Transformative Leadership: Principles ‘5’ & ‘6’ and their part in achieving mentally healthy schools
Let’s explore the 5th and 6th underpinning principles (out of eight) of Transformative Leadership (TL) in the context of achieving a mentally healthy school. It is important though, to remember that these two should be considered and embedded concurrently with the remaining six principles in order to achieve the full benefit of this leadership model.
Let’s start with the 5th principle: “emancipation, democracy, equity and justice”. Essentially this is about providing an environment that allows students to develop their knowledge, nurtures their ideas and opinions and supports individual growth, personal and social development1.
One Step Further
Taken one step further, it is about creating a fully inclusive environment that is welcoming to all those within the school but equally to parents and carers2; developing a community that welcomes and supports everyone, regardless of the background and socio-economic barriers that might otherwise restrict their engagement.
Taken to the fullest extent, it requires education to be a vehicle that enables children, and young people to acquire the broad range of knowledge and experiences that will fully prepare them for adulthood.
It is about enabling teachers to use the curriculum as the basis for class discussion to explore any given subject’s wider relevance to the students’ lives and aspirations, rather than limiting the educational potential to a simple knowledge transfer of the facts required to pass prescribed performance tests.
A Broader Approach
This broader approach to the curriculum3 makes better use of teachers’ vocational passion as educators whilst enabling all students, regardless of academic ability or other constraints, to engage more fully and equitably. This greater sense of freedom and involvement can only impact positively on wellbeing and foster young people’s natural thirst for learning, in turn enhancing their ability to achieve.
This is further supported by the introduction of the 6th principle: “interconnectedness, interdependence and global awareness” or developing an awareness of how external circumstances and events affect individuals’ wellbeing and learning capacity4.
It is about schools having a genuine knowledge of the material realities of their students, the barriers they face and the degree to which these may marginalise them and cause difficulties day to day in school. By taking time to understand students’ wider circumstances teachers and schools will be better placed to understand, empathise and proactively support that individual.
As an example: John’s teacher sees a failing student who spends his time day-dreaming and getting into arguments with classmates. She has tried talking to him but is frustrated because he won’t communicate. She is now considering exclusion.
Reliance on Free School Meals
How different might her approach (and the impact on John) be if she knew that John lives in poverty5 and relies on free school meals (FSM) for his one decent meal each day. He worries about his family’s finances, feels the stigma of receiving FSM6, gets teased about his clothes and constantly feeling hungry7, finds it difficult to concentrate in class. John knows his teacher is cross with him so doesn’t feel able to talk to her, nor does he want to tell his parents because he doesn’t want them to be embarrassed.
This is just one example, but it illustrates how the 6th principle can facilitate better knowledge, understanding and more effective wellbeing support pathways for students and in conjunction with the other principles of TL; create stronger, mentally health schools.
1 Department for Education and Skills
2 National College for School Leadership
3 Cambridge Primary Review Trust
4 Public Health England Briefing Paper
5 Joseph Rowntree Foundation
6 Child Poverty Action Group
7 Kellogg’s; The reality of hunger in the classroom
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