Name: Angela Browne
Years Served in Education: 15
Years Served as a Headteacher: 4
Having served as an English teacher and then Head of English in central Bristol school and rural Wiltshire school respectively, I returned to inner city Bristol where I worked as Assistant Headteacher. I left this post to take up the post of Executive Deputy Headteacher of a federation between the EOTAS and a Special School in South Gloucestershire where I was soon promoted to Headteacher of the EOTAS. In 2014 I moved to take up my current post as Principal of an all-through, state funded Steiner School.
I have worked with some fabulous Principals. Ray Priest my first Headteacher was brilliant and exceptionally supportive. Viv Grant at Integrity Coaching provided support at a critical moment in my current Headship and the strong female educators in my family have offered endless inspiration and challenge.
Twitter Handle: @nourishedschool
Why did you become a Headteacher?
I had no doubt that at some point, I would become a Headteacher and it is a job I absolutely adore. I always had the feeling that if I could just get a little further and gain a little more traction, I could have a positive influence on the lives of more children. As my confidence in my leadership abilities has grown, I have found that the reason I wanted to become a head is not my main motivation anymore. Now I feel that my work is much more focussed on demonstrating strong and compassionate leadership and creating the conditions within school that enable the whole community to flourish.
Why do you engage with grassroots and social media?
I believe that you have a chance to influence change when you put yourself in a position (like school leadership) from which you can influence, yet, I also believe that change can happen profoundly at grass roots level. Finding a voice at grass roots level has helped me develop the more counter-cultural aspects of my leadership and it has helped me hone a slightly subversive voice! I have found in blogging and engaging with grass roots movements a healthy forum for reflection and peer review and I have gained insights that I frequently take back into the workplace.
As far as Social Media is concerned, I love talking and connecting, but in a school, the Principal’s role can be pretty lonely. Engaging on social media has provided me with mental stimulation, new friendships and inspiration. It can also be worked into a schedule in which a lot of multi-tasking needs to take place!
How do you celebrate the teaching profession?
I think teaching is a profession which is about the art of engaging in human interaction, it is about the the art of noticing and bearing witness to another person, as much as giving forth of what you know.
I celebrate the teaching profession by celebrating young people. Teaching in itself has ever been ‘the thing’ for me, rather it has been the opportunity to witness the emergence of knowledge, skills and wisdom in a young person that has kept me at it. Of course, there is much to be taught and much to learn but watching where that knowledge lands and what a young person does with it – that is worth celebrating.
My enthusiasm for young people is pretty infectious and I take every opportunity I can to share in what the young people in my school are up to!
How would you like to change the perception of Headteachers?
My perception of Headteachers has been shaped by the Heads I have worked with. They have all seemed so all-knowing, so flawless and so impressive. If we were to create more awareness for folk thinking about applying for Headship, about the diversity of Heads out there, it might encourage a greater number of people to step forth and think about leading.
There is a real opportunity with Headship to be radical, to be a thought leader, to change the world and I would love to see more people inspired to lead differently as a result of seeing more diverse leaders at the helm. At the same time there is scope for more of us to open up about our weak spots, it doesn’t feel like the environment is very safe to do this at times but we should not be modelling flawlessness as school leaders, we should be modelling being human, imperfect but courageous in the face of this.
What are the values that your shape you as a leader?
I think I am mainly shaped by a need to demonstrate integrity and I want that of the people around me. As a teacher I always aimed for classrooms in which there was a value placed on integrity and it is critical for me as a parent. That said, we are human and sometimes we fail. Compassion is therefore another big one for me. I try to demonstrate compassion towards myself and my team and always for the children. On those very tough days compassion is key and I think working on it makes me a better person. Freedom to be who you are, on your own terms and living the life you choose is somthing I would want for everyone, Freedom and Equality are bound up for me and I try to measure and reflect on the impact my freedoms have on the curtailing of others.
What have been the highs and lows of your role as Headteacher?
There are some days that I walk around our school and our fabulous site and my heart swells with pride for the magnificent school community we have shaped. It is thrilling getting to see your vision, carved with others, enacted on a daily basis. It is great to see your values in action through the work of like-minded teachers and support staff.
That said, it is such hard work and my experiences in setting up a new school have been that it just doesn’t stop. Nothing can be taken for granted and one has to develop the flexibility of a rubber band. Indeed – if this question was ‘What song sums up your experiences as a Headteacher?’ It would be Rubberband Girl…”if I could learn to give like a rubber band, I’d be back on my feet”…
When I started my first Headship I was given the task of restructuring the organisation and it flew in the face of my carefully constructed leadership persona in which I made everybody happy. A large part of me was afraid of upsetting others. An ally, a former inspector and my SIP at the time, said to me one day that I needed to keep in mind, particularly in challenging times, who I was there in service of. I use this measure to this day, whenever times are tough. Holding the children in mind, reminding myself of my service to them, makes me stand that bit straighter and hold my ground with much more intention.
The Good Immigrant (Edited by Nikesh Shukla)
I am learning more about how I have systematically played down the challenges of being a BAME educator. I am hoping this book will strengthen my voice on this issue so I can be of service to other BAME leaders and educators.
Hopeful Schools (Mary Myatt)
Everything Mary says resonates with me. I love this book and it is helping me clarify and hone my thoughts on running and creating schools that nourish the whole school community
Road School (Sue Cowley)
I wasn’t expecting to stumble across a book on alternative models of schooling, I work in one, but there is little in the mainstream about them, but by luck this landed in my hands. There is such a lovely humour in Sue’s writing and so far the book is strengthening my advocacy for families who opt for alternative models of schooling their children.
“You’re running a school, not the UN”.