Sitting in the lounge on the top floor of the Grand Hyatt hotel in Kuala Lumpur, overlooking spectacular views of the Petronas Towers to one side and the Kuala Lumpur Tower to the other, I’m reflecting on the past few days of the FOBISIA Leadership Conference 2017. The theme this year has been ‘Health, Wealth and Self’. The conference has been highly successful in delivering its message - we need to learn to look after ourselves and those around us more. I have been privileged to listen to many truly inspirational keynote speakers, including Dick Moore, Robert Holroyd, John Littleford and Clive Leach.
Dick Moore has talked engagingly, with compassion and (appropriate) humour, raising awareness of mental health issues. His great insight derives tragically from first-hand experience of mental health issues within his family. He now has a passionate interest in adolescent development and emotional wellbeing, and helps bring awareness and understanding of these to schools, universities and organisations. His workshops at the conference have focussed on how to create mentally healthy cultures within schools, as well as how we can help recognise and support children, young people and adults around us with problems of anxiety, stress, depression and self-harming. I urge every school to invite Dick to speak with its students, staff and parents – he is truly insightful and inspiring.
John Littleford gave us a fascinating overview of his many years’ experience and research into the longevity of Heads in schools. Why is it that so many school leaders, globally, last such a short amount of time in their schools? What does it take to ensure that Heads are properly supported, to enable them to do their jobs well, stay the course and make sustainable improvements to their schools? Are Heads remunerated appropriately, relative to the scope and significance of their responsibilities and accountability? How can, and should, Boards look after their Heads more and develop long-lasting, supportive relationships with them? As Robert Holroyd, with his many successful years of Headship in the UK and working with school leaders globally, questioned ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes’ – who will guard the guards themselves? Who is looking after the Head’s wellbeing?
We all understand that being a student can be stressful, as can be being a teacher or a Head, so it is time to focus both our energies and our resources on looking after each other, as well as looking after ourselves - thank you to FOBISIA for issuing this clarion call.
Simon Watson, Chairman, FOBISIA, giving his Welcome speech at the launch of 2017 conference