First day tactics for heads

The staff briefing
It happened at 8.15 am on Monday morning. I told them I was very nervous, as well as delighted, and later someone told me that everyone relaxed a bit after that. I had come across as very human. (DD)

I planned it meticulously. People already knew my face because they’d seen me around the corridors during the previous two terms. I didn’t try and take on a new persona - with me what they see is what they get. (SD)

The assembly
I took Year 11’s assembly. It was Easter and so I explained that we weren’t going to be getting to know each other that well as they’d soon be leaving. But I also made it clear there would be no messing. (DD)

After lunch, I took a year 8 and 9 assembly I told them a bit about myself and my expectations for them and the school. It was very impromptu. At the end the girls clapped and I felt marvellous. I later found out that the girls clap at the end of every assembly. (SD)

I took a full assembly and told the children about the change that would be happening and my wish for them to have a voice in that process. In the deepest, darkest hours of the previous night a fear had bee, ‘what if the children won’t listen?’ In fact a lot of children came up to me afterwards and thanked me. (EM)

The corridors
I walked the corridors for about two hours. The first day is all about being on public display, you’re famous for the day and although the attention is quite complimentary, I also felt, for the first time, the huge weight of responsibility upon me. (DD)

I spent a lot of time in public spaces on the first day and hardly any time in the office. I wanted to reinforce my central message that I was there for the children. (EM)

The staffroom
I didn’t go there and haven’t since, unless I’m specifically invited. I feel it’s the staff’s domain where they can blow off steam, if needs be, and me being there would inhibit that. (DD)

The staffroom had been an unfriendly place previously, dominated by a large conference table. I had it removed and installed some new easy chairs. However I decided not to go in as often because I needed to create some distance between me and the staff. (EM)

The staff meeting
This was at 3.00pm after school finished and I basically laid out a contract based on meritocracy: that hard work and results would be rewarded regardless of age or experience. Conversely teachers who didn’t perform and let the students down would be held accountable - in the same way I would be by the governors. (DD)

I planned and delivered a formal presentation to staff that outlined my moral purpose. I spoke about what I firmly believed the school should be about and the radical change this would entail. It came from my heart and my confidence in delivering it came from my personal conviction. (EM)

With thanks to:
Deborah Duncan, head of Horbury School, Wakefield
Sue Dunford, head of Southfield School for Girls, Northants
Elizabeth Moffat, head of Dowdales School, Dalton-in-Furness

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