Being reliable and trustworthy, remaining whole and true to your potential.

“My Head Teachers’ Leadership Academy (HTLA) came at just the right moment for me. At the beginning of Covid-19, our inboxes piled up with new information and our diaries emptied of planned engagements. Suddenly the timetable was beyond our control. One of the cancellations that stung the most was my Columba 1400 residential experience on the glorious Isle of Skye, originally scheduled for May 2020. Instead of inspiring vistas on sunlit spring mornings, the HTLA moved online, meaning I started the experience in my box room. That was hard.

“As a senior leader with responsibility for pupil support, I am used to carrying a pretty heavy emotional backpack. I work with my wonderful staff team and numerous tenacious partners to support young people and their families during what can be their most challenging times, consistently trying to find the positives in what can sometimes seem to be hopeless situations. Covid-19 wasn’t a substitute for these difficulties, it was an addition to them. It can be hard, therefore, to keep hold of enough emotional resources to look after you and yours, too.

“Whenever we get on an aeroplane, the safety briefing asks us to put our own oxygen masks on first, before assisting others. This is what we have to do as school leaders. Taking part in the HTLA programme gave me permission, for just a few days out of an extraordinary year, to put the mobile on silent, keep the email window minimised, and regain focus on why on earth we all do this job in the first place. This is desirable at any time, but at that point, it was an absolute necessity.

“Columba 1400 asks us to think big, to think positive, and to see possibilities where others might see barriers. It’s about trusting ourselves as a profession; doing the right thing even when no one is watching, and being aware that we are not alone in fighting the good fight. Teaching is not about having all the answers, but about believing that you can work them out together. Because if you don’t believe that you have the capacity to leave the world a better place, then what are you in education for?”

Gail Preston, Depute Head Teacher, Dalkeith High School, Midlothian

Group in happy discussion around a table
Four women walking in the rain along a beach on Skye
Woman giving presentation on 'The Professional Actions of Head Teachers'