Diary of a headteacher: A plan for the first 100 days

Written by: Diary of a headteacher | Published:
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When taking up a new position in a school, especially as a senior leader, it pays to plan ahead, says our headteacher diarist

Recently I have experienced the pleasure of interviewing several internal candidates for important senior leadership roles within my school.

I believe that schools should invest significant resource into developing the professional capital of staff and if this is done correctly the opportunity to “grow your own” leaders can lead to rapid and sustainable growth.

The recent processes I have led got me thinking about the concept of internal vs external candidates. Promoting people from within the organisation is a really healthy sign that the school CPD programme is working and individuals are developing their careers, while staying loyal to the school.

However, it is dangerous to think that internal candidates are a shoe-in for a particular role, just because of their experience and intimate knowledge of the school. There are times when a school needs to bring in new people because there is a need to freshen things up a bit.

There are huge benefits from having a low staff turnover: consistency for students, staff commitment to the school and the security of having stable staffing year-in, year-out. However, when there is very little staff movement at a school, momentum can sometimes stagnate and practices can become complacent and institutionalised if the leadership of the school is not forward-thinking and up-to-date with current evidence-based educational research.

Additionally, having a stable and consistent staff can eventually lead to a high percentage of teachers on the upper pay range, which with the problems of school funding today is extremely costly and very unaffordable. In these instances, bringing in new teachers and new leaders can be beneficial and just what the school needs. Fresh ideas, energy, enthusiasm and a need to prove oneself can inject a vital dose of momentum into a complacent school.

So, what is it like when you secure a new leadership position in a new school? I have personally benefited from changing schools twice in my career now and the honeymoon period you have, in those first few months as a school leader, are extremely beneficial. You get to see everything with fresh eyes and give balanced and objective view points on how the school is operating.

You have the experience of seeing systems and processes that work effectively in other schools and as long as you don’t fall into the annoying trap of constantly proclaiming “we did it like this at my last school”, then your input into creating efficiencies will be highly valued by your new colleagues.

Joining a new school as a leader requires and you to spend some of that honeymoon period “decluttering” the areas you are responsible for. Finding out what works, what doesn’t, and constantly questioning why things occur in a certain way are all important in the decluttering process. Don’t accept the answer “because this is how we’ve always done it round here” – it’s a sure sign of institutionalism!

As a new headteacher, or indeed, for any new leadership role in a new school, I would highly recommend having a “first 100 days plan”.

This plan should start the day after you’ve accepted the position or you have signed the contract; don’t wait until your first day at your new school as you will already be behind the curve.

As a school leader, even though you’re new, everyone will expect you to know what you are doing and to hit the ground running. You need to get into your new school as much as possible before you start and meet with key staff to build relationships and have an input into decision-making processes that will affect you when you begin.

If you cannot be released much from your current school then you will need to do as much work as possible remotely.
The importance of making a good first impression is critical, so make sure you identify some quick wins that will enable you to begin your leadership role positively and build yourself a good reputation with students, staff, parents and governors.

  • SecEd’s headteacher diarist is in his third year of headship at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.


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