Mountains into Molehills: a mentee’s experience of the T Level Leadership Mentoring Programme

The ETF’s T Level Leadership Mentoring Programme gives those involved with T Level operational leadership a confidential, neutral and objective space to explore professional challenges associated with the preparation for, and delivery of T Levels, and grow their leadership skills through coaching and reflection. In this blog, Joe Murdoch, T Level Champion for Education and Childcare at the Isle of Wight College, writes about his experience of being a mentee on the programme.

Headshot of Joe Murdoch, T Level Champion for Education and Childcare at the Isle of Wight College

In preparation for my college delivering T Levels from September 2022, I was assigned as the ‘T Level Champion’ for Education and Childcare. My role is to disseminate information to support a successful transition from our existing offer to the new curriculum. I saw a social media post from the ETF about the T Level Leadership Mentoring Programme, and I saw this as an opportunity for both T Level support and to refine and develop my leadership toolkit, in line with my aspirations. However, I was definitely dubious about the supposed benefits of being coached and mentored; previous colleagues had little positive to say about being ‘coached’ in other settings, and I questioned what could be gained from talking about my role, my challenges and potential issues to a stranger when time is precious.
Suffice to say, I was wrong!

The coaching and mentoring I have undertaken has been transformative on both a professional and personal level.

Every session has been time well spent and has mitigated future stresses: one hour spent reflecting, analysing, critically considering how I could better support the team, develop curriculum and pedagogy, and encourage students to study with us saved countless hours in navigating the pitfalls of implementing a new qualification and new approach.

I was also able to develop the skills needed to implement change and support colleagues during the transition; I am now confident in seeking a rationale and developing a crystal-clear vision to support staff, students and the wider community to provide the best study offer in such a valued vocational area.

Working with my mentor

My mentor, Jacqui, has been a critical ally in helping both to develop competency in leadership and in familiarising myself with the T Level programme. I was provided with the opportunity to express concerns, discuss the road ahead and also share the good news of my curriculum area.

Though positive and nurturing, I was pushed to question my biases, challenge my dispositions and reflect upon my own role in a way which would not have been possible without expert coaching and guidance.

My mentor shared knowledge beyond formal leadership support, looking broadly at education and current developments across the sector whilst also using theory to support the mentoring process effectively where necessary. I found looking at the change curve and learning how to carry out a pre-mortem on my plans incredibly effective.

Reflection can be an uncomfortable process, especially when dealing with areas of doubt, but through emotionally intelligent discussion and time to engage with the online materials, I found myself becoming less reactive to situations and instead became proactive to better support the team.

Benefits of the programme

One key benefit of the programme was the group mentoring session and being able to discuss with other providers the pitfalls, challenges and benefits of delivering a T Level. Taking this time to share effective practice helps limit the reinvention of the wheel and the collaboration has provided an additional level of ongoing support. Being the sole FE College on the Isle of Wight can make it hard to network with peers, so the group session helped remove that barrier.

While this programme has been beneficial for our implementation of T Levels, the lessons I have learned go way beyond this, and I now have a greater confidence in my abilities to lead projects and lead others in an emotionally literate, informative way. Personal and professional development is always an ongoing process, but I have been laid foundations which would not have been in place without taking the time to engage with the programme. I didn’t want my sessions to stop!

I wholeheartedly recommend the programme to those who are involved in leading the implementation of T Levels across all areas of study and those who aspire to higher leadership, as well as those already in a leadership role.

If I could summarise the programme, it would simply be this: the T Level Leadership Mentoring Programme takes mountains and turns them into molehills.

Find out more about the T Level Leadership Mentoring Programme.

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