chiefly owing to the government’s decision to improve upon their rankings in the OECD tables (Organisation for Economic Co-operation
and Development), a mechanism for measuring the success of implemented practices and policies, and the academisation programme. 33% of the 24 school leaders were BME. 24% of those that left, worked in Bristol for a period of 5 years or more in substantive
senior school roles were of black heritage. Black or mixed black heritage make up approximately 7% of the UK’s population. Bristol now has 1 black headteacher and only 1% of its teaching or senior leading staff out of its 186 primary, special, independent
and secondary schools.
More recent data on school pupils shows that the % of pupils who are not ‘White British’ has increased from 31% in 2011 to 38% in 2019. The percentage is even higher in Bristol’s primary schools.
In 2013 the number of white British pupils reported nationally was 76.4% and in 2019 it was 65.5%.
Between 2016 and 2017 Bristol had 7 substantive black school headteachers and school advisors and in 2020 it has one and none on its school
improvement team, whose members often sit on recruitment panels. 3 years later, out of those 24 school leaders that left their senior positions, only 2 remained in senior educational leadership roles with only one black, which is me. I was made redundant in
2017 and went on to successfully lead 3 different primary schools in interim roles. In September 2019 I took up a role as a school improvement advisor, advising and facilitating headteachers in Bracknell Forest, a local authority that has a typical profile
for a fringe borough outside of London. Being mixed black I am firmly in the minority of school improvement partners or school leaders in the borough. In my research led studies I want to explore why only two of the 24 who lost their leadership roles
between 2017 and 2019 continued to be employed in senior school leadership roles today. I will also compare these with some who lost or left their roles, but did not have a hiatus in their career and were appointed into similar roles or promoted.
Being BME in England
As someone who was brought up with white parents, but had a white birth mother and black Caribbean father, I have never really had a strong sense of belonging to a race or culture, so this reality has given
me the opportunity to invent myself. However, as mixed race, born in the 1960s, brought up in a county town in Wiltshire in care for 18 years, leaving school with no formal qualifications, having no family members, cousins, aunties, uncles, close family friends
etc going to 6th form or university and later having 2 children by the age of 21, you would probably be forgiven for thinking that I was typical and easy to profile and hence predict my life outcomes. Yet I became a successful headteacher of 6 different
primary schools and I am currently a school improvement advisor for a local authority.
To get to this position, it did not come without conflict and an occasional negating of my values of justice, love, ambition and compassion, which caused
me at times much torment and turmoil. It also didn't come without the conviction and support of many around me. Undoubtedly the headlines, books, tweets and blogs that refer to social injustice towards BME distresses me on various levels, but I recognise that
in order to react justly I do need to know the whole story. I own a whole story. My story and know the whole stories of the many BME friends, family and colleagues I have known for decades.
Therefore, as an extraordinary person,
I have insight into a world that is rarely experienced by others – call it a fantastic journey and it is my research led insight that may make the woke community further explore unexplored ideas. So, my question is ‘from the perspective of a mixed
black Caribbean leader, how do I influence the motivations and capacity of future leaders in a climate of diverse school leadership models to meet the needs of an English contemporary society?’
I have a black daughter in law from
Zimbabwe, who said that she never knew racism existed until she came to England in 2001. Since I became a conscious person – around 13 years old, I have lived with the effects of racism. The only black African country I have visited was South Africa
and it is among the most unequal countries in the world, so not a good comparator for the UK to research thoroughly against. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/africa/south-africa-unequal-country-poverty-legacy-apartheid-world-bank-a8288986.html
I will interrogate why there are few black teachers in England that don’t feel wholly marginalised. Why is it that I have become successful as a mixed black Caribbean leader? Why are there just 32 mixed black Caribbean headteachers in
the 16.5 thousand primary schools in England, against a backdrop of mixed ethnicity being the largest BME community in primary schools in 2020? Why are the black Caribbean leader numbers in schools not significantly increasing over a period of a decade. Why
are more BME colleagues leaving the profession quicker than any other ethnicity?
A survey of members in 2017 showed that BME teachers felt isolated and unsupported by their managers when dealing with incidences of racism
and career progression. Critically, 75 per cent of BME teachers were considering leaving the profession, compared with 64 per cent of white teachers.
‘People are starting to notice’ is not only the mantra for the recent film
Joker, but also a 21st century one for minorities or those for a long time that have felt marginalised. With a voice that has been dormant, until recently, coupled with the birth of social media and easy to self-publish books or magazines, which
are flooded with things the common man wants to vent about in the public sphere, it now feels the right time to share my living theories. Twitter, blogs and Instagram are beginning to replace the abject lyricist, playwright or poet, who were often part of
a sub-culture which engineered a movement which sometimes led to positive change for those considered disadvantaged and to address the social injustice that they have identified. Previously unknown people are speaking their mind to an eager audience ready
to prove popular sub cultured theories. Intersectionality, a term I have lived with for decades, has become a household word and pursuing equality is being turned into government and workplace policy with tangible accountabilities alongside them.
My own education, from nursery through to the continued professional development sessions I both deliver and attend will be drawn upon. From a young age, I understood the need to conform; read and mirror the expectations that were placed upon me. I also
rebelled against some of these and continue to, but I sometimes recognise how popular discourse that does not align with my values or beliefs but are the mantra of the day have to sometimes be carefully listened to before actions take place. A friend
recently posted a quote on social media ‘a mistake that makes you humble is much better than an achievement that makes you arrogant.’ I responded that this is one of my biggest fears; that people feel I am arrogant if I discuss my achievement.
If I challenge racism when I see it and I see it often and I don’t always challenge it, for the realisations of my fears being exposed, making me and other blacks even more vulnerable than we already are. These feeling possibly are borne from two things,
one I was brought up a Christian, where being humble is preached and expected and being black, where as a child and adult I was and am often taught I was or I am not worthy of praise or recognition. I continue to observe black pupils experience this same internal
and at times explicit conflict today.
With government education data illustrating that there are few black teachers and leaders[
coupled with black Caribbean or mixed black Caribbean pupils still underperforming in GCSEs and A levels compared to their white and Asian peers, this I believe must change, given that the attainment of 5 GCSEs at L5+ is considered a key indicator of
the likelihood of that young person having positive opportunities open for them for life. So if I can begin to see how I can use my influence to engineer change, whether this is through curriculum change to promote ensure students feel less marginalised or
changing the way the recruitment process to promote leadership to black leaders or how the induction process in schools or the local authority meets the needs of black children and adults, I can begin to see the value of this reserach led study.