February 2015


  • Essential support
    Member support is a cornerstone of ASCL’s work. Richard Tanton explains the different services and functions provided. More
  • Staying the course
    It’s not just students who need to be able to withstand challenges and learn to persist. Senior leaders and staff, too, would benefit from gaining a better understanding of how to build the personal resilience that will help them succeed, say Les Duggan and Mark Solomons. More
  • Over to us
    Government has handed schools control of the Pupil Premium with the overarching goal of helping to boost social mobility. John Dunford sets out a ten-point plan to help heads identify where to spend the money to gain maximum impact. More
  • Better together?
    Raising attainment for all? Becky Francis introduces a project to identify best practice in grouping students and invites schools to take part. More
  • Bridging the gap
    A fresh approach to transition, including an introduction to university for Year 6s, is helping one secondary to prepare primary pupils for life at ‘big school’. Dorothy Lepkowska reports. More
  • Mapping the future
    ASCL is expanding its presence in the English regions to help meet the changing needs of leaders. Brian Lightman explains the thinking behind the move. More
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It’s not just students who need to be able to withstand challenges and learn to persist. Senior leaders and staff, too, would benefit from gaining a better understanding of how to build the personal resilience that will help them succeed, say Les Duggan and Mark Solomons.

Staying the course

Our attitudes are very important when it comes to being successful and it starts from a very early age. The toddler who is learning to walk will fall down many times before he or she masters the skill. An athlete who wants to excel will practice for hours after everyone else has gone home, in an attempt to gain mastery of his or her sport. The student who wishes to progress in life and perhaps attend a university will study extensively to ensure good grades. And the school or college leader who wants to build and sustain an outstanding culture will work diligently to include and engage everyone across their school or college community. None of these would happen without resilience.

Any worthwhile achievement in life is made through effort and commitment and by overcoming challenges and driving for success. Resilience is an attitude of mind that enables us to bounce back and fulfil our dreams and aspirations and, importantly, it can be taught.

Both the government and the Labour party have spoken about the need for schools to teach character and resilience, and Ofsted has also got in on the act with their latest consultation, Better inspection for all.

But where are the calls to help improve the resilience for school leaders, teachers and support staff?


We regularly hear the need for schools to be student/pupil-centric, for them to improve performance and raise the attainment of those who are in their charge.

But we rarely hear the term ‘staff-centric’! We need to ensure that our school and college leaders, teachers and support staff have the necessary awareness, understanding and support to be the guardians for the next generation.

But what can school and college leaders do to make the changes they need for themselves and their teams and become better role models of what they are now being asked to teach, namely character and resilience?

All change starts with self-awareness. Without this, change will simply not happen. What is needed is for school and college leaders to have an honest conversation with themselves and their teams about how resilient they are now and how they can develop resilience.

For more than ten years, we have worked with senior leaders and elite performers in business, education and sport and have identified a set of common traits that you can use to both review your current performance and plan the action that you will need to take.

The Seven Steps (Ps) to Building Resilience

Step 1: Place

People often put themselves in a place of comfort and security. Yet to develop confidence and resilience, you need to take risks and step outside of your comfort zone.

In society we tend to operate on a win/lose methodology. That is you try something and either succeed (win) or fail. Yet resilient people know that when you try something new you can only ever win. Whatever the outcome, you learn from the experience and are able to use this next time or for other new experiences (called win/learn).

Step 2: Passion

Passion fuels progress and achievement and is the foundation of all motivation. Without passion, it is very difficult to bounce back when things go wrong or push ahead to achieve goals and dreams. Many of you may have gone into teaching as a vocation and with the changes that the profession has seen question how passionate you now feel. If this isn’t where it needs to be, what steps will you take to reignite it?

Step 3: Purpose

While people want to achieve goals and be successful, what drives human beings is having meaning and purpose (a vision).

Without a clear purpose it is very difficult to maintain motivation or be resilient when you have the inevitable knockbacks. Do you have a clear purpose and, if not, how will you find it?

Step 4: People

Life will always be full of challenges and people can succeed on their own, but the support of others will make a big difference.

The people you mix with will have an impact on your resilience. For example, some people may ridicule your dreams or be constantly negative about your ideas. You can choose what you accept from others and you can also decide whether to let their actions or behaviours affect you.

Step 5: Planning

No matter how clear your purpose, without goals and an action plan, it is likely to remain just a dream. Planning is about what you are willing to do to achieve your goals in life.

There are some things in work and life that can’t be controlled, but there are two areas where you have choice and influence: your personal attitude, and where you focus your time and energy.

Resilient people only focus on those things that they can control. Do you?

Step 6: Positive mindset

Your mindset can be your greatest asset or your biggest critic. Positive mindset springs from positive thoughts and manifests itself in a ‘can do attitude’, regardless of what happens.

According to Psychologist Dr Barbara Fredrickson, we need to have internal dialogue (self-talk) in a ratio of at least 3:1 positive to negative in order to build self-belief and create resilience. The best way to do this is to be mindful of your thoughts, let negative ones go and focus on the positive. How positive is your self-talk?

Step 7: Physical action

Physical action has two dimensions: building physical capability, and taking action physically to make things happen. The physical body plays a fundamental role in building resilience and character. Well-nourished, rested and properly exercised bodies give you the energy to overcome everyday challenges.

This step also includes embracing physical action by making positive choices and committing your time and energy to action. Taking the first steps towards achieving your goals will help you to fulfil your dreams. We see too many people procrastinating or taking action that isn’t congruent with what they say they want to achieve.

Final thoughts

We have only been able to very briefly touch on these seven steps here and there are many ways you can learn and develop your resilience through each of them. Yet we see so many school and college leaders and their teams driven by fear, such as fear of change, Ofsted and what others may think. And fear undermines resilience.

We believe that the way forward is to develop a resilient community and involve students, parents, support staff, teachers, governors and the school and college leadership team.

You can do this by clearly setting out what it means to be highly resilient, by modelling the right behaviours, through teaching it in your curriculum and through your leadership of others. Academic performance will also improve because young people will see school or college as more relevant to what it is that they want to achieve in life.

Our mission is to support schools and colleges in this key area, which is why we developed workshops, resources and a whole curriculum of lessons to engage teachers and their students. Building character and resilience starts with you, because you are the role models for the young people in your school or college.

Find out more: www.successfullives.co.uk

Les Duggan and Mark Solomons are the authors of Building Resilience: The 7 steps to creating highly successful lives, published in January 2015.