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School leadership – how I discovered I already had the skills I needed

How I found that the skills I was looking for were in me all along – I just needed to recontextualise them…

Nicky Bishop
by Nicky Bishop
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I began my teaching career as a TA in a secondary school. I held the post for around two years, but quickly caught the education bug and trained to be a teacher.

I was keen for a new challenge, and figured that that formative time in secondary – as well as my background in music and drama – would set me up well for EYFS.

So here I am – and I love it.  

Recently, my role has evolved to include the day-to-day running of the nursery, helping to coordinate a team of eight – one other teacher and seven nursery nurses – and arranging which children should be in which classroom with what staff member.

Although I have worked with a lot of teams during my career, I hadn’t before had a taste of leadership; like with teaching, as soon as I did, I wanted more.  

I am very lucky in that my nursery supported me to take part in a leadership course, which has taught me a huge amount, and definitely influenced the way I work.  

So, what exactly have I learned?  

Leadership styles

Well, as you can imagine, there was a lot of practical advice to take on board – such as using coaching techniques to help people solve their own problems – and a real understanding of different leadership styles (a whole separate article!).

However, the most pertinent takeaway for me was the importance of being credible and authentic as a leader. This is absolutely vital, but does take time to build up.  

I’ll be honest – this wasn’t something I’d necessarily thought a lot about before the course, but it has become absolutely central to the way I do my job as a leader, and even influenced my teaching.

A lot of it came down to being precise about what I promised my team, and making sure I could follow through on things – hollow yeses are not the way to build up trust.

I also learned some strategies for showing staff that they had a voice in the nursery, and I was listening. A big part of this was clearly communicating the organisation’s wider vision to the team, so we could discuss together how to make it specific to their roles, rather than just have it hanging over everyone as a contextless, broad aim.

Showing how our values and vision relate directly to the teachers’ and nursery nurses’ work helped us figure out that, leader or not, we’re all on the same page, and want to put children first.  

This kind of transparent discussion made us more effective as a team, and helped my colleagues trust that I had their interests – as well as the children’s – at heart.  

Credibility and authenticity

And that’s just the adults. As you’ll know if you’re a teacher or TA, children can sense in a second when you’re not being authentic, or if you’re just going through the motions.

At nursery, most of what we do occurs through play, and once a pupil invites you into their imaginary world, it’s a clear sign they trust you.

But as with staff, this doesn’t happen by itself.

The leadership training helped me see that the rapport I am able to develop with the children comes from taking an interest in them and supporting them to try new things.

Seemingly simple actions such as encouraging pupils to contribute to class discussions, and thanking them for their efforts even if they don’t come up with the right answer, is a really valuable leadership tool that you can definitely apply to dealing with a team of adults.

Everyone wants to be heard and valued.  

So, credibility and authenticity in leadership might sound like a far-off goal, but you’re probably already using a lot of the techniques in your interactions with your class. 

The end result in my particular setting is that we’ve developed a much greater sense of unity among the team. I’m sure this isn’t the end, either, and there will be plenty more benefits down the road.

After all, we never truly finish learning, do we?  

Nicky Bishop is a middle leader at a school in London. Nicky took part in the Lead London course by LETTA. Find out more info at  

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