Award-Winning Julie Deville, CEO of Extol Academy Trust, talks about her career and shares some top tips for fellow school leaders.
How did it feel to win a Silver National Teaching Award?
I am absolutely delighted to receive a Silver Award in the National Teaching Awards 2023 for Lifetime Achievement. This is a special year as The Teaching Awards Trust celebrates its 25th anniversary.
The award is truly humbling and, as the product of a tough council estate, I feel a great sense of pride. Although, for me, it’s not just about personal achievement, it's also a testament to the collaborative and collective commitment of an entire educational community here in the North East.
No one in education works in a vacuum and I thank my lucky stars that over my 37 year career I have worked alongside some amazing and dedicated colleagues. These colleagues have supported and inspired me throughout the years. Their belief and challenge have seen my career span from a Nursery Nurse to Headteacher and latterly CEO. The quote “standing on the shoulders of giants” comes to mind.
Balancing the responsibilities of parenthood and pursuing the career I loved, has been a challenge and one I know many single parents face. My journey has been marked by perseverance, resilience, and a relentless determination to provide a better future for myself, my children and the children I serve. However, I wouldn’t want to understate the struggles, triumphs, and strategies needed to raft a career as a single mum.
What are your top tips for school leaders?
- Positive Mindset - I’ve always tried to maintain a positive outlook. Instead of seeing challenges as insurmountable obstacles, I’ve viewed them as opportunities for growth and learning. A positive mindset can help you approach difficulties with optimism.
- Acceptance - accept that challenges are a natural part of life. It's okay to feel upset, frustrated, or stressed when facing difficulties. I acknowledge my emotions and give myself permission to feel them. This has helped me not beat myself up when things have gone wrong.
- Break it Down - one of my favourite sayings, “you can’t eat an elephant in one bite” is a regular interjection. Accept that complex challenges can feel overwhelming. Break them into smaller, more manageable tasks or goals. This makes the challenge seem less daunting and allows you to focus on one step at a time. Acknowledge and celebrate even small achievements along the way. These milestones can provide motivation and encouragement.
- Resilience - I’ve tried through my career to cultivate my resilience and have the ability to bounce back from setbacks. I’ve found that resilience is developed through experiences that have challenge me. Reflecting on past challenges I've overcome remind myself of my inner strength.
- Flexibility - Sometimes, the path you initially set out on may not be the most effective one. I’ve accepted being adaptable can help find better solutions. Be mindful that progress isn’t linear and don’t be disheartened if speed bumps or diversions have to be encountered.
- Perseverance - or just being resolute. Understand that many challenges require time and sustained effort to overcome. Perseverance is key; don't give up when faced with setbacks or slow progress.
Do you have any reflections from your career?
My career has been filled with inspiring moments, growth, and a deep sense of purpose. My journey has instilled in me a passion for talent spotting and nurturing the next generation of teachers and leaders. I feel a great sense of satisfaction knowing I have walked the journey with a number of now Headteachers across the North East who are making a positive impact within their school communities.
I do strongly believe that great education holds a sacred place in our society. It has the power to transform lives, break down barriers, and build a brighter future. Each day, educators step into classrooms armed not just with knowledge but with a profound sense of responsibility. As a collective, we have the privilege of igniting curiosity, nurturing talents, and instilling in our pupils and colleagues the belief that they can achieve greatness.
The impact of a teaching hero extends far beyond the classroom, shaping the future of individuals and society as a whole. As educators we are essential pillars of our educational system, nurturing the leaders, innovators, and changemakers of tomorrow.
Nominate your colleagues for a National Teaching Award
Entries for the 2024 National Teaching Awards are now open. The awards are free and there are 16 individual and team categories covering the early years, primary, secondary and FE sectors, open to schools and colleges across the UK.