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'Polite conversation begins

Name Kate Spiller Age 50 School Sweyne Park school, Rayleigh, Essex Pupil numbers 1,212 Career history Former English teacher and deputy head. Oversaw amalgamation of Sweyne and Park schools, becoming head of the new Sweyne Park in 1997

Two heads on the revamped leadership course reveal their impressions of the three-day residential. Jill Parkin reports

Before the course

After becoming a head, life raced past at a hectic pace. Seven years later, I find myself thinking that I should find space and time to reflect on the next phase in the life and development of our school.

The welcome pack arrives Thinking about the possible gap between the view others have of me as a head and one I have of myself makes my senses tingle.

First evening

The group gradually assembles. Polite conversation begins; wariness is in the air; cups of tea are sipped.

The facilitators introduce themselves and explain what we will do during the evening session. The introductory work is lively and active. People begin to relax and be less guarded, although there is a tension in the air about the potential of the 360-degree feedback.

As the evening session comes to an end, we head to the bar. The group has begun to gel.

Day one

An interesting mixture of theoretical input and activities to prepare us to receive the first section of our feedback from the questionnaires completed back at school last month.

There is an intensity and expectancy in the atmosphere. Individual feedback is what we are waiting for. It is hard to concentrate on the theoretical introduction flowing from the facilitators. Given our individual feedback, we are all absorbed. Everyone is entirely on task!

Day two

We receive the final part of the feedback based on those questionnaires completed in school. We reflect on what this information suggests about the climate we have each created in our schools.

Working with the headteachers on the course is interesting, but I am also looking forward to discussing this material in the future with the people who know my school, Sweyne Park, well.

We move on, reflecting on our styles and approaches and the challenging issues we are dealing with every day in our schools. We are learning together, and very supportive relationships are developing.

Day three

I feel as if I have known the members of the group for a considerable time.

There has been a great deal to absorb about the nature and practice of leadership and about how each of us operates as leader in our school. We are applying our learning and reflection to what we want to achieve in our schools when we return.

As we move towards the end of the residential part of the programme, everyone appears to feel that our experience together has been really worthwhile. As I drive home, I know I have fresh experiences and ideas to use in the future.

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