Heads learn to control their inner chimps

Snooker player Ronnie O’Sullivan, controversial footballer Luis Suárez and even the Team GB Olympic cycling squad – all have worked with Steve Peters to build resilience and a winning mentality. But now the former forensic psychiatrist’s renowned Chimp Management organisation is helping to transform the fortunes of a different team: school leaders on the Isle of Wight.

For many, the island is associated with sea, sand and the Cowes Week regatta, but in recent years it has developed an altogether less welcome reputation for the low standards in its schools. Last year, Ofsted’s annual report revealed that just 17 per cent of secondary students on the island attended a good or outstanding school – a significantly lower proportion than in any other part of England.

Slowly but surely, however, the situation is improving: since September, three of the island’s secondaries have been moved out of special measures by Ofsted. And school leaders have insisted that at least part of the improvement can be attributed to being taught how to manage their inner “chimp”.

In Mr Peters’ philosophy, the chimp represents the instinctive, emotional part of the brain that does not always react in a logical manner when under stress. A bespoke programme has been created for the island by former teacher Kate Goodger, head of Chimp Management’s education practice.

“What we very quickly realised was that school leaders weren’t in a great place, and teaching staff were probably in an even worse place, because of the pressures on them,” she said.

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