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Letters extra: Do heads have a sell-by date?

Your report on John Howson's research that shows that headteachers who stay with their schools for longer than six years may be more effective in their job (Do leaders have a best-before date? TES 21 February) resonates with findings from my own research on spiritual and moral leadership in headteachers, to be published by NCSL next month.

Many of the 25 serving headteachers I interviewed referred to `a sea-change' in their headship after around five years in post, when there was a perceived move from `doing headship' to `being a head'. Significantly, this change was detected even by colleagues who were on their second or even third headship, which may imply a need for time to get to grips with the specific context of a school before taking it further forward.

Once this sea-change had occurred however, its effects were not time-limited. Heads interviewed asserted the value of belief networks, support networks of families, friends and colleagues, and external networks of engagement with interests and experience beyond the world of education, without which they would have found it difficult to continue to sustain the headship role.
Alan Flintham
Quarrydale School

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