Developing a Servant Leadership programme for Catholic schools

Sue Price outlines a school Servant Leadership course and considers the impact it had on the leadership style of those who took part.

Part of my role as the Pastoral Outreach Coordinator for the Margaret Beaufort Institute of Theology includes liaison and provision of in-service sessions for schools. We deliver the CCRS (Catholic Certificate in Religious Studies) on behalf of the Diocese, as well as delivering the East Anglia Diocesan Certificate in Catholic Studies. These are courses specifically, although not exclusively, tailored for those working and teaching within Catholic schools. These courses provide a good starting point for many of the teachers; the hope is always that people will want to know a bit more and continue with their ongoing theological education.

I was approached by Our Lady of Walsingham (OLOW) MAT (Multi-Academy Trust) and asked to develop a course for the senior leadership teams, based on the idea of Servant Leadership.1 The aim of the course was to bring the different leadership teams together from across the MAT and to encourage the staff to think more deeply and theologically about their leadership styles. The underlying framework for the sessions was built upon the baptismal vocation that all receive to be prophet, priest and king. Together we explored what this meant within terms of Servant Leadership and how their baptismal vocation was lived out in a leadership and teaching ministry within a Catholic school.

The Servant Leadership course
The programme comprised six sessions, each lasting an hour, one each half-term over the course of the school year. Each session contained time for prayer, theological input, reflection and group work. Out of each session came practical suggestions for ways of implementing ideas of Servant Leadership in connection with the call to be prophet, priest and king. An added component was that this course was delivered from September 2020–July 2021. During this time, schools were coping with Covid-19 restrictions and lockdowns, online and in-person teaching, as well as the usual issues that senior leadership teams are confronted with. For practical reasons, all the sessions were delivered via Zoom. Although this was necessitated by Covid restrictions, it resulted in several positive features. The OLOW MAT is spread over a large geographical area. As a result, for all the senior leadership staff to meet in person in one location, a minimum of an hour’s travel would have been required to enable the majority to attend. By meeting via Zoom, everyone could meet without having to travel. I also noticed that by using the random option for the breakout rooms, people were able to meet with others that they would perhaps not normally have associated with. It provided a way of allowing people to engage and support one another from outside their immediate school groupings.

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