Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Key to Good Leadership? Control Your Inner Chimp

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

The Key to Good Leadership? Control Your Inner Chimp

Article excerpt

Radical programme helps Isle of Wight's struggling schools

Snooker player Ronnie O'Sullivan, controversial footballer Luis Suárez and even the Team GB Olympic cycling squad - all have worked with Steve Peters to build resilience and a winning mentality. But now the former forensic psychiatrist's renowned Chimp Management organisation is helping to transform the fortunes of a different team: school leaders on the Isle of Wight.

For many, the island is associated with sea, sand and the Cowes Week regatta, but in recent years it has developed an altogether less welcome reputation for the low standards in its schools. Last year, Ofsted's annual report revealed that just 17 per cent of secondary students on the island attended a good or outstanding school - a significantly lower proportion than in any other part of England.

Slowly but surely, however, the situation is improving. Since September, three of the island's secondaries have been moved out of special measures by Ofsted. And school leaders have insisted that at least part of the improvement can be attributed to being taught how to manage their inner "chimp".

Primates under pressure

In Mr Peters' philosophy, the chimp represents the instinctive, emotional part of the brain that does not always react in a logical manner when under stress. A bespoke programme has been created for the island by former teacher Kate Goodger, head of Chimp Management's education practice.

"In British cycling, Steve worked with the team in creating a culture for athletes to really thrive in," she told TES. "We'd assumed that we didn't need to do that in education; we assumed that headteachers had all the appropriate skills and knew what they were doing.

"What we very quickly realised was that school leaders weren't in a great place, and teaching staff were probably in an even worse place, because of the pressures on them.

"It's not a lack of commitment from headteachers, but more to do with the changing skill set that is demanded," Dr Goodger added. "They're doing things now that they didn't originally sign up to as a teacher - things like people management, stakeholder management and strategic thinking."

Accordingly, the programme aims to ensure that schools are run on logical, "human" decision-making, rather than being at the mercy of the chimps.

Chimp Management holds courses in dozens of schools around the country. Earlier this year, Mr Peters addressed the Association of School and College Leaders' annual conference. …

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