Advice to the new headteacher

Peter Campling, headteacher in post for two years at Deptford Green School, London

Listen and reflect
“I stepped into the shoes of a very high profile head teacher, Sir Keith Ajegbo (author of the Citizenship Review commissioned by the Home Office) and the post came with a big track record. It was really important to listen to staff and community. I was fortunate in that I had a long run in – my appointment was in December for a September start - and that gave me plenty of time to reflect and work out the changes I could successfully introduce.

Have a timetable for change
“I identified learning areas as a means of providing a more holistic approach to academic and pastoral care. At the end of my first term I had a leadership conference at which the senior team agreed the strategy and schedule for implementing it.

Get a coach
“Every new head has funding in the form of a head teacher induction programme (Hip) and I spent mine on a coach. Linda Powell has been the former head of three successful schools and came into my school regularly to discuss all kinds of situations with me. It’s good to have someone who isn’t the chair of governors or your best mate to talk things over with. “

 

Peter Price, headteacher in post for 20 years at St. Christopher’s primary school, Liverpool

Will it benefit the children educationally?
“Use this question to test every single request you will have thrown at you whether from staff or third parties. It’s a simple test and means you [and others] won’t get sidetracked, whether you’re at a local authority meeting or at a staff meeting. Last week I applied this test to turn down the offer of a free school trip to Blackpool because there was no educational benefit.

Networking is important
“I’m part of the Liverpool primary head teachers association and I’ve encouraged my deputy to go as well.

There’s no simulator
“There’s no way you can replicate the responsibilities and role to try out before you start. I’ve had the advantage of 20 years of assimilation of all the responsibilities - but they’re greater than ever and must seem quite daunting to newcomers. Make sure you share tasks and with your deputy and assistant heads.

 

Sue Dunford, headteacher in post for two years at Southfield School for Girls, Northants

Celebrate the good times
“After a very good Ofsted report I packed out the hall with all the whole school including caretakers, the caterers and support staff, in order to announce the good news. It was February and like an oven. It was great fun and good to be celebrating.

Don’t move too quickly
“Remember you’ve been appointed to develop the school. In your eagerness to introduce positive changes, you don’t want to end up throwing out the baby with the bathwater.

Don’t be surprised by your new persona
“As far as I’m concerned, my name is Sue and I happen to be the head teacher. But two years down the line I’m still surprised by people saying ‘the head says’….

 

Crispin Rowe, headteacher in post for four years at King Edward’s School, independent school, Bath

Step back

“I stepped into the headteacher’s role after previously being deputy head at St Edward’s - it’s a traditional route to headship at this school. The challenge in staying at the same school is that having developed a strong persona as a deputy, you now have to reinvent yourself as the head. A deputy head has his or her finger in every pie - the trick is to take a step back.

Walk the corridors
“Block out times in your diary when you don’t have commitments to meet and go on walkabout. You don’t have to pretend to be available to people for deep and meaningful conversations but it is a powerful way of being visible and of gaining knowledge. You get to know your students and what’s happening in the school at first hand.

Never underestimate the authority of your office
“There’s the most terrific expectation placed upon the headteacher and this is very easy to forget: but underestimate this at your peril. Whether or not you turn up at an event takes on huge significance. You also need to remember the office that you represent when making decisions about whether to personally intervene in situations, such as the discipline of a pupil.”

 

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