What is the leadership required to bring about a Big Education?

28th January 2020

by Hannah Jepson, founder of LGBTed

In November last year, I had the honour of working with the brilliant team at Big Education to develop a new behaviours and mindsets model which describes the leadership qualities of ‘A Big Education’.

Big Education was formed in September 2018 because they believe that significant change and new thinking is required within education. Big Education believe that a paradigm shift is needed; new thinking about the very purpose of schooling, through to the values of the system, the curriculum, pedagogies, culture, assessment, and leadership. They call this, ‘moving from Paradigm A to Paradigm B’.

The Journey to a Bigger and Better Education

by Big Education

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The team at Big Education believe that a mindset shift is needed in education and I was lucky enough to be able to conduct an in-depth piece of research into the behaviours required for this change. The behaviours and mindsets within the new model are fundamental for any leader within education who wants to be the change we want to see in the system.

As a Business Psychologist, it was important to me that the model was developed in a rigorous way, that adheres to British Psychological Society standards of best practice, and we were all committed to making sure the model was grounded in real data from leaders on the Big Leadership Adventure.

There are a number of benefits to developing a model in this way:

Articulate explicitly what good looks like across their schools

Behaviour models, competency frameworks, whatever you want to call them are a great way to get what you think you need out of each individual’s minds and onto something everything can see, understand, look and strive for.

Consistency for selection onto the programme

It’s important that everyone involved within the selection process know what they are looking for and at what level – that’s going to help you design activities that will bring the best out of the people you are assessing as you’ll have control over which activities yield which behaviours.

Support ongoing leader development

Once we have a baseline measure of the behaviours and mindsets for each successful participant we can use this to form the basis of coaching/developmental conversations and this helps to track progress and gain a really clear picture of the behaviours or mindset one might want to focus on.

Thankfully, the findings were overwhelmingly consistent with the team’s existing thinking on this. It was clear to me from the series of interviews that I conducted that Paradigm B leaders are demonstrating a combination of Head, Heart and Hand qualities in balance.

Head, Heart and Hand 2020 framework

by Hannah Jepson and Big Education

The data highlighted that the ratios of each of those will shift and change depending on the school context or even that people might draw on others in their teams for the areas in which they are less naturally inclined/skilled. For example, someone who leads predominantly with heart may ensure their leadership team is complimentary (i.e. hand and head leaders).

Each domain includes a spectrum starting from: ‘What keeps us in paradigm A’ to ‘What moves us into paradigm B’.

Here is a snapshot of some of my findings:


At Big Education, we see deep thinking, innate inquisitiveness and employing purposeful tactics as imperative in ensuring our leaders play a maximally impactful role in making the paradigm shift that we want to see in the sector.


At Big Education we believe that without connecting on deep and personal level to yourself, your teams and the world in which you operate your plans may be implemented but they will not leave a legacy of change, inspiration and a better future for education.


At Big Education we value deeds beyond words, action beyond ideation and process beyond purpose; we see inaction as the death of innovation and believe that the most impactful leaders possess the right tools to implement their vision in order to affect real change.

Some of the most interesting mindsets/ behaviours I discovered (and some of the most elusive in the sector) were:

Within head

A tempered radical – Someone who is comfortable working within the system whilst constantly trying to shift the dial/ push the boundaries at a school and system level – looking beyond the sector to do this.

Within heart

An inclusive leader – Someone who understands on a deep level the power of inclusion, of building truly diverse teams, and how it feels to operate in an environment of constructive, challenging, diverse views.

Within hand

An autonomous learner – Someone who is responsible for own development through experience, reflection and seeking out new thinking.

This feels like an incredibly important piece of work and I hope it will be something that will drive forward the changes we want to see in the system by identifying the qualities needed to take on the current system and change it for the better.

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