Tag Archives: #healthandwellbeing


I was pleased to have been asked by Hannah Wilson to add to the Talking Heads blog. Here is my contribution:

Name: Mary Isherwood

Phase: Primary

Sector: Special

Region: North West

Years Served in Education: 30 years

Years Served as a Headteacher: 16 ½ years

Leadership Journey: In my earlier career I had middle leadership responsibilities including subject leader for music and whole school assessment lead. I worked as a deputy headteacher in an all age special school where I taught all classes to cover for teacher’s PPA. During this time I completed my NPQH and also my Masters in Educational Leadership. I was headteacher at a small special school in South Manchester for 4 ½ years before moving to my current headship where I have been for 12 years

Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration: A headteacher I worked for was a really positive role model which in itself was inspirational. In addition she spotted the things I was good at, praised me, encouraged me and facilitated opportunities for me.

Twitter Handle: @Mishwood1

Blog: https://maryisherwood.wordpress.com/

Why do you think we need to develop a coaching culture in our schools?

I have a passion to empower and to develop others and feel that a coaching culture is the best way of achieving that – the idea of transformational leadership to make that shift in individuals and really move things on in the school. More often than not others already have the ideas and solutions and just need that encouragement to develop and have confidence in themselves.

Why do we need to be outward-facing as leaders?

As leaders we have a responsibility for the good of all children not just those within our own school and we are in a great position to be able to influence change on a wider scale so by networking and being outward facing generally, we are in a much better position to be able to do so. There is so much we can learn from others too – it is a privilege to go into others schools and learn from them as well as spend time in professional discussions with others whether that be on line or face to face.

How do you create a culture of wellbeing?

We are a team and as such need to be there to support each other as human beings with things that happen in our lives as well as staff colleagues. I am a big believer in being an Investor in people in the widest sense of the word and that includes health and wellbeing / work life balance. We have a number of things in school to support staff wellbeing including a subscription to the Employee assistance programme https://www.employeeassistance.org.uk/, a school counsellor who is available to staff on certain time – slots during the week and an appraisal system which includes a health and wellbeing discussion as an integral part of the process.

 What are the values that your shape you as a leader?

The children! At the heart of every decision – asking myself what would be the difference / impact on them

What makes you get out of bed every morning?

The children!

Leadership Advice

Don’t feel that you have to give an instant response to every query – people will often expect that as you are the leader. It is ok to respond with ‘leave it with me and I will get back to you’ when you need time to reflect.

 Leadership Inspiration

I am currently re-reading one of the books by Paul McGee (The SUMO guy). ‘How to succeed with people’.  I have bought and enjoyed all of the books Paul has written and found them invaluable in my personal as well as professional life. I am using some of the aspects of his SUMO approach when I am delivering NPQML training as there are so many ‘common sense’ ways of looking at leadership challenges through the SUMO lens

Leadership Mantra

Remember to be:







– PROUD in everything you do!

 Please follow @TalkingHeadsBlog #TalkingHeadsBlog and check out other posts here: https://talkingheadsblog2017.wordpress.com/

1000 years of Experience : My contribution

I have finally taken up the challenge set by @ChrisChivers2 and added to by many others to reflect and record some of my thoughts as an experienced educator as part of his collection of ‘1,000 years of experience‘ So here goes………………….

I have over 20 years experience as a teacher and senior leader in Special Education ( Early Years, Primary and Secondary). I have been headteacher for a total of 14 years in two different special schools.

On you as a person:

  • Be consistently Passionate, Respecful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated. PROUD of what you do.
  • Stay strong to your moral purpose – know what you believe in and stick to it!
  • Do the right thing for the right reasons
  • Always have that quest and thirst for learning more – challenging yourself to go that one step further, make things that little bit better.
  • Have a life outside of work making sure you take care of your health and well-being too

On children:

  • Know the children really well – think carefully about their holistic needs
  • Spend time observing, talking to and listening to the children
  • Know that they must be at the heart of every decision – always ask yourself the question – what does it mean for them?
  • Recognise that we learn as much from them as they learn from us
  • Make use of professional dialogue with colleagues and most importantly with parents / carers to reflect on how best to work with the children

On leadership and management ( working with people):

  • Treat people as ‘they’ would want to be treated – don’t make assumptions
  • See the ‘other side of the beach ball’ when working with people – what does the situation look like for them?
  • Use emotional intelligence ……. with abundance!
  • Listen ……………..and hear what is being said
  • Don’t always feel you have to respond immediately to queries / issues – sometimes you may want / need time to reflect.

