As I reflect on my first full week as a new headteacher, I am pleased with the positive start I have made.
I have had to absorb an enormous amount of information, from the names of staff and students to the intricacies and nuances of a typical school week, along with the curve-balls and unpredictable scenarios education always throws our way.
A particular challenge has been dealing with the expectation of being the person who should know everything, but knowing that deep down I am still learning the ropes!
The start of term is also quite a hectic affair and this week has been no different to any of the other schools I have worked in. The difference this time is that I am the head, so remaining calm and objective has served me well when I have had to make key early decisions. Deciding on what my priorities need to be has taken some careful consideration too.
The senior leadership team and middle leaders are keen to crack on with the areas of work they are responsible for and are justifiably keen to share their plans with me and gain my approval and support.
One thing I have learnt, though, from my work as a senior leader in other schools, is not to be too gung-ho with initiative overload. School improvement is often over-complicated and many leaders fall foul of trying to run too fast with a project before they can walk.
Getting the basics done correctly to the highest standard possible has got to be the starting point – the foundations from which our improvement strategies can then begin to work from. So, following this premise, I have decided to start with the very basics – get out and about, in among the students, and be very visible.
A senior leadership colleague once said to me that she felt senior leaders could fall into two different camps: “We are seen by the rest of the staff as desk-jockeys or foot-soldiers,” she said.
The perceptions of other staff in the school should not drive our behaviour and actions as senior leaders, but at the same time, we dismiss them at our peril.
As I said to my new senior leadership colleagues this week, we need to be able to do the every day stuff (planning, teaching, marking, dealing with behaviour incidents, liaising with parents) with our eyes closed and our hands tied behind our backs.
I expect the senior leadership team to set the standard for everyone else if we are to command the respect of colleagues, students and the wider school community. Sit in your office all day and we will be perceived as aloof, lazy and not one of the team.
However, if we try and do everything in the school ourselves we neglect the strategic aspect of our roles which is so pivotal.
Striking the balance is hard but it is an important one to get right. Being visible is one of the most important parts of being a senior leader, and as a new headteacher I have made sure I am at the school gates at the start and end of the day, as well as getting out and about at break and lunchtimes.
Many of us will have watched the first episodes of Educating the East End recently, and it is hard to not to make comparisons with how you might have dealt with certain situations yourself.
The authenticity of the previous Educating Essex and Yorkshire series really appealed to me – and it reassures me when you see senior leaders in these school working incredibly hard throughout a school day, radio invariably in hand and walking at pace!
As I embark on setting the standard for all my new colleagues to follow, I know they will have to walk quickly to keep up!
SecEd’s new headteacher diarist is embarking on his first headship at a comprehensive school in the Midlands.