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7 Questions with Anne Ansell
helps you in your leadership.
7 Questions with Anne Ansell
Name: Anne Ansell
Current title: Head Teacher
Current Organisation: Redwell Primary
I am mum to Lauren (19) and Kiera (15) and am married to David, he is my best friend and keeps me balanced in a calm home environment which is completely a contrast to my busy working day. I have been a Headteacher for 16 years, prior to that I was a Deputy Head. I have been a Designated Safeguarding Lead, SENDCO, Maths Leader, Assessment Leader, EYFS Leader, Art Leader, over my 26 years in education. I thrive on supporting others and have been a partnership head for the local authority as well as leading school to school support through our teaching school.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
The most challenging part of the role is the variety of personnel issues that come with having a large staff team. Incorporating priorities and making sure that decisions made always have the best interest of our children at the heart of them, sometimes means that staff are not always able to do what they want to do because it may not be in the best interests of the bigger picture.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
I was heavily pregnant with my second daughter when a local authority school improvement advisor suggested I should seek promotion, he knew that locally there were opportunities. He inspired me to believe that at 8 months pregnant, an interview panel would see past my bump and trust in me to lead their school. So I became the head in a 2 form entry infant school with 180 pupils. Over the 15 years that I have now been the head teacher, much has changed. On our journey I became a National Leader in Education (NLE), the school became a National Support School (NSS) and then a Teaching School. The school is now a 3 form entry primary with 630 pupils. We now have an independent school improvement trading arm that I lead in the school, the 5 Wells Development Centre.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
My husband has a cup of tea ready for me when I get downstairs in the morning, he is full of energy which wakes me up, I am not a morning person! Once I get to work at about 8:00am, the first part of the morning is spent having wellbeing conversations with people. I believe that saying hello and letting people know that you are there gives you and them opportunities. I can usually tell just from the initial contact with someone's wellness, this enables me to support or signpost if the staff member needs something to help them to fulfil their job to the best of their ability. We are a values led school, this means that people are at the heart of what we do, so staff wellbeing is a priority for us.
I have to be aware that emails and admin can take over my day, so I plan out my days to make sure that I am able to complete tasks I need to do. This might include visiting the classrooms, supporting staff development, supporting pupil behaviour, reading and research. Because of Covid, we have to timetable our staff room, this means that lunch is not until 1:30, the admin team relaxes together, this gives us an opportunity to catch up and discuss life away from work. Once I have finished work around 5:30pm, I go home where I hope to find my family getting the dinner sorted. As a family dinner time is around the dining table, however, getting my eldest daughter to have a meal now that she is working herself is one of my biggest challenges! Once we have tidied up dinner, life is family orientated, we get ready for an evening of relaxation and spend time on the sofa watching the TV. I try to meditate whenever I can to help me to relax.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
I am very much a believer in talent spotting and staff development, often staff grow with expertise and support over time. However there are those on the staff team who are gifted and we are able to fast track because of their natural talents. One thing we sometimes forget is that just because we think they are brilliant, we need to keep reminding them of that fact. Telling someone once, especially when they are not confident in their own abilities, is not enough. The message of belief needs drip feeding so that they start to believe it too, this will make the journey of development stronger and more sustainable over time.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
John Kotter’s ‘Our iceberg is melting’ is one of the books that has impacted my leadership. A story about a penguin colony in Antarctica looking at how to deal with the issue of change: handle the challenge well and you can prosper greatly; handle it poorly and you put yourself at risk. The characters in the story are like people we recognise, even ourselves. Their story is one of resistance to change and heroic action, confusion and insight, seemingly intractable obstacles and the most clever tactics for dealing with those obstacles.
Based on John Kotter's work on how to make smart change happen faster and better, when reading the book it helped me to recognise the penguin traits in myself and of my staff. It made me reflect more deeply on how to bring people on the journey of change with you and how to be inspirational to those around you.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Mentoring and coaching of staff is key. I am always looking at staff and new recruits through the lens of succession planning. Building the capacity in an organisation from within, means that as staff develop and move to new challenges that you have helped to prepare them for, the next great thing is just around the corner. We put new staff with experienced staff within teams for teaching as well as leadership development. Our programme for professional development is personalised to individual needs as well as for wider business needs. Through a robust appraisal process we can support staff by providing opportunities for roles that they want to develop into, giving them the experience they would need to be a strong candidate if a vacancy arose. The challenge here though, is that those opportunities are not always within our organisation, but we believe that growing leaders for our school or someone else’s, impacts more broadly on improving educational outcomes for children in our locality.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
The local authority approached us to amalgamate the infant and the junior schools, they were in two very different circumstances. The infant school had received two outstanding Ofsted inspections and the junior school were heading for special measures. We lost our designation as a successful teaching school and I was de-badged as an NLE! It was then that I had a very memorable phone call from the National College. I understood why we had been de-designated but then it was suggested to me that I could retain my NLE status and the teaching school could move with me to another setting. I made my decision in less than a minute and it was the best and only decision I could have morally made. We quickly re-framed the benefits of de-designation, we were saving over 80 hours a year in attending meetings. We could build on our success and trade as an independent school improvement provider, this has continued to be a USP of our setting and is growing in strength. For me the development of the school in challenging times was the reason to stay, to see the education improve and the staff to drive the improvements needed across the whole school. We had our first Oftsed inspection as a primary school in 2019 and we achieved a good outcome. The lead inspector told us in our team feedback at the end of the inspection that we were the most outstanding leadership team that his team had worked with, we made sure they repeated that in front of our governors and the local authority in the final feedback. We still remember how we felt on that day and are excited about the next inspection, we are ready to show our further improvements and become an outstanding primary school.