This week I have been reflecting on our timetable for next year and the number of lessons my senior leadership team will teach.
I have always felt that in all aspects of our roles, senior leadership team members should lead by example and this starts with teaching. However, there is unquestionably a balance to strike in ensuring senior leaders teach an appropriate number of lessons so that they have sufficient time to successfully focus on their substantive leadership responsibilities while being able to practise what they preach in the classroom.
I have been impressed that our timetable is almost completed – this is much earlier than I have experienced in other schools. I know I will be dealing with a few curveballs as we move towards the teacher resignation deadlines, however I am confident that we have our staffing model secured to meet the needs of the curriculum we are offering.
But should the headteacher teach? The clue is in the name, “headteacher”, but including the head within the timetable can be fraught with problems.
From my personal experience, I have often been the last person to feature in the allocation of lessons in the timetabling process in the last few years – I have been a victim of being too flexible and able to offer four different subjects. This has meant that for the previous five years I haven’t taught the subject that I trained in, which has left me feeling slightly compromised.
One of my previous roles was as an advanced skills teacher (before these positions were scrapped) and I thoroughly enjoyed this job. I got to work closely with other teachers in my school and across the local authority (remember those?) and I found this to be an incredibly rewarding role.
I was almost entirely focused on teaching and learning and developing my own and others’ understanding of pedagogy and it was great. So to move away from this in recent years as I have made my way towards headship has meant that I have felt a little too far removed from teaching and more specifically from teaching the way that I used to. This is one of the compromises I knew that I would have to make, but recently I have been missing it.
When I started my first headship back in September the timetable had obviously already been written and I didn’t feature on it – the previous headteacher hadn’t taught any timetabled lessons and it was felt that I should be allowed to concentrate on making my first year of headship a successful one.
For the first time in my career I had no lessons to teach and it felt quite strange. However, I soon got used to it because my school is larger than average and I had a lot of things to learn in that first term. I made a mental note to revisit it in the summer term because I didn’t want to lose my touch in the classroom and I feel strongly that I should be setting an example to the rest of my staff.
I have felt that my senior leadership team are teaching too much this year so I have reduced the number of lessons they will be required to teach next year. Alongside this I am going to allocate myself a couple of classes a week so that I can continue to hone and develop my teaching skills.
However, I do understand that there are times when, as the headteacher, I am pulled in different directions and sometimes I just have to drop everything to attend to an urgent issue.
This is going to be the hardest balance to strike for myself, because I do not want to let the students in my class down by having to get my lesson covered because of the latest emergency.
I guess time will tell whether I can successfully achieve this or not – but I know that I need to give it a try.
SecEd’s headteacher diarist is in his first year of headship at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.