Why Would a Company Who Supports School Leaders Call Itself Honeyguide?

Yes, I can guess what you’re thinking - is Honeyguide really the first word that springs to mind when you think of ‘school leadership support’? It might not be the first, second or even millionth related word, and you’re not alone in that thought. In fact, when we shared it with a few people close to us, a common reaction was, “It sounds like some sort of dating website… Why have you called yourself that?”

Well, while we’d love to help match you up with other educators looking for love, sadly that’s not our aim. But I promise you there’s a reason for the name Honeyguide and if you read on in this blog, you’ll find out why.

I’m Mireille, one of the founders of Honeyguide School Leader Support. In my school career, I’ve been a class teacher, subject leader, a senior teacher, a SENDCo, a DSL and a head - you can see the trajectory there. But rather than my headship and my career continuing, unfortunately, it ended up with me developing a stomach ulcer, having a near breakdown and still not seeing my four-year-old daughter who was a pupil at the school I worked at.

And I worked in a good school! I don’t just mean Ofsted ‘good’; I mean a genuinely nice place with nice people who worked as a team and cared about the children we taught. My school was part of a multi-academy trust and not some faceless, corporate one – its leaders (for the most part) tried to do the right thing. It could have been a lot worse.

So why was school leadership so hard?

The answer for me is two-fold: support and values.
Firstly, no matter how good the school or trust felt at the time, that support for me as a new head simply wasn’t there. Partially, this was down to the trust model where I wasn’t a ‘full head’ in charge of HR and the budget, but I sure had to sort out all of the personnel issues and justify every penny spent. Then there was the faux support: I was told off quite publicly by a senior member of the trust for asking what I needed to do when writing a pupil premium strategy, like that was something I should automatically know.

I remember thinking that as a teacher, I’d never tell a child off for not knowing something. It’s my responsibility as an educator to teach them well, check their understanding, help them if they’re not quite there yet and make them feel confident. So why do some school leaders, who are teachers themselves, do the exact opposite?

The O-word?

Pick your poison.

Is it human and understandable? Yeah.

Is it good leadership? Not so much.

There were key incidents I look back on and think, “would I have treated a child this way?” I remember sobbing over an MS Teams call and telling one of the trust leaders I just couldn’t contact a particular set of parents as I had to “protect myself.” I was told to do it anyway. Reflecting on it now, I realise how bizarre that whole scene is and actually, how much of a minor issue there was with the parents in question.

But at the time, it dominated my life.

And the incidents I've mentioned here are the bigger bits - the bits that heads have to deal with when you’ve got experience under your belt. We’re not talking about the nuts and bolts - teaching, learning, modelling to the children how to behave and interact and be a good person, made even harder when the very people teaching you are modelling something completely different.

 So, I chose to end my career as a head before it ended me because of lack of support and a conflict of values. But that’s where Honeyguide comes in, a company born out of these ideas. We strive to support school leaders at all levels - we can’t do it for you and we know that, but we can lead beside you.

One of our values is to guide the path. We don’t know you or your school context, but now we’re not in the thick of it, the day-to-day grind of problem after problem to solve, we can take a step back and provide that support for you. We’ve designed all of our content with this in mind - to map out the ideas and options available so you can plan your own routes forward.

We want to empower all. It doesn’t matter what stage you’re at in your school leadership journey - even the most experienced leader was once teaching their very first lesson for their very first class. We’re here to help you build the skills as you go, offering resources and courses that are going to work for you. We’ve created multiple templates and added these into our guidance packs. We’re not telling you to use them because they’re a cure-all and (my most hated phrase) you might need them as evidence; we’re saying use them if it helps you. Use them if it makes you feel more prepared and more confident. Use them as a scaffold for your thinking, which is a great segue into…

Deliberate Thinking, Intentional Doing. Take planning a lesson as an example. Hopefully, you don’t rock up in front of your class, say a bunch of words and expect pupils to have learnt something (except perhaps what not to do). But doing everything on your to-do list with intent, with forethought and with informed preparation is seriously hard! Time is probably the most precious commodity in school life - we aim to save you some but not by churning out resources left, right and centre. Ours are deliberately thought about and carefully crafted.

So here’s an example. If I haven’t made it quite clear already, I believe school leaders at any level should use the same principles of good teaching and learning with the staff they lead, just like they would in their classrooms - after all, aren’t the children the reason we do the job?

Scaffolding is a great technique to support learners to acquire a new skill – we do that through our guidance and templates. Instruction and clear explanation is a solid way to teach a new concept - we call that mapping. Cognitive load - we break our material up with checkpoints. Explaining terminology and new vocabulary – well that’s fundamental, right? And lastly, models and analogies take complex ideas and make them relatable and understandable...

So why did we choose the name Honeyguide School Leader Support?  

Greater Honeyguide, Indicator indicator, male”, by Frans Vandewalle, licensed under CC BY 2.0

A Honeyguide is a small passerine bird found in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Some species work in cooperation with humans where they guide them to beehives so the human can access honey. The bird leads them by flying ahead and making specific calls, then waits for the person to break open the hive, allowing the bird to feed on the wax and bee larvae left behind.

We can’t break open the hive for you but we can show you the way, we can guide the path, we can lead beside you. That’s our mission. That’s why we chose the name Honeyguide.

We look forward to being on this journey with you!


Gifs?! In an educational blog for teachers and leaders?! Aren't you supposed to be professionals?!

Yes and we are, but remember, we're all human beings too 😀

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