There is no ‘I’ in team: Responding to a school tragedy

The importance of support from your colleagues within the school environment, indeed in any work place, is something none of us would ever underestimate I am sure. Having positive working relationships, collaboration and support is of course important at all times, however, at a time of a school crisis or when facing a tragedy it magnifies the need for the support of others all the more.

Those of you who have read my blogs before or who read my tweets will know very well our school set of agreed professional behaviours of being Passionate, Respectful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated, making Camberwell Park a school to be PROUD of. I have a fabulous team of nearly 80 staff who this week have shown these qualities in abundance.

On Tuesday 1st September, we returned to school for the start of the new school year and launched straight into our training day initial meeting at 8.30 a.m. We had been sharing school news , updates on our exciting new school building and the priorities in our School Improvement Plan. Staff were enthusiastic and were engaging in small group discussion about their hopes, for the year for the pupils and for themselves when just before 9 a.m. I was called out of the meeting to hear the news that one of our teaching assistant colleagues had died a 8 a.m. that morning. Whilst she had been ill, her loss was not expected. She is a long standing member of the school team who has many friends both inside and outside of the school and indeed many staff who are related to her.

As I walked back into the hall to stop the meeting and to tell the staff the news I was only too aware of the impact it would have and how as the headteacher I wanted to do everything  could to support people. In schools we do have really difficult news and situations that occur  of all different types and sadly in special schools including at my own school , death of pupils is something we do on occasions have to face. Death of a much loved colleague has got to be up there are one of the most difficult scenarios and as human beings first and members of staff second – people need understanding and support.

This blog is an accolade to my staff team who could not have supported each other more. In a sense, that the tragedy happened on a training day allowed us the flexibility to manage the day in a way that was helpful to us as a community. That we were able to have the time to come together as a team during the day to share some of our happy memories and funny stories for example was both positive and healing.

Whilst clearly the sadness has just not disappeared over night, in true P.R.O.U.D. form, the staff were all in ready for the 8.30 start the next morning and have given our pupils a fantastic first week of the new term. It has been a pleasure and privilege to walk round school and to see the work going on and to see the children engaging in some great learning. Also to see the team continuing to work collaboratively and supportively with each other and supporting me and the leadership team, for example on Friday evening, when one of the home-school transport vehicles was late, without hesitation huge numbers of staff offered to stay beyond their hours and support with the group of pupils who were left. As headteacher, I could not ask for any more.

Moral of my story? I guess just to reinforce how for me you cannot undermine all of the work we do as an Investor in People and about being a team. Staff are the most expensive and valued resource and we must invest in them. We must remember though our team are people and human beings first and we must respect each individual as such. Losing a colleague this week has reminded us all that despite our own individual grief and ways of dealing with it,  there is definitely no ‘I’ in team.

I remember her with fondness and am sat here now thinking of some of those funny stories we shared together earlier on this week. May she rest in peace


twitterati challenge

On Thursday 30th April, I was honoured to have been included by my much valued colleague and close friend Cherryl-kd @cherrylkd in her top 5 of  ‘Go to’ Educators in the #TwitteratiChallenge  http://tinyurl.com/lgacyzw 

It is a challenge initiated by Ross, @TeacherToolkit – “In the spirit of social-media-educator friendships, this summer it is time to recognise your most supportive colleagues in a simple blogpost shout-out. Whatever your reason, these 5 educators should be your 5 go-to people in times of challenge and critique, or for verification and support”:  http://tinyurl.com/m6nn5wv

I very much appreciate the collaboration I have and the support I receive from a number of people  – so what a great way to give them a mention!

Here are the rules:

There are only 3 rules.

1. You cannot knowingly include someone you work with in real life.

2. You cannot list somebody that has already been named if you are already made aware of them being listed on #TwitteratiChallenge.

3. You will need to copy and paste the title of this blogpost and (the rules and what to do) information into your own blog post.

What to do?

There are 5 to dos you must use if you would like to nominate your own list of colleagues.

1. Within 7 days of being nominated by somebody else, you need to identify colleagues that you rely regularly go-to for support and challenge. They have now been challenged and must act and must act as participants of the #TwitteratiChallenge.

2 .If you’ve been nominated, you must write your own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost within 7 days. If you do not have your own blog, try @staffrm.

3. The educator nominated, that means you reading this must either: a) record a video of themselves (using Periscope) in continuous footage and announce their acceptance of the challenge, followed by a pouring of your (chose) drink over a glass of ice.

4. Then the drink is to be lifted with a ‘cheers’ before the participant nominates their 5 other educators to participate in the challenge.

5. The educator that is now (newly) nominated, has 7 days to compose their own #TwitteratiChallenge blogpost and identify who their top 5 go-to educators are.

That’s the easy bit – saying the purpose of the post and including the rules – it was hard for me to choose only 5 as there are more people if the rules had allowed I would’ve included so please don’t be offended – I could only include 5. I did think of giving a few more a sneaky mention but I am a good girl so top 5 it is…here goes – in no particular order:

Julie Clarke @JulieEClarke

Socialist, swimmer, Hornets fan and, hopefully, good friend and good company. All views my own.

   Julie Clarke

I have known Julie since 2007 when we did our M.Ed in Educational Leadership together. We met on the course and it turned out we lived near to each other. Julie has continued to be a valued colleague and close friend. I trust her implicitly and know that both personally and professionally her advice will always be honest.  She is frank and direct in her views as those that read her tweets and blog will know but she writes her blog posts with eloquence and considered thought. I enjoy reading them. She sometimes challenges my thinking  but I know she always has my best interests at heart. She is generous with her time and her support  and I know she is equally supportive to many others around her. I’m glad to have you in my life Mrs Clarke. Thank you.

Nick Hague  @educationbear

Primary Teacher, Associate Head, Leadership Coach/Mentor, Primary School Governor & . RTs do not imply agreement. Views are my own.


Nick was one of the first people I followed and who followed me on twitter. I distinctly remember one of our first interactions was me asking if I could send him a draft of a plan for a staff meeting I was working on and seeking his views. He readily agreed and gave me helpful, constructive feedback. This continues reciprocally on a regular basis to this day. Nick and I regularly share resources and information by email and also chat on the phone about a range of issues. Nick has also become a true and close friend. I respect and value his views, friendship and support.  Thank you Nick for being who you are.

ClaireC @Constant55

Primary Headteacher. I love collaboration, communication and seeking out the spark that ignites individuals passion to improve. Music lover, baker,cook,thinker


Claire is also someone I have been in contact with since my early twitter days. Like me, Claire is a ‘lark’ rather than an ‘owl’ and can often be found tweeting in the early hours of the morning, usually accompanied by her cat, Ollie. I have been delighted to have been able to have met Claire at a conference last year, but even before I did her kind, generous, supportive, warm, caring nature came through very much in her tweets and our interactions. Claire has been generous in sharing information she has gathered on training with me and colleagues and has also been willing to share information about her own school to support me in my inspection training. Her philosophy and approach to leadership is one I subscribe to and I am delighted that I have the opportunity to meet with her at her school very soon. I look forward to valuable professional discussion but also – as on twitter – lots of laughs! Thank you Claire for our connection.

Nicola Wood @NicolaWood64

Primary Headteacher. ‘Jill’ of all trades; Master of none. Aspiring to be outstanding but requiring improvement daily.


Nicola is a twitter colleague I ‘became aware of’, noticing her tweets as my twitter journey went along –  noticing her dedication, wit, care, support of others and appreciated her interactions with me.. Nicola also is consistently willing to share ideas and resources and information from her school. I just loved the ‘Take-away’ CPD model she produced and not only did she let me have the PDF copy but also the word copy that I could adapt for my own purposes. Most recently Nicola as shared with me and a small group of colleagues her completed SEF  – it is such a privilege when colleagues feel they have the trust with each other that they are able to share in this way. As headteachers, it is really important to have that type of relationship and Nicola I value our professional contact and also your friendship and support very much. Thank you

Jay Virk @virkjay

Head teacher, owner of Bonnie the boxer, on a constant quest to increase fitness through running, love baking, enjoy good food and wine. Ever the optimist!


