Lynne Heath, principal designate of Manchester Communication Academy, is relishing the opportunity to build a brand-new school
What made you become a teacher?
It was always something that I wanted to do. I worked for William Hill in Stockport and became a relief manager in the greater Manchester area. I did my PGCE in Liverpool. I started working as a teacher at a 17-form entry school - Norton Priory. It was an innovative place - ideas just flowed. Gordon Bell, the head, was dynamic. I learnt from him that other people's ideas were to be embraced not feared. I was there for 11 years and loved every minute.
Where did you go from there?
I then became an adviser in Cheshire between 1989 and 1991, and then I ended up working as an inspector, in humanities. I was lucky enough to get a teacher fellowship working for ICI, the chemical company. It was a real opportunity. While I was there, I met a man called Geoff Butt who was inspirational for me. He was interested in leadership in schools and how it linked to ICI's management training methods. I trained as an inspector while I was working for Trafford Council and was responsible for all the "oligies" (sociology, psychology etc) in the borough. But I realised I didn't want to just inspect.
What made you set out for headship?
I began to miss the community of working in a school. As an adviser I didn't have the opportunity to make something happen. I learnt a lot strategically in Trafford. But I wanted to get back into school. I got back eventually as a deputy in Lathom High School. Then I thought I might as well go all the way. I applied for the headship of Prescot School in 1997 and got it.
What were the early priorities?
The school had a lot of issues but a lot of potential. It was a sleeping giant. I felt it just needed careful nurturing. I knew I could do something to help. The staff were great and really committed. I made a decision to experience the school and not make sweeping changes. Instead of a revolution, I made incremental changes with people's support to build on what had been done. It's a difficult balance.
After 11 years I thought the time was right to move on. In the end I was at a crossroads of where to go to next. The Manchester academy programme really excited me - mainly because of its inclusive nature. The chance to build a brand new school is a once in a lifetime opportunity and I just felt it was one I had to take.
What do you feel you brought to the job that was special?
I have become known as a talent spotter. Putting a team together - particularly of young staff - and giving them the opportunity to lead on a whole-school issue such as pushing our gifted students. I enjoy giving those teachers support and encouragement. I am happy to try even if it means failing sometimes, and learning and moving on.
Tell me about the Manchester job
It has been amazing. I have spent this year being a one woman band. I have had to produce the ideas and the challenge myself. It's given me real confidence. It's almost like setting up your own business - having to do all levels of tasks. I had forgotten what it's like to do that - and not have a PA fending off some of the real-life events. I have been juggling everything from furniture to health and safety, teaching and learning and even cycleways. It's a wide focus. It's been a whirlwind.
What advice would you give others considering headship in a new school?
I think it's the best job in the world. It's great to be able to make things happen, to be able to influence lives. It's a unique position where there are no barriers to stop that happening. I drifted a bit in my career. I don't think people move around as much anymore; you really need to have a career plan. I think you should take risks and chances to learn from those different perspectives. But it needs to be managed by local authorities and schools. We ought as a profession to ensure these opportunities are worth taking.
If you were Schools Secretary for a day what would you do?
I would make a reality out of all of the rhetoric about collaboration and collective targets for schools - in order to bring up the weaker schools.
What's the worst excuse you've ever heard?
The member of staff who took time off sick for "hot eyes", a hitherto unknown medical condition
2008: Principal designate, Manchester Communication Academy, due to open September 2010
1997-2008: Headteacher, Prescot School Language College, Knowsley
1994-1997: Deputy headteacher, Lathom High School, Skelmersdale
1991-1994: Inspectoradviser Trafford Metropolitan Borough Council
The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.
Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.