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Developing leaders who are passionate about providing a more holistic education for young people.
The Big Leadership Adventure is a two year leadership programme that explicitly supports passionate change makers in the mindsets, behaviours and confidence required to think and do things differently in education.
Window 1 applications close on 3 May ‘21
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Why embark on your Big Leadership Adventure?
It’s tempting to crave a return to life before this horrible pandemic struck. There’s no doubt that those of us who love the buzz of a school community, the thrill of teaching, the boundless energy of children, have missed those compelling and life-affirming interactions.
But inside we know a simple truth: “normal” was not right. Normal for schools had become unbalanced, at times unhinged. Tunnel vision. A pressure that was unhealthy, often toxic; Ofsted inspections, high-stakes exams, the crowding out of creativity.
The time is now for schools to break through these barriers to change. By joining the Big Leadership Adventure network your focus will be beyond your own individual leadership – you will focus on developing your entire team and creating sector wide change.
Leaders on our programme are thinking more strategically and imaginatively about how to deal with the new world dominated by various challenges, and making meaningful connections with other like minded schools and leaders for support along the way.
Meet Kaina, an Assistant Headteacher at a Primary School in South Yorkshire.
It’s 2019, 11 years since she started working as a teacher. Kaina feels as though little has changed since then and her school has been ‘stuck in a rut’ for many years.
A place for innovation
It’s time for her team meeting and she can sense stress and frustration amongst her staff.
Kaina feels unsupported in her efforts to improve family engagement. The staff don’t think parents will ever believe that personal and academic excellence can be achieved by every child, and are resistant to change.
The pastoral team is under pressure with the mental health challenges faced by students, and the pressure of Ofsted has taken its toll. As a result staff feel too busy to protect time for their own learning and development.
Kaina went into teaching to make a difference and feels she has lost sight of her sense of mission and purpose. She wants to find new solutions to the issues she faces in school and be exposed to new ways of thinking.
Kaina passionately believes the students in her care deserve more – a holistic education of the head (academics), heart (character and wellbeing) and hand (creativity and problem solving). Each child should have access to an education that prepares them for the challenges of the 21st century.
Kaina often daydreams about what her school could look like.
Kaina attends a Big Education event and hears about the two year Big Leadership Adventure programme.
She thinks that her school could really benefit from new and innovative thinking. Kaina has noticed that her team lacks the confidence to try new things and are always coming to her for all of the answers.
Kaina speaks to her Headteacher about the benefits to the school of participating in this programme.
The Headteacher likes how the programme has been designed with the expertise of different sectors, and that the existing cohorts are already experimenting with new ideas, finding practical solutions to problems faced in their contexts and developing processes for impactful innovation.
They decide that having two leaders on the programme will help to create lasting change back at school and encourage Jerry, an innovative middle leader to apply too.
After all, two Adventurers are better than one!
Kaina participates in the selection process, which encourages her to deeply reflect on her own leadership journey.
Both are selected onto the programme!
The opportunity to connect with other leaders in education, across a range of different contexts is proving to be transformational and has developed their confidence and belief that education can be done differently.
Hearing about the incredible work happening in the sector also encourages them to put their ideas into action; working collectively to enable system level change.
Jerry and Kaina participate in a vibrant mix of workshops, on job projects, immersive experiences, peer learning, and residential elements.
Jerry has become skilled in Design Thinking through a project to redesign the curriculum.
A particular highlight for Kaina has been integrating the 7 Leadership Tools into her school to create an inclusive and developmental culture, where staff feel safe and supported to take risks.
Fast forward to 2020 and a global pandemic shocks the nation.
Unexpected challenges arise. The number of vulnerable children increases significantly and they are running a virtual school for the first time.
Jerry and Kaina’s teams lead the way during this period of uncertainty and great challenge. They are grounded in their education philosophy which they have deepened as part of the Big Leadership Adventure.
In the second year of the programme, Kaina learns how to become a trainer in the 7 Leadership Tools. This has enabled her to upskill other members of her team and has led to a coaching and developmental culture within the school.
Following a Design Thinking process to improve staff retention and remote working. Jerry utilised the Sector Strategy module, which taught him how to codify his practice and share with the wider system.
Kaina and Jerry have nominated three colleagues in their school to apply for the programme in ‘21 / ’22. They want more leaders in their schools to be equipped with the tools, mindsets and confidence needed to create lasting change in their school and the wider system.
