I would like to be a.....head of year

20th January 2006 at 00:00
Head of year. AKA...

I head of house, pastoral manager, key stage leader, the heavy mob. Most schools run a horizontal system with a year head for each age group. A few use the vertical model that dominates the independent sector, with "houses"

for a proportion of all pupils from each year in the school.

Expect a lot of..

I chasing kids. Despite what schools might say about care and support, the head of year job is mainly about discipline. If you are not comfortable with spending a great deal of time with the most difficult children, then look away now.

In good schools the job is about resolving problems and following through a well considered system. In struggling schools it's about firefighting: moving from one incident to the next and dealing with a constant flow of children kicked out of lessons by exasperated teachers.

Heads of year are also the first point of contact for parents in many secondaries. So hone up on your listening skills, and be prepared to be the lightning rod that carries the white hot anger of the parent whose child has been bullied, thumped, disciplined, left out of the hockey team or sneered at by Mr Jones.

Are you enthusiastic..

I about the children's agenda? Because heads of year are prime candidates for the lead professional role envisaged by this year's Children Act. They will be the first point of contact and liaison between families and other children's agencies, such as social services or child health. It will involve meetings and a background knowledge about how these services work.

Confidentiality is an important issue for those working with children. If you are in the habit of gossiping in the staffroom about some of the more colourful characters in Year 10, then this may not be the job for you.

Does it pay?

That depends. Some schools invest a great deal in their pastoral systems and pay heads of year accordingly. Concern about how teaching and learning responsibility payments would affect these allowances has largely been overstated. Most schools should be able to find evidence that their heads of year are crucial to a child's holistic learning development. Whether they will want to is a different matter. In some schools the head of year role has always been unpaid and is seen as a way for younger teachers to gain experience before moving on to pastures new.

Is it a good career move?

If your ambition is to sit behind a headteacher's desk, then the head of year job deserves a place on your CV. But beware: spend too long in a school's pastoral system and you can find yourself in a dead end because it does occupy a lot of time and energy and there is a risk that you will miss out on departmental opportunities.

For the crucial deputy head role, appointment panels are looking for people who have led successful academic departments. Pastoral specialists often get left off the shortlist at this stage.

Is it safe?

No. Anyone who deals with the school's problems is going to have to face an angry parent or an out-of-control pupil at some point. And the move towards non-teaching pastoral support staff means that many schools are reviewing the role of the head of house.

This could be positive. The new heads of year, or phase, might have supervision responsibilities for their non-teaching colleagues. This could allow them to develop an enhanced job that focuses more on care and support and less on shouting at recalcitrant Year 9s. Or it might not.

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