Are you ready to be a head?

24th February 2006 at 00:00
Pat Denison Answers your questions

I have taken the opportunity to work on one of the Channel Islands for four years to gain senior management experience that was proving difficult to get in my previous job on the mainland.

During this time, I have led whole-school initiatives, worked on whole authority schools' development, developed specific areas within the school and been responsible for parent, school, inter-agency and community liaison.

I have completed my National Professional Qualification for Headship and feel ready for promotion.

The schools on my island follow the national curriculum closely. However we do not have delegated budgets. When I last worked in the UK, I was the staff development officer and managed a significant budget. I hope this, together with previous experience, may be helpful, but would be grateful if you could suggest areas that I need to develop before applying for work in the UK.

You feel that you are ready for further promotion, and I am sure that you are right. First, I would advise you to get a copy of the National Standards for Headteachers. This will help you check your capability and readiness. The standards reflect the evolving role of heads in the 21st century; they also spotlight government thinking, giving you a useful insight into the kind of context in which heads today work.

You can return to standards and use them as they were designed - as a tool for professional development and action.

The three principles - that headship needs to be learning-centred, focused on the development of leadership, and committed to the highest possible professional standards - run through six key areas. These include shaping the future; leading learning and teaching; developing self and working with others; managing the organisation; securing accountability; and strengthening the community.

Each area is then broken down into a number of useful statements which invite you to measure your own knowledge, beliefs and capabilities. Another set of statements describes behaviours. You will be left in no doubt about the kind of values you are strongly committed to, what knowledge you might acquire, and which behaviours an observer would be able to see as a result.

So, under "leading learning and teaching" you can ask yourself, for example: "What do I know about models of learning and teaching?"; "To what extent am I committed to raising standards for all, in the pursuit of excellence?"; "Can I access, analyse, interpret information?"; "Do I monitor, evaluate, review, challenge?"

You might set out the following: "What I know and understand"; "What I believe"; "What I am capable of"; "What I do."

You could include a description of a project, an assignment, or an example of everyday practice . This enquiry will help you understand how your experience to date has enabled you to grow professionally.

Identifying gaps will lead you to target one or two priorities for development and consider what action to take. Often, reading a piece of academic research will begin to clarify understanding. I remember a terrific book by Brian Knight, Financial Management for Schools, helped me find a clear system for creating the budget. Sometimes it's about holding up a mirror to your own behaviour, so that you begin to see yourself through others' eyes; it's about self analysis and it's about learning. If these are part of your repertoire, you should be poised for the best job in the world.

Pat Denison is head of a village primary school, near Woking, Surrey. She has been in education for 25 years, 14 in headship, and is a facilitator with the National College for School Leadership's new visions programme for heads. Do you have a leadership question? Email pdenison@the

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