What would the early bird club be without Jay! Jay is one of the most positive, encouraging and supportive people I know on twitter. She always has time to respond to people, congratulating on their successes and sending supportive messages when they’re feeling low. What people do not necessarily know or see however is how generous and kind Jay is behind the scenes. As with all other colleagues mentioned in my top 5, I count Jay as a friend. We regularly share DMs. She remembers things going on in my world and sends me good luck messages, asks me how I have gone on, celebrates and commiserates with me as needed. Jay also is generous in sharing information and resources from her school and from training she has received. I meet Jay last year at a conference – can’t wait to see you again soon Jay! Thank you Jay for everything you do.

So there it is – my top 5!

Like I said before – there are others I am finding it tough not mentioning……I am thinking of you as I am writing this…… Twitter is such a great place for CPD, support, sharing and more than a few laughs along the way!

Enjoy the ~TwitteratiChallenge everyone!

Being PROUD: Passionate, Respectful, Organised, Understanding and Dedicated

I am working on the assumption here that connecting with others in a positive way is a premise that people would not disagree with. I consider myself to be a ‘people person’ and an ‘Investor in People’ in the truest and widest sense, so in this context my interactions and relationships with others both personally and professionally are really important to me. People matter.

Whilst the premise of positive relationships would seem to be a sound one, we do not however always take the time to reflect on what we mean by that – the underlying behaviours which are conducive to making it happen. In the context of the workplace, this is what we did as a school team – we set about agreeing a set of professional behaviours that we would all subscribe to.
It was a whole team activity, starting with an individual reflection and a task to write 5 words / 5 behaviours, moving on to a refining process in pairs, then small groups until the full staff discussed and refined further the core behaviours we felt underpinned our ethos and way of working. When one member of staff said during the discussion, ‘I am really PROUD to work at this school’, it all fit into place!


These agreed set of professional behaviours are embedded into the school ethos and the way we work as a team for example:
• They are used right from recruitment and selection e.g. at interview a question may be ‘Choose one of these 5 behaviours, say why you have chosen it and how you would demonstrate it in your work at the school?’
• They are explicit on our ‘meet the staff’ page on the school website http://tinyurl.com/l7af485 as well as on the staff vacancies page http://tinyurl.com/ngu9p5s
• They are included in the introduction of all policy statements with the PROUD behaviours made bespoke to the particular policy.
• They are used as part of dialogue during appraisal discussions
• They are used in the annual staff questionnaire…Tell me how during this year you have demonstrated……….
• I often hear the terminology used spontaneously by staff during meetings or during conversations on the corridor
• If you follow me you may have noticed me tweeting it once or twice too!
The impact of this in school has been a common language for us to use around working as a team and our professional behaviours. Our expectations of each other and towards others are clear and fully permeate aspect of our school life – the way we do things around here!
Whilst this was done as a school / workplace activity, you might agree that actually being PROUD of your friends and family, being Passionate about wanting to spend time with others, being Respectful of their views, being Organised in maintaining contact with them, being Understanding of their needs and being Dedicated to support them when they need you is not a bad way to live your life.
As for me I have a real Passion for the job I do, best job in the world! I Respect my staff as colleagues and human beings and as such Understand that the job can be both rewarding and challenging and whilst I expect high standards and hard work – absolutely, I want staff who are happy in their work and feel supported in turn being at their best and giving their best to the pupils and their families. In this context, I ensure I am Organised in my role and responsibilities  and make myself available as needed. I Understand that in a diverse school community the needs and wants of individuals and groups can vary on a day to day basis and therefore there is a need to be flexible and I am Dedicated to being the best I can be at what I do. I am a PROUD headteacher

