Mortal plans among the roses

10th August 2007 at 01:00
Summer is upon us but already school managers are preparing for another busy year. Today The TES begins a four-part series in which senior staff explain how they aim to face the challenges ahead

Towards the end of the summer term, the middle leaders' group at our school had its last meeting of the year. The end was in sight, but the agenda was full. All the key leaders had an item they felt had to be noted before September.

"Why don't people realise the last weeks of term are about survival, not innovation?" I thought. Then I launched into my plans for the new school year. It was vital the middle leaders be consistent when dealing with the new behaviour policy, and that the Every Child Matters agenda should overarch everything.

A prerequisite of all the teaching development my curriculum counterpart had outlined would involve a focus on personalised learning, and the specialism should be mandated to dovetail finely with the extended schools progress. Then there was the environment bike sheds, litter, lockers. Indeed, survival for all leaders in the school, barring me.

Specialist sport status

When I first came to the school as deputy three years ago, I saw it as a valuable experience leading me to headship. It is still that, but back then I had no way of knowing how much I would enjoy my role as deputy head with such a rich and varied portfolio of work. I am passionate about making sure the sport specialism has a whole-school impact. My team recently introduced the Learning Grid, a new form of assessment incorporating five excellences in sport. Students are now used to self-assessment and teacher assessment in categories such as fair play, behaviour and willingness to learn. In September this, coupled with a new behaviour policy that absorbs government guidance, will form the basis of our ethos.

But with some 1,900 students and more than 100 staff, consistency is hard to achieve. My personal aim is to see staff on corridors at the change of lessons, a better use of the planner as a home-school communication and a clear follow-up to behavioural issues.

Communication with parents and students is vital. For example, we have learnt hard lessons from our ban on mobile phones this year. Students need to know why we did this (learning and child protection) and parents must understand that we need their help in impressing the rule on their child. And staff must apply it rigorously.

Shifts in the curriculum

Curriculum will be a key issue 14-19 diplomas, citizenship, work-related and finance learning and whether we move towards the international baccalaureate in our sixth-form or consider the Pre-U being introduced by Cambridge university. I must keep reminding all concerned that the five outcomes of Every Child Matters encompass all we are trying to achieve.

I have written an introduction to the school development plan, teasing out each strand of teaching or ICT development and linking it to how this will help every child to matter. We have Ofsted-assessed ourselves on each outcome in my learning development group and we will report to the "ethos governors". Under Be Healthy, we are confident of progress with physical health through the specialism and Healthy Schools, but we are still concerned about making quiet areas for emotional well-being.

I aim to record "jewels" in my copy of the school evaluation form, much as I did when I compiled evidence for the National Professional Qualification for Headship. This ensures that I have data for Ofsted, positive feedback for newsletters and assemblies and our "page of pride" in main reception, but also a touchstone to check that I am on course with my job description, the demands of the school development plan and my own performance management. This is not always easy in a busy school where data systems continue to be hampered by a lack of finance and sufficient numbers of skilled support staff. But by explaining clearly what is needed and why, I find it all works much more smoothly straightforward, basic stuff, it's true, but all too often forgotten in the rush of term-time.

Better work-life balance

One thing I have to get right this year is my work-life balance. I need to remind myself about my funeral. I often do this when things get tough. It's not as depressing as it sounds. If I have made a mistake, or if I have three late-night meetings in the same week, I make time to sit in the rose garden of Hinchingbrooke House. I plan what people will say about me at my funeral. I hope my friends will say that I was always honest but caring. I hope students will say that since studying A View from the Bridge, they will never forget its richness and emotional power. And I want my two sons to say that I loved and provided for them through really tough times.

While I will always do my best, I do not need the financial manager to say: "She put out a fine, detailed spending plan." Or the governors to say: "She wrote a mean assessment policy." Then I walk the corridors, remind myself why I am here and get on with the day."

Next week: The New Head


Plan, plan, plan. Buy a palmtop or persoanlise a teacher's planner. Map out dates of key events and meetings you are responsible for and write a task list, agenda or action plan for each. Do it now in your garden. Narrow down these events to half a term at a time and work out key actions with a time line. Work backwards. For example: open evening first week in November; October 29, check details; October 8, plan format and publicity; September 24, inform middle leaders of requirements and arrange information for primary schools...


Name - Di Beddow

Age: 50

Job: Deputy headteacher

Place of work: Hinchingbrooke school in Huntingdon, Cambridgeshire

Responsible for: Directing all aspects of learning in this large secondary school with a sports specialism

Number of years teaching: 27

Special interests: Her two sons, Joe and Billy. She is trying to learn to play the piano, loves gardening and believes Johnny Depp is still looking for her

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