“Take care of yourself first before you take care of others.”

It’s our fiftieth episode! What a journey it has been and an absolute pleasure to get to know 50 amazing women who are leading in so many unique ways, across various industries, and representing a dozen different countries and four continents. Huge thank you to all of our incredible guests and to the listeners who enjoy hearing their stories.

In this episode, Sham chats with Alison Kriel about her incredible track record improving schools, her passion for inclusion and diversity, and the many learnings she picked up in her path from teacher to Founder/CEO.

“Choose battles wisely – if people do not see themselves as part of the problem, you will not be able to win them over.”

Today we speak to Alison Kriel the founder of Above and Beyond. Alison is a teacher by training and comes from a family of teachers. Hailing from South Africa, Alison has built her career in the UK. She has an outstanding record:  Alison turned around a failing school within a deprived area of London from the bottom 1% to the top 0.1% in 3 years and went on to sustain the success of the school for a further 6 years with the school consistently being listed within the top 100 schools nationwide. Both of her school’s are the Sunday Times of the UK’s top 500 schools which is a prestigious list to be on.  She is the only black female CEO in education in the UK.  She has a passion for staff and pupil wellbeing, the celebration of the teaching profession, inclusion and diversity and she enjoys supporting school leaders and schools facing demanding challenges.

Show recap:

  • Above and Beyond was set up as a social media platform for schools to connect in the UK.

  • Schools in the UK are currently forced to be focused on their numbers for reporting purposes and schools do not have time to then focus on other aspects. Above and Beyond are there all the time. Above and Beyond serves to have schools speak up about their successes and also then to ask for respective help.

  • The second part of the platform serves as a register for consultants for schools.

  • The company is currently in its infancy. Alison goes out engaging schools and their leaders directly as well as getting consultants on board.

  • The initiative is very much welcomed and the reception thus far has been good.

  • Education is a political tool – every time there is a change in government, schools are constantly having to change, making it difficult to cope.

  • It is important to recognise what is done well and use that to leverage.

  • Alison believes the best teachers know that they are teachers.

  • Her family migrated from South Africa to Ireland and then England in order for the family to have a better life.

  • She wanted to become the teacher that she remembered as her best teacher.

  • Alison believes children have complicated lives and children are going to feel academically successful only when they are emotionally okay and know what they are good at.

  • She noticed a difference in the teaching profession after she became a head teacher in the UK and she notice it had become more corporate. There was less sharing. An emphasis on Math and Science came about creating a lot of stress and ignoring the other skills.But there is a shift now.

  • She herself became rather unwell with stress in 2013 which then drove an entire well being campaign for the school.

  • She is asked to speak at conferences etc – at first on turning around schools and eventually on well being of schools.

  • Only 1.2 percent of school leaders in the country are BAME(Black, Asian, Minority Ethnic). And she is passionate about speaking about this, hoping to effect some change.

  • She sees challenges as opportunities and one of her biggest challenges has been juggling between her daughter growing up and her job.

  • Reaching a point of stress where she became unwell was a failure and she looks at it positively as a wake up call.

  • She sees being an authentic leader as a part of making sure of successes.

  • She stresses taking care of oneself.

  • Choose battles wisely – if people do not see themselves as part of the problem, you will not be able to win them over.

  • Decide to be happy!

“Teaching from the soul makes the best teachers.”

Connect with Alison: