Undertaking all the tasks and responsibilities inherent in leadership roles in education is incredibly challenging. Regardless of the breadth of experience that you may have gathered on the path to the position you currently hold, it would be impossible for one person to be expert in all that is expected of them.
Employing the services of an adviser can be just what you need to bridge any gaps between expertise you have and expertise you need. But it is crucial that you choose advisers wisely. Éamonn Whelan, Operations Director at Eteach Education Advisers, explained, “There are a lot of people in education who offer advisory services, but it is important to make sure that they are suitably experienced and qualified for the role. We deploy specialist and general advisers through our Eteach Register of Trusted Advisers, whom we meet and train. We searched for suitable training providers for some time and came across the Association of Education Advisers. We were very impressed by the quality of the training and the body of knowledge contained within it.”
How can engaging with an adviser help?
There may be many reasons to engage with an adviser. These ideas may ring true for you:
- A fresh objective and experienced professional supporter: Undertaking leadership roles within a school can be lonely. Quite often you will be responsible for a unique role in your setting, and it will be down to you how that role is undertaken. While the responsibility can be incredibly inspiring and fulfilling, it can also be daunting and potentially overwhelming. Speaking to an adviser can open the door to a breadth of experience that you usually cannot access within your school. This can offer fresh perspectives from an objective position as well as professional support in a working relationship that can develop over time.
- Independent advice: The advice that comes from an adviser is independent and drawn from experience in settings other than your own. While the adviser will become familiar with your setting and the specific context in which you work, the advice and support given comes from a place of independence. This can give the adviser a clarity of vision that may be hard to achieve without that degree of independence.
- Specialist and general knowledge: The career experience of the adviser to date will give them both specialist and general knowledge. Both are required for this working relationship to lead to genuine positive change. It is often the case that school staff are effectively working in silos, unable to be released to explore in depth what happens beyond their school’s walls. An adviser can bring experience of the outside world to you, broadening your horizons without having to spend time away from your setting.
- Quality assured support: If you choose your adviser wisely, you have quality assured support. Knowing that the person you choose to work with has a proven track record and the skills and knowledge required to support you in your context is a significant confidence booster.
- Enhanced wellbeing: Working with an adviser can be a great opportunity to unburden some of the issues that have been affecting your wellbeing at work. Being able to work through them with a professional, who has the breadth of knowledge and experience you need to either resolve or reframe them, can tremendously enhance wellbeing. This can be invaluable for any who are struggling on the outer edges of what they can tolerate in terms of negative stress in the workplace.
- A sounding board: Your adviser can become a critical friend and a valuable sounding board. They will listen effectively and guide you impartially, aiding you in determining the best course of action. As your professional relationship develops, your adviser will learn how best to help you in shifting any blocks so that you can work more effectively. Having someone to sound out to, who you trust will listen without prejudice, is worth its weight in gold!
What to expect from an adviser?
It helps to look for someone with not only general but specific experience of educational matters. Check their qualifications, for example, have they trained through the Association of Education Advisers or a similar body? Can they deploy a range of skills including advising, coaching, mentoring, training and more (and are they qualified to do so)? What is the chemistry like when meeting with them? Are they a good match? As Éamonn Whelan, Operations Director at Eteach Education Advisers explained, “You can’t inspect quality into schools. Advice, support and guidance will help you grow with, not against, your staff.”
Who can you reach out to?
Eteach Education Advisers is a new service from Eteach set up to facilitate school improvement; help raise the quality of education without threat, fear or favour; provide essential training; connect experts to those in need; share knowledge and expertise; support leaders and practitioners and ultimately enhance the life chances of young people. The service will be headed by experts, Èamonn Whelan and Tony Markowski. They are both Senior Advisers at the Association of Education Advisers and provide independent education advice internationally. The service, both digital and in person, has a Register of Trusted Advisers (RoTA) to allow you to match expertise to your requirements, and will also provide essential coaching and mentorship for school leaders.
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About the author
After graduating with a degree in Politics and International Relations from the University of Reading, Elizabeth Holmes completed her PGCE at the Institute of Education, University of London. She then taught humanities and social sciences in schools in London, Oxfordshire and West Sussex, where she ran the history department in a challenging comprehensive. Elizabeth specialises in education but also writes on many other issues and themes. As well as her regular blogs for Eteach and FEjobs, her books have been published by a variety of publishers and translated around the world.