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Goals are the same in both games

With football management so much in the limelight, it's hard to resist comparisons with headship. As the resignation deadline for school staff draws closer, appointing replacements has never felt more like putting a squad in place for September, rather than setting up long-term staffing priorities.

There's an obvious parallel between these two professions: the harder the job, the fewer the number of people who want it. There are also similarities in motivation. Presumably, the managers are as excited as they seem when the cameras focus on them after their teams have scored a goal or suffered a calamitous refereeing decision. Heads may be less demonstrative, but they take a tremendous pride in their schools and are intensely competitive about them. They want their schools to be the best, and to be top in the league tables. They write ferocious letters about injustices, and quietly punch the air when pupils get A* grades.

Ultimately, both jobs are judged by results, but here the football manager gets the shorter straw. A bad run or a few indifferent performances can mean an instant exit. Heads have more time to see disasters coming, to anticipate problems and to re-plan. They might have to offer justification to parents, governors and, ultimately, Ofsted, but there's rarely the need for immediate explanations to the media, though managers and heads share the skill of putting a situation in the best light and explaining away problems.

To an outsider, the roles in football management are easy to identify. Success is about doing well in competition, and revolves around selecting the most talented individuals and shaping them into an effective team. The job could be summarised as:

* organising a supportive and effective management and coaching staff;

* choosing good players and shaping them into a team;

* having a clear vision of what needs to be done;

* communicating that vision effectively;

* demonstrating leadership that inspires trust, respect and action;

* making sure the players get all the support they need;

* getting the details right.

In short, it's about managing the players well and getting the personnel management right.

Successful heads show the same qualities - it's not about interaction with the pupils, but getting the personnel management right. And top of that list must be choosing good staff and setting up a good leadership team.

Where football management has the edge on headship - apart from the salary, although a head's job satisfaction makes up for that - is that there's no need to worry about how success is gained. Achieving it is what matters, not the method. I just wonder where all the detritus of headship - NPQH, LPSH, development plans, self-evaluation, strategies, initiatives and all the paraphernalia of accountability - fits into this.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the passion we feel for the job could be directed towards maximising our pupils' success, rather than having to show that we're doing it the right way - playing 4-4-2 last year, 4-3-3 this, and probably 1-10 next because we wouldn't want to be too adventurous, would we?

Let's have a bit of common sense, and acknowledge some of the qualities that make for successful headship:

* organising a supportive and effective leadership team (football managers have more flexibility here in hiring and firing);

* choosing good staff and shaping them into a team;

* having a clear vision of what needs to be done;

* communicating that effectively;

* demonstrating leadership that inspires trust, respect and action;

* making sure staff get all the support they need;

* getting the details right.

John Claydon John Claydon is head of Wyedean school, Monmouthshire

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