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Your Big Leadership Adventure
the programme in a nutshell
The Big Leadership Adventure will provide a mix of taught input, cohort learning and on-the-job application, giving you the platform to lead change in both your organisation/school and the wider sector.
Access to expert trainers
Access exceptional trainers with expertise in the core programme mindsets. In year 2, you can opt in for the ‘train the trainer’ element, to build your skills and confidence in facilitating and training others.
Join a network of changemakers
Be part of a growing movement by creating meaningful connections and learning alongside others who empower you to be the change you want to see in the education sector.
Experiencing various forms of learning
Combination of online and face to face workshops, on job projects, immersive experiences, peer learning, and residential elements. 11 full days in the first year, and less overall in year 2.
Learn alongside a diverse group of leaders
Challenge and broaden your thinking as you work as a collective with leaders from a range of different contexts within education, exploring beyond your own bubble.
Education, whether we like it or not, is ideological – we all have a different view of the purpose, aims and methods. These views are rooted in our view – our philosophy – of the world. The philosophy behind a school shapes not only how we teach, but how we lead.
The Big Leadership Adventure provides leaders with the tools and frameworks to deeply explore their personal sense of mission and purpose – fundamental for any leader trying to shake up the current paradigm. This requires you to think deeply about what education, school and learning is for, drawing on some of the different traditions of educational philosophy. The selection process starts this journey of exploring your philosophy through a Stump Speech. If successful in getting onto the programme, you will review this throughout your journey on the programme.
A huge part of being a leader is the ability to reflect on yourself and how your own behaviours might affect those around you. We believe that ‘psychological safety’ should be at the core of any school or organisation. Without this, it is almost impossible to foster a culture of innovation. If fostered well and by everybody, this creates a culture of inclusivity, openness and people feeling they can ‘bring their true self to work’. We call this ‘leadership of the heart’ and believe this should, quite literally, be the ‘beating heart’ of any school or organisation.
Our 7 Leadership Tools coaching methodology explicitly trains leaders in a set of skills based on person centered coaching. This creates a shared language to empower and build capacity in others to find their own solutions. Your Coaching Group will act as a mechanism for developing in the 7 Leadership Tools.
By developing reflective capability, leaders are able to be more transformational in their environments. This enables us to have a richer understanding of our unique contribution, whilst also learning to honestly pay attention to those habits that may hinder or hold us back. The Reflective Residential is a chance to connect with your own story, what matters to you and how this shapes the way you lead and work.
Culture exists everywhere. An element of ‘this is how things are done around here’ will be felt in all organisations, whether explicitly agreed or not. We are not agnostic in our belief that there are some critical components which underpin a developmental and innovative organisation. The Big Leadership Adventure aims to deepen leaders’ understanding of developing a culture of innovation and the risk associated with sticking to the status quo. If you are not failing, you are not being bold enough! You will reflect on your own organisation using a range of audit tools and develop the skills to shape the culture you want.
As education leaders, our instinct is often to jump from problem to solution based on what we already know. Education is fast paced, so this always seems like the quickest and right way to ‘fix things’. This means we get stuck in a cycle of rehearsing the same type solutions for the same type of problems. Put simply, we are stuck in a narrow education. To create change that ultimately leads to a more holistic education, a mindset shift is needed. We work with leaders to train them in a Design Thinking mindset, that ultimately enables staff to innovate with rigour.
Design Thinking provides an expansive, systematic process to innovation. This powerful methodology enables you to creatively problem solve and apply a different lens to a problem or area for innovation. You will be applying Design Thinking to your Innovation Project. The projects will play a part in testing new approaches to providing a ‘Big Education’ for young people, a microcosm of being able to lead a school innovatively.
To create lasting change within the sector, leaders in education must understand the educational landscape and their role within this. Leaders can play a powerful role in creating lasting change if they understand how to navigate the sector and learn how policy is formed.
We care about deliberately empowering each cohort to train others in their learning on the BLA. We call this becoming ‘meta-consciously competent’ – the ability to narrate or explain what you are doing as you are doing it.
A core principle of the Big Leadership Adventure is ‘feeding the ecosystem’ and we will be working together to explore what it means to play a role in creating lasting sector change. You will gain an understanding of what this looks like in action, how policy is formed, how to build coalitions, how to find your voice online and codify your practice.
