Diary of a headteacher: Genuine and sustainable school improvement

Written by: Diary of a headteacher | Published:
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Do you like your job? This was the question I was met with as I walked through the school this week.

This boy who asked it had spent a great deal of time in my office while he was in year 10, but in his final year he is maturing into the young man we knew he would become.

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?”he asked.

“Actually, dealing with you lot is probably one of the best bits,” I said as I walked off laughing.

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 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 headteachers and I hope that my influence on them has helped them to shape their own ideas about leadership.

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.

  • The author is a headteacher in his fifth year of headship at a secondary school in the Midlands.


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