Leeds City Council | Education Support

Leeds City Council

Our Headspace Programme supports new heads in participating groups around the country to step off the treadmill to protect and sustain their own mental health and wellbeing and in turn the teams and schools they lead.

Headspace groups are confidential, safe spaces for up to 15 school leaders to share experiences and support one another at a fixed time once a month, each session typically lasting half a day and each course for six months.

Professionally facilitated, the programme also provides free access to a specialist team of advisors and accredited counsellors, all experts in supporting those who work in education.

First championed by Leeds City Council nine years ago, the authority has made Headspace a cornerstone of the support it offers to every incoming new school head across the city.

I think everyone who starts a headship should start Headspace at the same time.

Investment in Headspace

Tom Riordan, CEO, Leeds City Council:
"Headspace is one of the key things that we’ve done that has contributed to make a difference over time, as part of an overall strategy to put children at the heart of what we do in Leeds and prioritise them at the heart of our growth strategy for the city."

"Mental health and wellbeing are increasing challenges in many schools and cities across the country; equipping your new leaders and existing leaders with the ability to understand those trends; and to be able to talk around those issues and translate them into the strategies and plans for their schools or places is a vital component of any successful education policy."

Annette Bradley, Health, Safety and Wellbeing Manager, Leeds City Council:
"In 2010 we ran a Headspace pilot for 20 head teachers and the feedback was just phenomenal. It was so good that now at least half of those heads are on continuation programmes that many years later they are funding themselves. Across Leeds we’ve had 180 heads go through the Headspace programme. As the second largest local authority in England, the aim is to get all heads of our 250 schools through it. We usually have a waiting list."

Belonging to Headspace

Chris Florey, Headteacher, Seacroft Grange Primary School, Leeds:
“I soon realised what an important, valuable thing Headspace was and how I and my team could benefit from it. It’s about being with people who have had or are having similar experiences, to talk situations through with those who want to find solutions to issues and to ultimately be better head teachers. The group is great and our facilitator is absolutely brilliant.”

"The monthly morning sessions are tightly structured, probing and filled with useful and thought-provoking questioning. Afterwards, we have a lunch together and some go back to school, some go to work at home or sometimes we choose to work together. The time spent together and the relationship we’ve developed is really invaluable."

Rupa Barson, headteacher, Churwell Primary School, Leeds:
"We’ve got a core group and the support we can give each other is just great. I think everyone who starts a headship should start Headspace at the same time."

What I get out of Headspace

Chris Florey, headteacher, Seacroft Grange Primary School, Leeds:
"I’m a better head. Absolutely. It’s meant that even in the toughest times I’m able to go home and live a life, to see the many things that happen, difficulties that crop up but also celebrate ‘small wins’ and to recognise and focus on what I and my staff, my
school and our community achieve together and how much positive difference we make."

The Impact

Chris, Florey, Headteacher, Seacroft Grange Primary School, Leeds:
"Now I know what value it brings, I would say it’s the mark of a very good employer. It’s something I’d absolutely look for in an authority as a sign of real investment and care in its people."

Annette Bradley, Health, safety and wellbeing manager for Leeds City Council:
"Some of the feedback we’ve had is that it is lifesaving, providing reassurance and perspective. For a significant number, Headspace has kept them in their roles. I’ve been doing this job for 16 years. If you asked me what I’m most proud of, this is it for me. It tops my wellbeing up knowing that I brought Headspace to Leeds and that we really look after our staff. I’m incredibly proud that our managers see the benefit of the programme."

"It’s part of the service level agreement. For authorities who haven’t tried it, take that leap. Yes, it’ll cost initially but we are told we have less trouble recruiting and retaining head teachers in Leeds and that’s because of Headspace. It sends a very clear message that we care about staff."

Tom Riordan, CEO, Leeds City Council:
"Headspace helps provide that sense – which everyone needs at this stage in their careers – to know that what you’re doing is right and the things that you’re encountering, the doubts, the challenges or the problems are not to do with your weaknesses but just to do with the fact that this is what happens in leadership positions."

"Your ability to deal with those things and keep your mental health in the right place is a really fundamental building block and foundation of you being able to do that job well."

Find out more

To find out more, your nearest group and answer any questions about membership your authority may have please contact Daren: daren.chisholm@edsupport.org.uk or phone 020 7697 2790.