Leading by nurturing: An Executive Headteacher’s experience

Leading by nurturing: An Executive Headteacher’s experience Elaine Brook

1st December 20151Comment

It’s Sunday evening and I have that feeling again. I go through my checklist: hair washed, clothes ironed, shoes polished, bag packed. I’m ready for school. I have had this same feeling for most of my life, only now I am rapidly approaching forty and I am the Executive Headteacher of two schools.

I never considered myself to be career orientated and am still not sure how I ended up where I am today.

When I was growing up it was never my plan to be a teacher, although I didn’t know what I wanted to be. For a time I wanted to be a police officer but even when I went to university I didn’t know what my next step would be. I was an ordinary girl from the East End of London, who worked hard at school, always afraid of doing the wrong thing. Before I knew it, I was the first person in my family to attend university and spent most weekends and holidays volunteering at youth groups and summer camps. As graduation approached, teacher training seemed like the only thing that made sense. I do not have children of my own I’ve always but had lots of kids in my life and been involved in an encouraging, nurturing role.

I still remember my first class, as if it were yesterday: their names, their faces, and how excited they were about everything. They are twentysomethings now, older than I was when I taught them, but I will always remember them as being five.

Teaching was something I loved and it never occurred to me that one day I would leave the classroom to take on a managerial role. I would take every opportunity to develop my classroom practice but avoid career progress opportunities when they came my way. Although confident in the classroom, I was anything but outside.

Luckily, sometimes people see something in you that you don’t see in yourself. I was fortunate enough to work for someone like this. Where my headteacher at the time was concerned, I had the inability to say no, and before I knew it I was agreeing to apply to be an Advanced Skills Teacher. One day a week I worked in other schools supporting teachers, on a consulting basis. A position created by the Government to retain excellent teachers in the classroom but pay them a leadership salary.

I was now dealing with the Sunday feeling on a daily basis: imposter syndrome. “Fake it ‘til you make it” became my mantra. I developed a game face and external confidence.

As time passed, I began to realise that I wasn’t faking anymore. I did know what I was talking about and could have a larger impact than just my own classroom.

In 2009, I decided to move back to London and had to decide on my next career move. I was terrified as I applied for my first deputy headship, shocked when I was invited to interview and amazed when I was offered the position. What did I know about leadership?

Daunted by the thought of what the future would hold, “fake it ‘til you make it” once again got me through the day. I loved my new job, it was full of challenges and completely different from my previous school; I was making a difference and having an impact beyond my own class: seeing other colleagues develop was exciting.

Life was good; I was beginning to understand my new role and finally starting to develop a real confidence. Then, as is the way in life, you can never tell what is around the next corner, everything changed. The event, that led me to where I am now, happened in February 2012. Ofsted!

I have never met a teacher that does not get anxious at the thought of Ofsted. And I got crushed. The school was put into Special Measures (failing) and from then on it was all change. The next few months were a blur. Teaching is challenging enough but now I needed to support my colleagues even more: to be positive, to be strong, to show that we would get through this tough time, and they needed to believe that I believed it. Before long, and to my surprise, I was made acting headteacher. It was a tough time but within the year, the school was inspected and we were graded ‘good’. I was so proud of my team. In 2015, I was asked to become Executive Headteacher of another school that was in Special Measures.

My belief that every child deserves the best education is at the heart of my leadership. Parents often assume that I have children and are surprised when I tell them I am a childfree woman. I have over six hundred children and ninety staff to look after though! They motivate me to get up every day. I want to provide every child with an engaging and exciting education. And I want every child in my school to flourish; to be the best that they can be.


Elaine Brooks Executive Headteacher
Elaine Brooks Executive Headteacher

I want to provide every child with an engaging and exciting education where they feel safe to fail and build up the resilience to keep on going.



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