KEY THINGS I HAVE LEARNT DURING MY FIRST YEAR OF HEADSHIP…

  • It’s OK and normal not to feel completely on top of everything, I’m not sure if any Headteacher ever feels that they are. It took me ages to accept this! There always seems to be something new to get to grips with or sort out!

  • Some aspects of school life can need immediate action (for example safeguarding or inadequate teaching) but sometimes slow and gradual changes are more appropriate – you can’t get everything the way you want it over-night. Some stakeholders demand answers or decisions straight away, on the spot, but it’s OK to take your time. Sleep on it, talk to trusted colleagues in (and/or out of) school. Often, things look better and less urgent the day after, people can be stressed and worried after a hard day!

 

  • Linked to that… you can’t do everything at once – pick your battles and prioritise. As long as you’re aware of what the key issues are, what you want to achieve and how you plan to do it that’s fine. Ofsted we’re happy with this when they came in.

 

  • SLT – v. important to work out who to listen to and who to trust, and being challenged (appropriately) and having a range of views is good, it helps you consider all sides of a problem or development. Developing a strong SLT is vital to helping a school move forward – you can work together on improvement areas. Working productively with existing, often well-respected, staff shows to everyone that you’re willing to listen to what they have to say and to work with them.

 

  • You cannot please everyone all the time – it is basically impossible. We’re very lucky, we have an experienced, dedicated staff, strong results, happy children who behave well and have just had a very positive Ofsted outcome, but there are still a few small proportion of stakeholders who can become very unhappy very quickly and this does often need careful managing. This seems to be how it is in lots of schools at the moment. It’s very important to be calm and consistent with people and to know when it is appropriate to have a note taker or governor present at a meeting so everything is clear (agreed actions etc…) Headteachers need a strong relationship with their Governors and in particular the Chair, they need to be fully in support of you and the school in order to present a consistent and united front on all matters!

 

  • Teach – gives you credibility with everyone, especially with staff (we’ll try this new approach). It’s obviously extra work, but it has really helped develop relationships with parents and pupils and has helped me establish myself.

 

  • It takes time for people to get used to you, especially if you’re replacing a long-standing head. You can’t always win people round straight away. Being very visible really helps, so be on the playground in the morning and the afternoon, and be visible around the school during the day.

 

  • Delegate – you can’t do everything yourself! Work out who you trust to get jobs done and let them get on with it, just line manage and monitor/review as needed.

 

  • People need to feel listened to and that their views are respected, even if you don’t agree with what they are saying! We try and have regular MSA and TA meetings and have previously run a parent council. The ‘you said, we did’ approach is effective. It’s obviously important to strike a balance between everyone having input (on relevant areas of school life and decisions) and you being the one who is responsible for making the final decision and this being accepted and respected.

 

  • Organisation is so important. Get everything planned out in advance (meetings, events etc…) There is so much to keep on top of (the amount of Health and Safety paperwork surprised me!) that you have to have things planned out. I keep a paper diary with an A4 page for each day and put in key things to remember on certain days so I don’t miss anything (in theory!) Also, modelling being organised sets a good example for staff because it’s very annoying to be chasing up paperwork/information after the due deadline. Also, keep a track on all your log in details – there are lots of them and it is a pain to forever be going through the ‘forgot password’ procedure!

 

  • Budget setting – every time we have had a budget revision something has changed. After one revision I panicked and looked at making all sorts of changes, but then things looked quite different a few months down the line. Ultimately, you want good quality staff working with the kids as often as possible, and if that means doing less photocopying or having the heating 1 degree lower then so be it. Pupil numbers are key, and if pupils and parents are happy then this should stay relatively stable, and the best way of ensuring they’re happy is through having great teachers and an exciting and broad curriculum. Obviously things are tight at the moment so work with other schools to share ideas and resources.

 

  • Be yourself – I tried to be too focussed and professional at the start. There needs to be a balance between this and you being relaxed and yourself and having a laugh with people. I’ve really had to develop my professional judgement at getting this balance right. People don’t want to come to work if they aren’t happy and positive about where they work. Treat everyone politely and consistently and 99% of people will follow suit.

 

  • Switching off is so important and something I’ve found very hard. I have to be firm with myself and not do work or check my emails after a certain time in the evening, otherwise I find it hard to sleep. It’s about knowing yourself, everyone is different, but I have to do something not related to work before going to sleep, otherwise I can’t switch off. Having a hobby that is completely unrelated to work really helps. Whatever it is, find something that helps you escape from the pressure and stress!

 

  • In my experience, people will always help. It can be a lonely job, but every Head I have spoken to over the last year has always been supportive and keen to help if needed. Get experienced Heads out to your school, are they seeing what you’re seeing? Is there anything you’ve missed? Heads like doing this, so utilise their experience. Whatever you’re going through, someone has usually had the same experience at some point, so you’re not alone, don’t make decision in isolation, don’t be worried about sending an email or making that phone call to talk something through. Often this just confirms that you are thinking the right thing!
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