The all-singing, all-juggling secondary head

5th January 2007 at 00:00
Do you think your headteacher spends most of the time with his feet up in his office? We asked one brave volunteer to tell us exactly how he spends his days - and evenings


In by eight. Nice to catch up on the Monday after the holidays. Put on the computer and kettle and trip over the two feet of mail falling off the desk. Usual range of tannoy announcements.

To the emails. Unbelievable number of requests for a range of returns from HQ, most well nigh impossible to deliver on time and with any degree of accuracy. More than 60 emails, some can be passed on instantly, most need to be printed to be read and filed; filed and forgotten; passed on to someone else; 50 unread printed emails (from pre-hols) still to be dealt with.

Spend the entire day on and off responding to emails. Deal with about half a dozen phone calls; reject a few, including yet another piece of Scottish Executive research on a subject I still am not sure about - agree to talk next week if time.

Parent, social worker and child arrive for a lengthy interview tying up myself and two other deputes for 1hour 45minutes. Very confusing and complex case involving latest legislation and with a huge range of conflicting messages from all sides.

Interrupt interview to go down to cafeteria at interval. Unusually, all deputes tied up, but pupils in reasonable fettle. Good chance to chat with a few.

Unfortunately, papers for issue to PTs meant to be copied over hols couldn't be, 'cos copier took a hol for three days - will marginally complicate the review. Quickly down to cafeteria at lunch - halfway through.

Chats with six or seven staff over a range of issues. There was a new member of staff starting this morning - will catch up with her tomorrow.

Nagged by secretary to get new handbook edited so sat down and over two hours nearly got it done, but for distractions. A number of hard queries about referral to Reporter, some bad bits of news about some pupils' health (need to get card and remember a staff birthday this week).

Unusually, around school most of this week, but a number of meetings arranged in and out of school. Intention of visiting lots of classes this term already disappearing fast.

Get away 5.30 with two bags of mail and papers. Quick read of TESS before leaving.

Mobile phone rings on way home and share the next half-hour with colleague heidie comparing our woes and joys.

Quick bite to eat at home (unusually) and then at computer preparing a lecture for next week. Still haven't touched the bag of mail. I'll sit and do it with an eye on the TV (10.50pm).


Pretty tired after late night. Didn't get done half of what I needed to but pile it on top of not quite so groaning mail basket. Quick chat with depute head about next year's staffing and timetable - potential meltdown - possible loss of up to five staff - decide not to dwell on it yet.

Good news on senior pupil's progress - card and photos in post to cheer her onto a full recovery from life-threatening procedure, we hope and pray.

Continue work on handbook.

Senior management team meeting to hear how we're all not coping with post down-sizings. Pretty clear none of us can handle all the additional duties, so really just crying on each other's shoulders. Brief reflection on possible solutions - none too evident. Discuss agenda for PT meeting.

Series of accounts to be signed and electronically entered. Load of emails but fewer than yesterday. Take a few phone calls and organise meetings for next two or three weeks. Go to visit some classes but never get there - meet up with three or four different staff and have very useful chats on foreign trips and other general matters.

Time for lunch duty. It's a long lunchtime and some pupils beginning to get a wee bit fractious but nothing too untoward (apart from a passer-by upset at some litter dropped and the language of retort).

Quick bite of a sandwich and then into a PT professional review and development and Scottish Qualifications Authority review - very positive.

Private discussion about job review of key member of staff. Some discussion about a particularly difficult pupil. Chance to read some of the critical emails. Periodic revisiting of SMT meeting at various times about different issues with different staff.

Day's gone. Leave to see if I can catch a work-out before heading off to another meeting. Decide to leave mail and not go to an event at local uni, but pick up what I have so far put together at odd moments for Thursday's review in the pious hope of doing something with it tonight. No chance.

Chatted again at length to colleague head on way home.

Home by 7.15, out by 7.20 and back in for 11 - 40 minutes of dealing with emails to my home account, forward some back to school for printing off.

Discover I'm supposed to be in three places at the one time.

Cheered, as I collapse, by thought that one PT reassured me his staff thought I spent my time with my feet up in the office. Consoled by the fact that everyone thinks everyone else does nothing anyway. And also from one high point of the day when we reflected on the sheer amount of superb work going on across the school. However lonely the job feels, most in teaching feel the same and there is the need to get hold of the bigger picture.

