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  • Writer's pictureKeven Bartle

Why School Leaders Need Supervision 5: Edwards (2023)

Reflective Supervision in Education 2023

It is not the intention of this post to be all doom and gloom, and so it makes sense to finish this trawl through the literature of supervision within schools (which is pretty thin) with a positive contribution from Hallie Edwards. Her newly published book, Reflective Supervision in Education: Using Supervision to Support Pupil and Staff Wellbeing (2023), draws from her experience as a mental health and school leadership practitioner. I want to draw out her reasoning for what supervision is needed in schools, including the details on how she has implemented this in her own setting. Edwards identifies a range of reasons why supervision for all school staff is necessary: for mental health, to help safeguard, to improve behaviour, to respond to trauma and Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) and to help with workload. Each of these reasons responds to the findings in the 2019 Ofsted report and in the Greany et al reports.

Edwards believes, and has demonstrated, that "any member of staff working with children" can and should receive supervision internally, but she asserts that for members of the leadership team supervision "with an external supervisor" is essential. The benefits of good supervision (which, as the next post in the series shows, is not to be confused with counselling or therapy) are both for the individuals involved and the school as a whole. These include improved mental health and wellbeing, increased self-reflection and self-awareness, improved communication and connection, supported professional development, better outcomes for students and increased confidence in the management of safeguarding and behaviour issues.

These findings support the conclusions drawn by Sturt and Rowe in their 2018 book Using Supervision in Schools (the only other book specifically about schools and supervision that I can find). The authors point to the fact that school staff do not have the same access to structured supervision support as other, similar professions do. In 2016/17 they ran a pilot scheme providing such support for Designated Safeguarding Leads in five schools. In line with their model for school supervision, they drew on the evaluations from colleagues involved in the project about how their experience impacted on their support, their professional development, and their management practice. The respondents said, in terms of support, that they had their emotional recognised, their needs legitimised, and their boundary role understood. For development, they said that supervision gave them knowledge and skills, increased their role confidence, and helped them identify training needs. As managers, these DSLs were able to clarify safeguarding roles, improve information gathering, and discuss concerns earlier.

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