Diary of a Headteacher: Not in a million years…

Written by: Diary of a Headteacher | Published:
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I’d really like to visit this school. This head seems very resilient and ready for the challenge. ...

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Reflecting on her first 20 weeks or so of headship, our diarist wouldn’t change a thing – despite the myriad challenges she has faced and continues to encounter

“It is becoming a real game-changer, this school. One that has opened my eyes to how a school can start again and become bigger and better under great leadership. Well done for pushing through and showing us all how it can be done. I’ll be sure to watch the journey and be a part of it where I can.”

Word is finally getting out. We launched our new Facebook page in September and now actual people (who I don’t know and definitely aren’t related to me) are starting to talk about us. There’s a lot you can achieve in a school in a term-and-a-half.

I have recently taken time to reflect on the ups and downs of my first 20 weeks or so of headship.

November 2017: I saw the advert. I must admit, it didn’t particularly sing out to me at first – a repeated RI school with a drastically falling roll. Not the most enticing of prospects. That, and I wasn’t really looking to move. Approaching nine years in my previous school as associate head, I was happy doing my thing.

December 2017: I had become intrigued by the stories I heard when I asked anyone about the school. The fact that the supply agency we used said they couldn’t pay their science teachers to go there was particularly fascinating. Drawn in by the thought of how bad it could actually be, I took a visit. This tour led to an application, which led to a two-day interview, which led to a job offer. Surprise, surprise – I signed up to be a head.

Spring term 2018: I was sat in my office in a completely different London borough when I got the call: “Ofsted has called, they’re coming in tomorrow. Do you want to join us?”
The answer was quite simple – “No!”. I knew the judgement was only going one way and I didn’t want my name associated with that or my first experience of the school to be it going into special measures. I needed a completely fresh start for maximum impact.

April 2018: Our Easter holidays had different dates so my crossover between schools meant I had a three-week holiday – the perfect opportunity to get into school and meet the staff. My first staff meeting was the Wednesday before the beginning of their holidays.

Members of senior leadership warned me that I was highly likely to be heckled. That wasn’t in my plan. I revealed to my future colleagues the Ofsted judgement. Unbelievable as it may seem, the inspection gods had worked slowly and staff were blissfully unaware. That came as a bit of a shock. I’d prepared a couple of comedy interludes to accompany the news (gallows humour) and made it clear that the only way was up. I got a round of applause at the end. Unheard of.

Easter holidays 2018: Have you ever spent a holiday decorating a school? A dilapidated 1960s building at that. I’d been planning the redec since December and now the plans were coming to fruition – all with the help of much-needed funding from the MAT. Walking round the building, I found all manner of horrors. Unmentionables that will never be shared. The rats, sewer flies and condemned swimming pool provided the nicest distractions. It was bad.

Term 1: Someone was conspiring behind the scenes because, like a gift, the Ofsted report was released. Thanks for that.

My first 18 weeks of headship have been a literal rollercoaster. So much has happened. Imagine Grange Hill + Waterloo Road + Ackley Bridge and you’re still nowhere near what has actually gone on. Real life is definitely stranger than fiction.

Would I change where I am now? Not in a million years. Someone’s got to put their head above the parapet and for my school right now, that’s me. My first term-and-a-half of headship has taught me so much. My advice to you if you’re considering taking the plunge: do it! You never know, you just might love 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.

I’d really like to visit this school. This head seems very resilient and ready for the challenge. With a head like this, I imagine this would be a good place to teach.
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