12.18am and, as Pepys would have said, "And so to bed". However, not before opening the HMIE website to check on a recent report!


A very early morning coffee and croissant in the city centre allows time to read papers before an early meeting with HQ group looking at quality assurance procedures - three hours with interesting debate.

Back to school before lunchtime to face usual emails and post. Never get to deal with post. Try to run off papers for a national board meeting coming up, but frustrated by photocopier IT connections (finally get them on way out of school at 6pm).

Change dates in diary and rearrangecancel some meetings.

Test a piece of HMIE software - unsuccessful - contact them as requested.

Unannounced visit by a community policewoman (after waiting five weeks) - I've limited time and my other two depute colleagues who also need to see her aren't available - arrange meeting for Friday.

Sit in on a parent interview, one ear on conversation, one on the phone and an eye on the computer screen. Lunch supervision - no other deputes around so get down fast. It passes slowly but catch up with two or three staff and some pupils.

Manage 10-minute lunch break, then deal with phone request for a visiting Italian professor for tomorrow. Visit relevant department, get agreement, catch up on some other business, phone back and make arrangements.

Request to do something for Heads Together, forward email home to remind me; try to update CPD record for tomorrow's meeting, will complete tonight.

PTs' meeting - they're a super bunch who have been working their butts off. Deal with a few issues. Some catch up with me afterwards, with additional information for my meeting at HQ - very helpful.

Usual phone calls. Finalise a few accounts and gather papers together for next week's lecture and tomorrow's meeting.

Get home around 6.30. Answer emails, write response for Heads Together and have a quick bite to eat (doing well this week - two evening meals). Cancel meeting I should be at, then head down for the rest of the night in preparation for tomorrow.


In early. Catch a word with business manager, write up minutes of previous day's PT meeting and circulate to all staff, a number of quick chats with PTs re SQA results in final preparation for the afternoon session at HQ.

Deal with emails. Morning pastoral appointment with colleague head cancelled at last minute, which allows more time to gather documents for the meeting.

Cafeteria duty disrupted by a very delicate staffing problem. Twenty minutes later, problem temporarily dealt with but need to check with HQ what had happened elsewhere. Several chats with depute head on a range of issues, handle a few phone calls, change dates of a couple of meetings via email; session with PT who has new job remit; make arrangements to meet again soon 'cos need to get away for HQ school review and PRD. Quick discussion with PT and DHT over finances for department - promise to see what we can do but finances very tight this session.

To HQ - two-and-a-half-hour session covers a lot of ground and raises questions which hopefully someone will be able to research on our behalf.

I'm pretty content with school performance. All of us recognise that individuals in the school are making a real effort to address any particular issues and action plans are available which look pretty robust.

Several chats with other directorate members on a range of different issues - all helpful - and a number of queries get answered well.

Home around 6.30 - manage to get a work-out, bite to eat and settle down to answer emails at home and read the school mail which has gone unaddressed since Tuesday. Do some more work on PowerPoint for presentation next Friday.

First night in bed before midnight but doctor's visit first thing in the morning.


"2mm of WD40" (doctor's euphemism for cortisone) straight into the shoulder is as good a way as any to start the day. Collect presents and cakes for member of staff's birthday, then in on time to catch latter half of MP's chat with modern studies pupils.

Quick confab over phone with colleague head, some urgent emails, quick glance at letters, hastily deal with a school board request, then a panic call re the school handbook from publisher. Final editing and downloading of new photos and we're okay.

Briefing of a number of staff on yesterday afternoon's session at HQ; couple of union items; half a lunch duty; consoling chat with some enterprise students; lengthy chat with publisher; look at some new displayboardscabinets being put up, agree to purchase some more for another department; long chat about social work with DHT and other matters; download papers for meeting first thing on Monday morning; and home for 5.30, in time to read TESS, respond to some business emails for board meetings next week, update Heads Together correspondence, have a shower and change for former colleague's retiral function.

Good night, but as usual manage some business in among the informalities.

Home for 12.30am.


Unusually, not too many commitments this weekend. Get to respond to some emails and finalise (I hope) the lecture for next week. Read papers for Monday morning's seminar.

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