Tracy Jones: a primary head finding support during a difficult time

Tracy, headteacher of Ysgol Merllyn, a primary school in the small community of Bagillt, Flintshire, explains how her six sessions of peer to peer support through our school leader service, helped her.

Your stories / 3 mins read

It’s really, really valuable and you’ll be supported by peers who understand what you’re going through and be able to support them as well.

I’m the head of a primary where I’ve been for just over 10 years. We currently have about 150 kids and mixed challenges. It’s an area of significant social and economic deprivation and we have a few children who speak English as an additional language.

What I love about the job is just seeing the children thrive, learning, being motivated to learn and to talk about their learning. Also to see them show good emotional resilience and playing with each other; Doing the things that children should be doing.

Coming back from Covid, it feels like everyone wants a piece of you because they haven’t had it for 18 months. For now, the kids are fine, the teachers are ok but they need time to build up their stamina again. The new curriculum is my current challenge. We’ve got to implement all the changes by next July but real culture change takes 3-5 years to implement.

I ask for help when I need it but the support from the school leader service has really helped me. I really looked forward to the online sessions. I knew a couple of the other heads on it and others I hadn’t met too. Our facilitator was very good. The session our facilitator did on the impact of the lack of sleep really makes you think about your own health. I’m going through the menopause and doing this job and being menopausal makes it twice as hard. I don’t think that’s recognised at all. People joke about it but trying to do this job at this pace with health problems like sleep problems and brain fog - no one wants to talk about it but I try to, to normalise it. I joke with my staff “Don’t talk to me before 10am when the HRT has kicked in!"

It was so good to be able to talk about things that were really bothering us in a safe environment.

We were in the middle of the Pandemic when I did the sessions and different local authorities were dealing with it in different ways. Everything was changing so quickly with constant information coming at you. No time to think which was very difficult with the menopause on top of it! In the sessions, keeping it light, keeping it humorous and helping each other was great. There were a couple of new heads on the group and I was able to tell them from experience that it doesn’t matter if you can’t get everything done, you’re a cog and part of a bigger wheel – especially in relation to the pandemic when we kept getting different guidance. It was so good to be able to talk about things that were really bothering us in a safe environment.

The sessions helped us to coach each other a bit, coming up with solutions ourselves after being coached. Our facilitator was brilliant at helping us with that. You’ve got to take that time for yourself. It’s really, really valuable and you’ll be supported by peers who understand what you’re going through and be able to support them as well. You get a buzz out of supporting other headteachers when you know what they’re going through.

The session our facilitator did on the impact of the lack of sleep really makes you think about your own health.

I don’t like the phrase ‘safe space’ very much but it was very much let’s have a chat about this, how you’re feeling about that and making sure that we take time and space for ourselves. We’re always making sure everyone else is ok. Put your own oxygen mask on first. It’s ok to do that and if we don’t, we should!

Everyone’s coming from a different sort of school, different pupils, different parents but it was really useful. You deserve this time to go through this process, to chew the fat, relax, talk about issues, help and support each other. With someone there guiding you who understands.

School leaders' support
School leaders' support