Every leader needs them

20th May 2005 at 01:00
The week I was appointed deputy head, my headteacher sent me on a week's course in Llandrindod Wells. It was excellent training in working under pressure as we designed aims and objectives, a curriculum, deployed imaginary staff and set up magically perfect systems.

We thought we had been given the complete kit for running our schools.

Somehow we had managed it without even mentioning governors. Fortunately, one of my business-minded brothers later told me always to "manage upwards".

I was interviewed for my current headship on election day 1997. Knowing my result before Tony Blair knew his, I too stayed up all night too excited to sleep. I had enjoyed two days with my governors and I was confident of the future. Eight years later I have had many opportunities to appreciate their real value.

Our business may lack the excitement of television soaps but it is never boring. There have been budget crises, redundancy management, tragic deaths, front-page headlines, the anticipation and thrill of success, even questions in Parliament.

Through it the greatest help has been the detached thinking of governors.

Where I tried to manage without them, I now work with them continuously and reap huge benefits. The mass of intellect, energy and experience they bring allows me to do more and different things and, to my contentment, sometimes to do much less.

We meet frequently and use training days to make sure we have a common understanding of our priorities. Busy committees drive forward finance, curriculum, staffing, premises, communication and pupil affairs. We deal with our differences very directly and have learnt to trust and to enjoy each other's company. If, like me, you are prone to letting enthusiasm or ego run away with you, you will appreciate that they keep my feet firmly on the ground and help foster the humility we are told is necessary for good management.

We have fun. I'll never forget the meeting where we were surrounded by Japanese educationists using simultaneous translation to understand governance. Nor how my chair passionately supports Sheffield United. And she is ambitious to gamble at each racecourse in Britain.

Perhaps eccentricity is needed. I have never worked out why any of them do it but thank God they do.

Pete Nash is head of Cardinal Newman Roman Catholic high school in Pontypridd

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