We believe that learning to codify is an important skill for leaders who want to influence the system and capitalise on this moment to move schools towards a bigger and bolder education. We will work with you to codify an element of your practice, by exploring how to make your ideas and practices accessible to scale across the sector.
Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
On the Big Leadership Adventure we recognise the importance of building a community which celebrates diversity and advocates for diverse people. You’ll be challenged to think about whether you are championing diversity and inclusion in your leadership and within your organisation. Connecting to your values as a leader, promoting acceptance and a sense of belonging is weaved into all aspects of the programme and we are committed to prioritising this work.
Our Alumni Community
Our alumni are ambassadors for the change we want to see within the sector. The Big Leadership Adventure provides a wealth of opportunity for you to be part of a growing movement for change. The close alignment of our leaders’ vision to create a bigger and bolder education is what connects us. Our Alumni community will build on this work by continuing to stay connected and furthering this important work.
Alongside the core Big Leadership Adventure programme, there are a number of other opportunities for training and development that we offer to our leaders, including the following:
- Free or heavily discounted training opportunities with Big Education partners
- Opportunity to speak or facilitate and represent Big Education at events or webinars
- Support with blogging and a platform to house this content
- Access to our growing Big Education network of educators and business partners
- Access to the Big Leadership Adventure platform and wide range of inspiring resources
- Big Leadership Adventure Book Club
- Big Education school or Voice 21 events, such as the ‘Great Oracy Exhibition’
- Mentoring or coaching participants on other Big Education programmes
- Share and Learn workshops to gain feedback and insights from the wider Big Leadership Adventure community
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Big Leadership Principles
Our BLA groups are part of a wider community, who learn from each other, support each other and are ultimately bound by the belief that the education system needs to change. Our community celebrates diversity and advocates for diverse people. It provides access to the expertise of different sectors, encouraging leaders to look at issues through a different lens. We ask all BLA leaders to be active members of this community while on the programme and as part of our Alumni network.
We believe the best way to learn is through real practice, experience and applying your learning to your own context. The education system can’t wait and so throughout the programme our leaders are expected to put their learning into action tomorrow. We ask that all leaders are committed to applying the learning and bringing their full-self to every workshop and inbetween.
‘Everybody wants to change the world, but no one wants to change themselves’ (Tolstoy, L). The BLA requires leaders to look at their own behaviours in the context of the people around them, to understand how their own behaviour, values and preferences might affect the teams they work with. The programme builds a greater reflective capability in leaders, working towards a deeper sense of personal transformation.
Our mission is to equip change makers with the mindsets, behaviours and confidence required to innovate with rigour in education. This is near impossible to achieve alone. We believe that heart-centered leadership is at the core of this. This involves creating a psychologically safe environment, where staff feel a sense of acceptance, belonging and the ability to take risks without fear of failure.
The BLA works to push the boundaries and model and education that prepares young people to better participate in, and take on the world. We are looking for leaders who are ready to shake up the current paradigm in which the education system is operating. This requires openness to creative and lateral thinking, constantly questioning the way things are done, and learning from other sectors and across the globe.
We aren’t just about transforming individuals, schools or organisations. The programme requires you to think about yourself in the context of the system and work to create sector change. We ask that leaders embrace the opportunity to be part of this growing movement for change, and are open to sharing their experiences and practices.
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Who is the Big Leadership Adventure for?
Our Big Leadership Adventure programme is creating a community of leaders who are questioning the purpose of education and are authentic in their openness to learning and development. We see deep thinking, asking bold questions 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.
Headteacher, Senior Leader or Innovative Middle Leader working in a school
- Are you a school leader who believes in a more holistic education for young people, one that is far more encompassing than just exams?
- Do you want to gain the tools and mindsets that allow you to create a culture of innovation within your school?
- Are you interested in trying different approaches to designing new solutions for your school?
- Do you want to think more strategically and imaginatively about how to deal with the world dominated by new challenges like Covid-19?
- Are you excited by education debates and relish the opportunity to explore your own philosophy?
- Are you looking for a programme which focuses on your own school as well as the wider system?
- Do you want to build and strengthen your network and be exposed to the expertise of different sectors?
Business Leader or Social Entrepreneur working in education
- Are you a business leader or social entrepreneur who believes in changing the current UK education system, to make it far more encompassing than just exams?
- Do you want to gain the tools and mindsets that support you to create programmes and products that might change the way we think about education?
- Do you want to network with like-minded education leaders, by supporting them in providing a fresh perspective and gaining insights that could lead to new opportunities and collective action?