Mary Isherwood @Mishwood1

Camberwell Park School @CamberwellPark        www.camberwellpark.dbprimary.com

#Teacher5ADay Health and Wellbeing

Consideration of health and wellbeing is of high importance to me. So much so it was the area I chose to write about under the theme of #CaringIsSharing last August http://wp.me/p4cGdC-1B  A theme initiated by the very caring and sharing @MartynReah.I was PROUD that some of my ideas on supporting staff health and wellbeing were included in Martyn’s original #TLT14 presentation and to have been referenced in his original blog on the topic http://wp.me/p4VbxY-6E

Martyn’s work on health and wellbeing has continued and he is now encouraging us to consider our own and other’s Health and Wellbeing in January under the theme of #Teacher5ADay http://wp.me/p4VbxY-76.

This is my Plan:


I feel lucky to be connected with so many knowledgeable, collaborative and supportive colleagues already both in the virtual world of twitter and in my professional community / extended community. Connecting is imperative for me both personally and professionally. It challenges my thinking and gives me support and reassurance. Both virtual and real life connections are equally valid and I am grateful for them both. I have been lucky to have met many new colleagues in ‘real life’ whose initial contacts were via twitter @education bear, @virkjay, @Cherrylkd, @constant55, @NIchola80, @NicolaWood64, @betsysalt, to name but a few – and there are lots more! ( Sorry can’t mention all or else you will all be asleep by the end of the list) I have learned from all of these people and value their connection. I am delighted to have welcomed some of them to my school and have already in the diary at least 2 other tweeps I am looking forward to welcoming at the end of January. Northern Rocks was such a great place to connect  last year – bring on June 2015! I am definitely therefore going to continue to connect including with the schools in my network – their challenge and support is invaluable to me and to the school I work in. http://wp.me/p4cGdC-1x

Be Active

How could I write a blog in which the heading is ‘Be Active’ and not mention swimming! I have to say swimming has made such a difference to my energy levels and feeling of wellbeing and as mentioned in my nurture 14 / 15 this now has been extended to outdoor swimming! http://wp.me/p4cGdC-2h

PE and physical activity in the wider sense is a significant part of our school curriculum, so much so we have included it as one of our ‘core’ subjects and assigned responsibility for it to one of the assistant headteachers. One of the commitments for this year as we get our new building therefore is to ensure that the outdoor grounds are also conducive to being used and enjoyed by our pupils and indeed by the staff too. As well as MUGA , wheelchair roundabout and wheelchair swings, also the development of our horticultural areas including outdoor classroom.

Keep learning

I guess some of this is covered by the connect heading in that I learn every day from lots of people with whom I connect but my huge learning curve started last year and continuing this year is that of training as an inspector. It has been and continues to be a huge amount of additional work on top of the ‘day job’ but I do feel I am learning alot which I am able to take back into my own school in a positive and constructive way – we have done a number of activities as a staff team e.g. a focus on learning and what it is about teaching which contributes to it, which everyone has found useful and supportive in their work in the classroom. I always want to keep learning!

Take notice

Taking notice is an area that I will have to work really hard on! I live in a lovely area, am lucky to have a really nice garden, pass hills and fields on the way to work but being honest often am so busy ‘getting on with it’ that I fail to take notice. The same is true of noticing too much the things I didn’t manage to achieve each day at work rather than noticing and celebrating the things I did. I am going to work really hard therefore on taking notice and appreciating the things and people around me and maybe write myself an ‘achieved’ rather than a ‘to do’ list!


People are so very important to me and what I can give them and hopefully do already give is my time and a listening ear. I do have my office door open at work all the time unless I am in a meeting or on the phone and want people to feel that they can come in and talk to me what ever the issue is. I shall continue to do so!

I have had lots of years of experience and I feel as such I want to be able to share and support where ever possible and giving of my time and knowledge, including via twitter / email gives me pleasure. Recently a tweep through a Direct message said they were surprised and pleased I had responded and helped – my response – we have all been new to the job or have new challenges at some time and if I can advise, help, support or encourage I will always do so.

Thank you @MartynReah for making us reflect, think and challenge ourselves about our own and each other’s health and wellbeing – Here’s to a happy and healthy 2015!