Home / Education / Article 5: Transformative Leadership: Creating Mentally Healthy Schools

Transformative Leadership: Principles ‘1’ & ‘2’ in the context of achieving mentally healthy schools

There are eight underpinning principles; each as important as the others, and in adopting a transformative leadership approach it is important to understand the synergies between each principle and the need to adopt and embed them concurrently not in isolation.  Hence, calling them 1st and 2nd here is simply a numbering convention, not a priority order.

It is equally important to understand that the underpinning principles of Transformative Leadership (TL) do not replace goals and actions; instead, they create an environment that enables change, both in the way we do things and the outcomes we achieve.  TL is the pathway that leads to those end goals, the foundation that will sustain the successes achieved and the catalyst for more.

Put simply: TL is about getting everybody to consider what kind of world they are creating with their thoughts, actions, beliefs and interactions with others.  It is about collaborative change for mutual and equal benefit.

The first principle is that TL will “deliver deep and equitable change”.  This is not about reacting to the latest trend, tinkering with processes or finding a quick fix.  It starts with identifying what needs to be transformed; which in our context is the negative impact of poor mental health1 and wellbeing on students’ ability to learn, achieve and fulfil their potential.

Next, we need to identify the factors of inequalitythat cause some children and young people to have mental health issues whilst others do not and the short and long term consequences of  inequality of opportunity3.

Once all of this is understood, we can begin to identify those reforms that will enable a deep, meaningful change that satisfies the transformative school’s balanced aims of achieving academic excellence and social equality.  The final step towards achieving deep and equitable change is to determine specific goals and the actions required to attain them.

The second principle is to “deconstruct and re-construct ‘knowledge’ frameworks”. Essentially this is about identifying the conscious and subconscious pre-conceptions that generate inequality and reframing them.  It is about challenging inappropriate assumptions and negative attitudes about people whose lived experiences differ from our own.

It is about creating an environment where it is not acceptable to judge a young person based on their background, social class, parents, personal hygiene, academic prowess, appearance or any of the other myriad factors that contribute to inequality of a young person’s experience of school and education as a result of the ingrained attitudes and prejudice of their teachers or peers.

It is about engaging in honest conversations about emotive subjects to fully understand how preconceived ideas about these may hinder our ability to be equitable in our attitude to and treatment of young people.  It is about demanding a culture where rather than ‘blaming’ a young person for poor performance, we seek to identify and address the real barriers4 that are holding back their education.

Most of all, it is about creating a culture that allows children the freedom to come to school and engage positively without fear or shame or stigma.

Transformative Leadership requires a different mind-set, but the wellbeing benefits facilitated by these and the remaining six principles could be life changing for schools, staff and young people.

Read more (links to article 6)


1 Public Health England Briefing Paper

2 The Mental Health Foundation; Children & Young People

3 The Centre for Mental Health

4 Success at School (.org)

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