Talking Heads Blog #43: Mary Isherwood


Leadership Biography

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 teachers’ 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


Leadership Reflections

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, 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 okay 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:

Passionate… Respectful… Organised… Understanding… & Dedicated.

– PROUD in everything you do!

One thought on “Talking Heads Blog #43: Mary Isherwood

  1. “an appraisal system which includes a health and wellbeing discussion as an integral part of the process”
    Taking care of the kids definitely means looking after their teachers. With so much pressure on individuals who are prepared to make sacrifices for their vocation, this attention to well-being is reassuring for parents to read, especially when the media often seem less than sympathetic to the challenges teachers face.


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