'Tis the season when the education marketplace buzzes with job advertisements for every type of post, particularly that of headteacher. Governors labour over vision statements, advertisements, job descriptions and person specifications. Hours are spent reading letters of application, compiling the long list and narrowing down a shortlist of applicants. For a secondary headship, the chosen applicants may be invited to a dinner followed by two interview days, every minute of which is designed to seek out the successful candidate.
It's a nerve-racking process for applicants and governors alike: for applicants, the possibility of the job they want; for the governing body, a new head to lead the school forward. It's also a valuable learning experience for governors, as I found out just a few weeks ago. The candidates were five very experienced professionals who focused on the school's strengths and areas for further development. Each gave their view on every aspect of the school, and shared with the panel their experiences elsewhere of what has worked, and what has not. Supported by the school improvement partner, the 11-strong panel gained immeasurably from listening to and questioning the candidates' experiences and proposed priorities and standards for the school.
The governors learnt from working together, struggling to schedule interviews, sharing ideas, expressing opinions within an evaluation framework of the candidates' performance, and valuing all contributions to the decision-making process. Individual governors' strengths were highlighted and, in an atmosphere of purpose and good humour, the panel worked as a team to identify the new head. Was our unanimous decision the right one? For both the new head and the governing body, the answer lies in the future.
Carol Woodhouse, Member of the board of directors, National Governors' Association.