Vice Chair of the Trust Board:
Kate Pearlman Shaw served as Chair of Governors at our Leeds West Academy and now serves as Vice Chair of the Trust Board. Kate is the founder of Pearlman-Shaw Consultancy, a consultancy firm that specialises in behavioural leadership development.
Kate you have served as Chair of Governors at Leeds West Academy and now you serve as Vice Chair of the Trust Board; so what has the transition been like?
Seamless, as I was already on the Trust Board as I was the LAB Chair for LWA. Sadly, it was too much work to undertake two leadership roles in Governance for WRAT so I have stepped aside at Leeds West where I was replaced by the excellent Caroline Gruen. She was the Vice Chair there with me, I know she’ll make an excellent Chair of Governors for LWA and ensure the school, pupils and community are well served.
Can you tell us why you chose to serve as a Governor and why did you choose the White Rose Academies Trust?
Two reasons: firstly I worked closely with a number of the senior leaders of WRAT through its formative years as I ran a Leadership Development Programme for what is now Luminate Education Group. One of the elements of that was to support the group to develop their strategy, I was hooked by the purpose, the aspiration for the children of Leeds, the people who were dedicating their professional lives to creating something innovative in education providing a pathway through schools into college. When I stopped running that leadership programme to set up my own company I was approached and asked if I’d like to ‘swap sides’ and join the leadership in a governance capacity. I jumped at the chance, I didn’t hesitate.
Secondly is a more personal reason. Years ago I used to run a Clinical Psychology clinic at the GP surgery on New Road Side in Horsforth, my office looked at what is now LWA. One Christmas a client of mine couldn’t afford to feed her kids or buy them presents: they went to what is now LWA. It caught at my heart strings and makes being a governor there and for the MAT, even more poignant, I keep thinking back to those ex-pupils and that Christmas and hoping that what we do there now means we’d would spot that, maybe we can stop that happening to another family.
Have you served on other charity boards and what experience did this enable you to bring to the White Rose Academies Trust?
I have been a governor in the Social Housing Sector for many years and at the time of joining WRAT my tenure as Chair of Leeds Jewish Housing Association was coming to an end. I was wanting another non-executive role, something purposeful in Leeds, so this was perfect.
I bring many years of governance experience at chair level: I’ve been part of great governance teams where I have interviewed for senior posts, gone through numerous performance audits, managed significant risks, overseen large development projects and restructured an organisation, twice. What I bring most from these experiences is knowledge of effective governance, such as how to build a governing team and make the governance rules and regulations work for the organisation.
What do you enjoy about serving as a Governor?
It sounds corny, but giving back and helping. I have a set of skills that are useful to people so whichever Board I serve on I see this as my way of contributing to people’s wellbeing. I also have a job where I work alone, so working with a team, especially a team of incredibly talented and dedicated people, is a joy.
Can you describe your memories of school and the value you place, personally, on formal education?
I don’t have terribly good memories of school. I was bullied badly in the days when not much was done about it. I was lucky as I was academic and used to seek solace in the library to study. So, while I value formal education as this is one route to success, I also think that the emphasis we place on behaviour at our schools is also important.
One of the things that impresses me so much at LWA, and our other schools, is the thinking that getting pupils into school and making sure they are able to learn is as important as the formal learning itself. So I support and take an interest in the attention we pay to attendance and behavioural initiatives: if we get kids into school (or at the moment access to tech) and help them to behave well, even feed them if needed, then we enable them to learn better.
Our community would love to read about your career to date and how you use this experience on the board?
I’m a Clinical Psychologist by background and as I’ve said I worked locally for many years. For a while I ran all Clinical Psychology and Counselling Services for the patch LWA sits in. Primarily my role was 1-1 therapy with adults with a range of mental health problems. As I gained seniority I gained a leadership role and through running the national leadership development programme for Clinical Psychology in the UK for 5 years I got progressively more interested in how we develop & empower leaders as much as how we develop and empower people generally.
From there I was tempted away from the NHS to work with leaders in big corporate companies where I used those same psychotherapeutic skills to help leaders change their behaviours and manage their emotions to become even more effective leaders and positively transform their colleagues lives. I went all over the world with the company I worked for supporting amazing people in incredible situations. For example: in order to understand the environments pilots had to lead in I even got to fly to New York on the flight deck of a 747 and to understand a publisher and their teams I got to visit their archives where I held a map drawn by Darwin. Wow!
I never really felt comfortable working in the private sector, so in 2017 I went to set up a leadership development consultancy for the UK’s leading public sector recruitment company. It was there that my team and I started working with what became Luminate Education Group: I hadn’t worked in the sector before and the dedication to make serious changes in young people’s lives, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds had a profound impact on me. I’ve been a fan ever since and work in the FE sector whenever I can.
Kate, we know that in recent years, you have taken the exciting step to launch your own company. Please tell us about your company?
My business specialises in a form of leadership development that helps leaders to behave differently, enhancing their personal effectiveness to improve things for everyone in their organisations. The USP of my company is in taking complex and current psychological thinking and turning these into easily understandable, practical and personalised leadership approaches that underpin the coaching and team development workshops that I offer. So in nutshell, where other forms of leadership development concentrate on ‘what’ you need to do to be a good leader, we use validated psychological tools and models to deep dive into the ‘how do you actually do that’.
On a day to day basis you’ll find me coaching leaders 1-1 or, these days, running online modules for teams on subjects as diverse as the psychology of selling and buying, the neuroscience of creating equitable and diverse workplaces or recently and most commonly, how to stay motivated working from home and resilient during the pandemic. To ensure and support leaders to really focus on how these methods work for them I will then typically spend some time 1-1 with them so that they can apply these methods in ways that suit them.
I started my business in 2019, where workshops were day-long, fairly intense sessions. The pandemic has changed all that. Just as our teachers have learned how to deliver online learning and support I’ve learnt how to deliver impactful leadership development online. If you’d have told me a few years ago that online team development would be possible and would in some ways be an even more effective way of working, I wouldn’t have believed you. Yet that’s my experience: I’ve learnt that this way of personal learning in small chunks, followed by a 1-1 application experience really works. I’m considering a hybrid of this way of working with some in-situ team development when we begin to establish a new normal. Exciting times for Pearlman-Shaw Consultancy!
Kate, you seem super busy, so what do you like doing to relax?
I have a terrible confession, I love TV: I love American dramas that go on for years, it’s switch-off time for me when I watch. Nothing high-brow, nothing serious. And I love anything funny: I’m a great believer in the power of laughter. Apart from that, anything that takes me outside (on a nice day), preferably where’s there’s a view, I like to be on the top of a hill seeing other hills.
Finally, why do you believe that other professionals, should seek to serve on an education board or local school governing body?
I think many people don’t realise that they have skills and experiences that are super useful to educational Boards. I think the traditional school board member is usually thought of as someone with an educational background, an accountant or a retired professional or business person. So if you don’t come from one of these backgrounds don’t discount what you can offer, and what the school or Board can offer you.