Best Practice

How to have a difficult conversation

Difficult conversations are a frequent reality for many school leaders – whether they be with parents, teachers or middle leaders. John Rutter advises on handling these situations

Not many people relish confrontation. Teachers are no exception. We are generally nice people who shy away from difficult conversations and arguments.

Undoubtedly there will be some power-mad leaders among us who want to exert their authority over others but, for most, this is anathema to our view of a caring profession.

But as a senior leader, the difficult conversation – while not exactly your bread and butter – will be a staple of your working life. It can take many forms and be with many different people. There are the parents who believe their children are incapable of poor behaviour or hold the school responsible for their lack of achievement; there are the teachers who show a lack of recognition when confronted with a complaint from a parent of unfair treatment of their child; and there are the principal teachers who defend their own staff in the wake of evidence of poor performance.

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