Managing Conflict in School Leadership Teams

Ross Morrison McGill

Tuesday, 12 February 2019

“Ross, I need to bring to your attention an incident and show you the following statement which has been provided to me by a parent”.


Have you ever found yourself on the receiving end of a message like the above? I have. It hurts. It can be embarrassing or sometimes, it can be unexpected and offensive. When it comes to managing conflict, I’ve found myself in all types of situations as a receiver and as a giver, and how I manage these situations as a teacher and school leader has varied significantly throughout my career.

Such is the busy nature of school life, rarely are difficult conversations or conflicts of interest conducted in a climate where the process can move calmly or at a steady pace. Unless conversations are carefully engineered, individual thoughts and clarity for both the receiver and the giver as less likely to be well-managed and are likely to be emotive rather than logical.

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Safeguarding aside, what tends to happen in schools is that conversations are often conducted on their feet in corridors or constructed to be completed where both parties can meet together to discuss the issue before the next ‘school bell’ rings. In more serious cases, during the day or after-school hours are often best placed for serious investigations with various people and organisations in attendance to act as advisers and conduits of support for both parties, particularly when legal issues are involved and the implications are serious.

Once I received a difficult conversation as a teacher and I was supported by my union after a parent complaint. This was constructed during the school day when I had a free period. Naturally, I left the meeting feeling aggrieved but thankfully with very clear expectations. At the time and as a young teacher, I did not contemplate how difficult this conversation may have been for the person having to provide it. With hindsight, the person acting as my mediator provided an objective point which offered much-needed support and challenge.

However, I sometimes found myself in positions without support. Why? Well, as teachers we conduct countless conversations on our feet every day, with pupils parents and colleagues.

As with any school, incidents may be rare but sometimes unusual circumstances can unfold, such is the busy nature of school life.

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About our Community Expert

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Ross Morrison McGill
Community Expert ~ Founder of @TeacherToolkit

Ross Morrison McGill, also known as @TeacherToolkit, is the ‘most followed educator on social media in the UK’. Ross has been a teacher for 25 years and is the founder of one of the most popular education websites in the world. He is an award-winning blogger, author and today, has worked with over 100 schools in 8 countries. The Sunday Times listed Ross as one of the500 Most Influential People in Britain’ and today, he remains the only classroom teacher to have featured.

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