Tears and fears

Changing schools is traumatic for children, so imagine how heads feel about moving on, writes Sue Walker.

Torn between two loves. That's just how it feels when a head moves. You have at least a term, sometimes two, to say goodbye to one school before you move to the next. You make furtive phone calls and have assignations with the new staff. You feel guilty using any of your present school's time on new school business.

You worry if you are making the right choice. Should you have stayed? How will you say goodbye?

The deputy at my present school will be acting head for at least a term, and she will be excellent, but I still feel as though I am handing over my baby. How can I love my new school as much?

However hard you try not to let it, a school worms its way into your heart. I have been happy at my present school and when I told the staff and, later, parents that I had a new job, they all asked "Why?" Because it's a bigger school and therefore a promotion. It's nearer my home so I won't have the traffic chaos of the A2 every day. Yes, but why? they asked again. It is so very much "their" school that they find it difficult to believe anyone would want to move on.

I want to take them all with me: from the teachers and the wonderful school secretary, to the site manager. Just like fantasy football, I dream of my ideal school team. I wish I could offer them all a transfer.

I visit the new school. They all seem to know me now, but I'm still struggling with new faces and new practices. The present head is retiring after a long time and I want to keep out of the way so she can enjoy her last few weeks with the children. It's not that easy.

There are staffing decisions to be made there - and here; budgets and school developments to be planned. Two new parents' meetings. It feels strange talking to parents about a future I will be no part of. Add to that a problem about possible amalgamation in this school, and a new building to be planned in the other, and you have a schizophrenic head. Oh, and Ofsted is coming to the new school four weeks into the new term.

But it is the children who affect me most. They look at me with their big eyes. "Why are you leaving us?" Then, there is the lovely card with hearts and flowers. The message reads: "It is very sad you are living." This makes up my mind for me. No more moves. They will have to wheel me out at retirement age. Then I can look them all in the eye and walk off into the sunset without feeling guilty.

Sue Walker was head of Upland infants' school in Bexley, Kent. From September she will be head of Shear's Green infants' school in Gravesend, Kent

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