Great to be back in the (class) room

It was such a privilege earlier this month to get to know Executive Head Teacher Ciran Stapleton and his senior leadership team at St Joseph’s Catholic High School in Slough. Leading Edge have a fantastic relationship with Ciran, initially through Patrick supporting England Rugby’s U20s development with an initiative at Thomas Becket Catholic School in Northampton (when Ciran was Head) and more recently through our Performance Hub events, bringing clients, colleagues and Ciran together to share experiences and gain insight of leadership strengths in different environments.

Ciran’s ethos for the schools he leads is to create a place where children aren’t just loved but where they know they’re loved. For him and his leadership team, this ethos is what brings about a school atmosphere where the dignity and worth of every pupil is recognised and all pupils become academically successful.

I was so keen to share in this journey and build on this relationship, one that’s so important to us at Leading Edge. For me personally, having played for Slough Hockey Club for seven years, I relished the chance to support a local school that hasn’t always had the advantages of some others.

Ciran is charismatic and inspirational – we know that, and our clients and colleagues who’ve spent time with him say the same. He absolutely cares for each and every pupil and his power of purpose is so strong – this combination has enabled transformational change at both St Joseph’s and Thomas Becket. His ethos of making sure every pupil is loved – more importantly, making sure they truly know they’re loved – carries through everything he does as a Head to lead his team and inspire every pupil to be the best they can be.

Developing best practice for a socially distanced workshop

The school’s leadership team has many new faces (great teachers generally move on to be Heads and Assistant Heads elsewhere!) so Patrick and I supported them with a focus on uniting their team purpose around the school’s mission of ‘unlocking belief in all’.

This was our first socially distanced workshop in COVID times and we had the perfect setting: a big drama room with lots of open space and an airy feel. It was great to be working with people in the same room again, although, I have to say, I’ve also really enjoyed supporting clients (and England U18’s Girls Hockey) virtually in the past few months. I can definitely see a natural blend of the two being a great approach going forward.

A facilitated Lego activity provided the teachers with a creative way to share stories of their sense of belonging and being part of the school’s turnaround (from near closure to where it is today with a ‘Good’ rating, strong culture and pupils proud to attend). These teachers are so clearly driven by their vocation and it was humbling to hear their passion for the pupils and the school.

While planning this session, Patrick described how he always feels inspired when coming away from spending time with Ciran and his pupils… and I absolutely know why. At Thomas Becket, if you ask pupils to describe what the school is like, they say: “We’re really smart”, “We don’t use phones”,  “We don’t fight in corridors”. They recognise that these things make the school a great place – and these feelings of pride come from how loved they are. It all comes back to Ciran’s ethos.

We’re lucky at Leading Edge to have met Ciran and have this opportunity to support him and his team. Through this relationship, we get to share ideas on strong leadership culture and experience a world different from our own – that’s so powerful. To transform your own world, you need to understand other worlds and other ways of doing things. We’re chuffed to be able to help make this connection for our clients, too.

Creating a special “well done” for St Joseph’s pupils

School kids have had a pretty rough time recently, missing out on their normal routines and not seeing friends. So it was a real pleasure for Patrick and me to help Ciran give his school leavers a memorable send-off. For their Virtual Awards Ceremony, we tapped up sporting friends and colleagues to record messages of congratulations…

Special thanks go to England Rugby players Anthony Watson, Joe Launchbury and Tommy Taylor; to Lizzie Simmonds (Olympian – swimming) and Sam Murray (Olympian – modern pentathlete) – both now Leading Edge Team Coaches – and to my friend and former England hockey player Kate Richardson-Walsh, who won Gold at the Rio 2016 Olympics. We played at Slough together for many years and now co-coach at Hampstead and Westminster Hockey Club.

All the messages were so personal and encouraging – here’s Kate’s

What a lovely thing to be able to do for a fantastic Head and these hard-working pupils. Now it’s time to enjoy summer!

Here I am (far right) with Kate (next to me) back in the day – I was at Slough Hockey Club from 1996 to 2003. We were Women’s League Champions for five of those seasons, which meant we represented England at the European Club Championships each year. This picture’s from Terrassa, Spain, where we picked up a medal for our efforts.

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Sarah Kelleher

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