Diary of a headteacher: Have you ever seen a sewer fly?

Written by: Diary of a headteacher | Published:
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It just goes to show being a head does'nt mean your bossing staff and kids about but also sewer ...

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Sewer flies, rats and a homeless man sleeping in the car park are among some of the more unusual challenges faced by our headteacher diarist as term begins...

It is Wednesday, August 29. It is 9am and I’m stood in a queue that runs the length of an East End market trying to buy the new colour shirts that my daughter has just told me she needs to go into year 9 at her school.

Nice of her to mention this after five weeks of the summer holidays. When there’s one shop that is the only uniform outlet for at least 11 east London secondary schools, their monopoly on the market means that this could take a while. You can do a lot of thinking in a queue that’s this long.

As the rain beings to fall, the mind wanders. I am reminded that I am about to begin my second term as headteacher of a secondary school about half-an-hour down the road. Not something you could easily forget, I suppose, but one term in and I still can’t quite believe that it’s my name on the sign.

A couple of hours in and I’ve got the elusive shirts in my hand. Now to drop the eldest daughter off ice-skating and pop to school to get ready for next week.

All seems to be going a little too well to be true. As suspected, I’ve got more to come than I had bargained for. The sewer flies are back.

Who’d have thought that sewer flies would be on the radar for a new head? Well, I can assure you that they really are. If you’ve never seen a sewer fly, you really don’t want to. The mere thought of them makes me itch. Walking into the staff toilets to see 300-plus of the furry little creatures looking down at me was enough to make me wish it was July.

Or maybe not – we had 500-plus sewer flies in July so I guess August has proven a relative success on this front.

I left my last role as associate head in April with a bang. Dinner at the Savoy Grill with all members of the senior leadership team, past and present, was a real highlight. Sitting in the Savoy’s Art Deco dining room in March and looking forward to my impending headship, I couldn’t have imagined what was to come in the 12 short weeks until the end of the summer term.

I think I may have rewritten the checklist of things to expect in your first term as head. The man who has been living in the council car park right next door to the school is still there. If he’s awake, he says “hello” to the site staff in the morning. It doesn’t look like he plans on moving anytime soon.

Then there’s the water voles (aka rats). They have lived at the school for so long that they have evolved enough to be able to walk on two legs and converse in three different languages. I am sure I’ve heard them speaking in Latin, probably a clue to how long they’ve been residing there.

Then there’s the complaints. How much time can a new headteacher spend on answering them? In my experience – how long is a piece of string?

If you are thinking of becoming a head, get ready to answer for the perceived wrongs of the school for the last 50 years! Just make sure you answer with a smile (while avoiding at all costs the sewer flies and the rats).

It is now 5:30pm and, like every other year since I’ve been on the senior leadership team, I’m re-reading Bill Rogers to get ready for my presentation on the establishment phase.

Some things never change and following the advice of good old Bill can make the greyest autumn term easier. Bill always makes me happy – until the phone rings...

It’s the ice skating daughter, except she’s not ice skating. Oh no, instead, she’s gone with her friends to Oxford Circus because they fancied a trip to Top Shop. Pick up time soon, but not until Bill and I are prepped for all that term two as headteacher will bring...

  • SecEd’s Diary of a Headteacher is written by two different headteachers. The author of this entry is a headteacher in her first year of headship at a secondary school in east London.

It just goes to show being a head does'nt mean your bossing staff and kids about but also sewer flies and rats all with a smile on your face.
Loving this headteacher.

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Amusing take on reality, how refreshing. A most enjoyable piece please, more of the same!
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What a refreshing piece of reality re: the challanges of leadership in challenging contexts. This resonates so much with me as an experienced senior leader in an East London School. This Head is to be praised for the resilient yet humourous take on the first year of Headship. Wishing him/her all the best. Although I can already say I see the foundations of a very good leader!
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