Diary of a headteacher: A challenging year ahead

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Which neighbouring borough? I’m an AHT at a school that’s also in east London. We’re down on ...

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The new year’s resolution was simple: keep making the school a better place. Achieving it, however, will be a continuing challenge for our headteacher diarist

It’s cold and it’s January. As the festive decorations came down I thought back to the final day of last term, What a great day that was. We had planned a series of events that allowed us to spend time together as a community to celebrate all the joys that the season brings.

I am acutely aware that, given the cohort we serve, there will be some who will not have experienced the Christmas fantasy that we’re told should be the norm.

Given the rising costs that we all face, I’m sure that some staff might themselves have not been able to afford the Coca-Cola dream of the holidays that approached. And so on the last day of term, I wanted to ensure that everyone had a happy memory to take home with them.

After we had waved the children off, we did the same to our staff, who honestly all appeared to be completely worn out after a long and busy term.

It hadn’t all been happy news at the end of term, in spite of my best intentions. The sole teacher in a national shortage subject had left in the October half-term. I had tried to recruit – unsuccessfully – and had been paying for four days of cover a week at the cost of £250 a day since.

This great expense would have been a bit more palatable if the learners were getting the experience they deserved. They definitely weren’t. In half a term, they had not had the same teacher for a full week. Appalling.

So, just like the Grinch that stole Christmas, I had to take the incredibly hard decision to end the subject for two classes in year 10. No one had ever said headship would be easy and sometimes you have to make the decisions that nobody else wants to make. This was one of those times.

Decision made, we then had to tell the students and their parents. Two members of the leadership team had the unenviable task of calling parents and breaking the news. To say that this was taken badly is an understatement. I was greeted with three lengthy emails written in the 30 minutes it had taken me to drive home. More followed.

Now we’re back, we’re still dealing with the aftermath. Unfortunately, not all our parents agree that two terms of year 10 and the whole of year 11 without a teacher is a problem. Some would prefer we continue to “teach” without a teacher.

The positive that’s come out of this – in the circumstances – is that we have done the best for our learners. They started their new subjects this term and we’ll help them to catch up with what they have missed.

And of course, in January, it’s time for my resolution. That’s an easy one – keep making the school a better place. Bit-by-bit, make the improvements so desperately needed.

Most importantly, I resolve to ensure our students have the best educational experience we can possibly offer. But there’s more – I want to make parents believe in us (with the memory at the forefront of my mind of the disappointment I’d just brought to many) and secure us an increased number of students so that we are a viable (and even thriving) school. Not much to ask, then.

Just before the new term began, on the afternoon of January 4, I was on my way to the cinema with the family. It was my son’s seventh birthday and only the cinema and a large sweet popcorn would do. That’s when I got the call.

It all seemed so innocuous at first. In the on-going theme of my headship, though, things are often more than they seem. And this one might just be news of the break that we so desperately need.

What did I hear? A local borough has in excess of 300 children who will have no school to go to on national offer day. How awful for the children and their parents. Can we help? We’re certainly going to try.

If only we can secure some new teaching recruits and increase our numbers. If we can make that happen, 2019 will really become the most amazing year for our school. Wish me luck! As always, I’m certainly going to need it.

  • 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.

Which neighbouring borough? I’m an AHT at a school that’s also in east London. We’re down on numbers like this one. We could do with a resolution like this and a head who is going out there to try to make the difference. If my school doesn’t do more, we’ll have no students through the doors next year.
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