- Are you eager to enable and empower leaders across the sector to solve issues themselves and recognise their own agency?
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Hear from our Adventurers
We are so proud of the incredible work of the leaders on the Big Leadership Adventure to date. It has been a challenging and turbulent year and educators truly have gone above and beyond in light of Covid-19.
“A course for leaders who are creative, courageous and innovative and are not afraid to challenge the status quo. The BLA enables you to do exactly that – embark on an adventure to consider your values and motivators and how these influence your practice as a leader. It gets me thinking in a way in which I can both improve as a leader and potentially improve the system in which I work.”
Executive Head Learning Leader, BLA ‘20/21
“We have quickly become a very good group of colleagues. Not only do we get on well, but we’ve also found many ways to collaborate through, and beyond, the programme. We share ideas, explore them, and build plans together. The support we give each other is the basis upon which our vision for a more equitable education system can be built.”
Executive Headteacher, Community Organiser, BLA ‘19/20
“An innovative programme that speaks to the heart of education today: how can we rethink teaching practices and policies in the age of multiculturalism? A course full of passion, purpose and design-thinking; daring to raise critical questions about the future of teaching itself!”
Head of School, BLA ‘20/21
“I consider myself to have been very lucky to have been on the course. I think it’s just what I needed. I think it’s just what the school needed in terms of really opening our eyes to how we can develop. Also it feels like although I’ve already always had a purpose and a reason for doing what I do, I think it really makes you connect much deeper.”
Deputy Headteacher, BLA ‘19/20
‘It is a very valid experience you are learning all the time, rather than thinking, as some people doing courses “I’d rather not be here. I’m not learning anything.” It’s not like that. The expertise of the trainers is brilliant.”
Assistant Headteacher, BLA ‘20/21
“There’s loads of different opinions and different ways of doing things. That melting pot of different ideas infuses great leaders, great individuals with a strong moral compass. On the Big Leadership Adventure there’s a genuine passion and care about your holistic development as a leader.”
Principal, BLA ‘19/20
“The Big Leadership Adventure is precisely that – a wonderful adventure chartering through unknown territory into an emergent future to urgently address the needs of today’s children. The programme is well-thought through, offering hope, insight and practical ways we can make the necessary changes in key areas of learning, leadership, wellbeing and so much more.”
Social Entrepreneur and Founder of School of Sophia, BLA ‘20/21
“I Love Learning” Whilst working with Big Education on the ‘Big Leadership Adventure’ I have had the pleasure of working with and learning from some incredible colleagues with varying backgrounds and expertise. The Head, Heart and Hand approach has enabled me to stop, reflect and question current educational practices and put into practice my learning – now is the time to do things differently!
Vice Principal, BLA ‘20/21
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Important Programme Details
- Two-Year programme
- Approximately 11 full days in year one, a mix of 8 weekdays and 3 Saturdays workshops
- Less days overall in year 2
- Two residentials over the two years
- 80% attendance
- Travelling to London or a central location in the North of England (tbc) for aspects of the programme which are delivered face to face
- Independent work on the BLA online platform
- On-the-job application in your own context
- Regular meeting with coaching group
- Buy-in from your school/organisation (if applicable). We will request a reference to confirm their support during the application process
- You must be available for the first induction workshops between 24th – 28th August.
- We will be running two cohorts in the North and South of England
- We have adapted to delivering the programme online due to the current circumstances surrounding Covid-19
- We endeavour to deliver a number of workshops and residentials face to face when it is safe to do so.
- Face to face delivery will take place in London or a central location in the North of England, if successful you’ll be allocated a place in the cohort closest to you geographically. Travel expenses are not covered by the cost of the programme
Cost of Programme
- £2,500 per year, £5,000 total
- Paid by the individual or the organisation
- For any individual or organisation interested in applying and unable to pay the full programme fees, we have a small number of pro-bono places available. There will be an application process to apply for these places assessed against a strict eligibility criteria.
- Please highlight this on the application form and we will be in touch with further details
- Applications opened on 8 March ‘21
- Applications will close on 3 May ‘21
- A second window of applications may open in early June, subject to availability
- The BLA ‘21/22 programmes begin in August ‘21
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Application & Selection Process
You will need to be eligible for the programme to apply, check out our eligibility requirements here
Learn more about our selection process for the Big Leadership Adventure and what to expect
Visit our policies page to find out more about Big Education’s policies and data collection