Diary of a Headteacher: On our way back

Written by: Diary of a Headteacher | Published:
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The transformation of our headteacher diarist’s school continues. There is a long way to go, but the progress being made, step by step, is palpable

Before I joined as head, I was told that my school was a “very depressing place”. Not much of an advert for a new head!

My go-to supply agent met with me before my arrival and explained that the school “couldn’t get science teachers in for love nor money”. I thought this was a joke. I was wrong. The supply staff of London had been in, they’d seen it, experienced it and promptly left in their droves.

Today I asked one of my September-appointed senior leaders to help me with some issues which she said were among the most challenging of her career so far. At one point she said she was mirroring seating positions and actions to keep her nervousness in check. She really needn’t have worried. She did a great job. The learning curve in this school is steep given the situation we’re in.

At the end of the day, I asked this assistant head to call a parent. Something that unsettled me had happened and I wanted the parent to know that we were aware and were dealing with it. It had been a difficult day and the phone conversation she’d made had taken a turn that she hadn’t expected.

The parent said in a very serious tone that she had something to say. My assistant head worried. The parent said, for the first time in four years, the school had contacted her and gave her faith that things would be alright. She thanked the “great new leadership team for changing the school for the better”. My assistant head returned to my office jubilant.

I can’t say that the first couple of terms of headship have corrected all the wrongs of my school – there’s still much to do. What I can say is that I’ve been successful in creating and then selling the story and vision of the school. I have a staff who are with me on the journey. I have a leadership team who are growing in confidence and experience every day. I have students who are the most amazing ambassadors for the school.

We can illustrate the improvements we have made with tangible evidence. But it hasn’t been easy. Every day presents a new challenge – inevitably some more unpleasant than others.

On Saturday I spent the day in a private dining room at The Ivy. A wonderful family event with 15 of my nearest and dearest where we celebrated the 40th wedding anniversary of my aunty and uncle. It was truly amazing. As we shared this special time as a family, I thought about how lucky I was and what special experiences my children were so privileged to have. On Sunday I thought about the children in my school. Are we affording them the experiences that they deserve?

Monday came and planning began. Christmas is nearly upon us and that is the perfect time to illustrate the community spirit that we have tried so hard to rebuild after the years where it had been terribly broken down. What to do?

  • Plan a Christmas lunch in a family style where students and staff can sit and eat together.
  • Have you heard of a reverse advent calendar? I bet you’ve never seen one placed in a life-size sleigh fit for Father Christmas himself. We’ve got one.
  • Introduce Christmas jumper day to raise funds for our local charity.
  • Invite the local care home to bring their residents to eat and meet the sixth form.
  • Make sure all these fun things happen while learners are still learning, teachers are still teaching and school business continues.

The last of these is the work in progress, which we will make sure happens until the very last carol is sung. Our journey is an interesting one. One day, things might go so well that it is like we are dining at The Ivy, the next we’re catapulted back. We’re on a rollercoaster ride together but, one thing is for certain, we’re far removed from the “very depressing place” where our school was perceived to be back in April.

I hope all readers on the same tough journey are lucky enough to be able to say the same.

  • 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.


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