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We_CAN – Blog 06.07.19

The Diary of a Headteacher – Part 1 –  Summer reflections – on school improvement

Do you like your job? This was the question I was met with as I walked through the Academy in our final week of term, before the summer holiday started.

The student who asked me this was in their final year, year 11 from September. I think they were asking this as not only a point of conversation, but also as they were seriously begin to consider what they would do when leaving the Academy, maturing into the young person that they had now become and reflecting on how they could be the very ‘best version of themselves’. They had grown in confidence over the year, through the opportunities they had been given within school.

My reply? “Yes, of course I do. Out of all the jobs I’ve had in schools, this is by far my favourite.”

“But don’t you get sick of dealing with all of us lot?” they asked.

“Actually, dealing with ‘you lot’ is probably one of the best bits,” I said as I walked off reflecting on what they had just said.

Working with students is genuinely one of the aspects of headship that many heads will tell you they enjoy the most – even when the students are not doing what they are supposed to!

Most teachers enter the profession because they want to make a difference in the lives of young people, because they are passionate about their subject, or because they had an inspirational teacher themselves.
We should never let go of our reasons or forget why we chose this career in the first place.

But if working with young people is a common reason for becoming a teacher, at what stage do we start to see “working with adults” as a motivational factor, too?

I have found personally that one of the most rewarding aspects of a leadership position is supporting colleagues to become more effective in their roles. Maybe this is something that develops in us over time as we progress in our careers in schools.

I have been thinking a lot recently about school leadership and in particular about how to develop the next generation of leaders & headteachers.

My own personal goal is to develop members of my senior leadership team to a point where they are ready for headship (if they want it). I take great pride in looking back at the people who I have worked with and coached who are now leaders and I hope that my influence on them has helped them to shape their own ideas about leadership, influencing their own schools to inspire their own young people.

The profession needs this type of approach because there is a worrying paucity of people out there willing to take the step up.

I have worked with people who will only appoint leaders to their senior leadership team who they know will be deferential, do as they are told and ask no questions. This does not develop leaders; it just assists the head in their autocratic reign.

What I am really interested in is creating the conditions in which all of my staff can genuinely thrive. This means they need to have ownership of their career pathway and this means having an open dialogue with staff about their aspirations.

I want my senior leadership team to genuinely want to take the headship step because I have coached them to a point where they have the required confidence, knowledge, experience and motivation. I want them in turn to empower our middle leaders so that they are able to achieve their personal career goals, even if that means losing good people to other schools from time to time. If we are doing our job properly then we are nurturing a conveyor belt of talented people who are ready to step into the roles of those who have secured promotions.

This is genuine sustainable school improvement and it is an extremely exciting aspect of my role.

P. Collin – Headteacher @ City Academy Norwich