Talkback

8th September 2000 at 01:00
Holly Budd welcomes her new head.

Congratulations on your appointment. This month you begin the loneliest job in the world. Only the bravest or most foolhardy will tell you how they really feel, yet all will expect you to be everything to everyone - visionary, model employer, academic and pastoral guardian of their children as well as protector, and deliverer of government policy par excellence.

Please excuse my arrogance, but to paraphrase Frank Sinatra: "New heads, I've had a few". I therefore offer some questions to help you avoid the pitfalls faced by many of your peers.

* Will you communicate with us face to face or feed us an endless stream of memos? Or are you indifferent as to whether we find out from a third party about matters that directly affect us?

* Will you ensure that you know all we do above and beyond the call of duty and quietly thank us for it? Or will you regard a termly "thank you staff for all your efforts" as adequate?

* Will you respect our time and do all in your power to cut out unnecessary meetings, to shorten necessary ones, and to reduce paperwork?

* Will you be wary about suggesting panaceas? Or will each week see your Latest Big Idea?

* Will you be realistic in your expectations of your staff and give us the support and time we need to develop? Or blame our school's shortcomings on our inability to perform outstandingly all the time?

* Will you reflect seriously on howyou can address our concerns about pupil discipline? Or make us feel that if only we did our jobs better we'd have no problems?

* Will you always remember that you carry an invisible sign above your head which pupils can read and which says, "I'm the head. Be careful what you say and do under my nose"? Or express frustration that we have problems dealing with some of our pupils?

* Will you be a presence around school at every lesson changeover, at break, at lunch, and before and after school? Or will you shut yourself away to do some "real" work during these key times of the school day?

* You assured the governors that you would build on the individual strengths of your senior managers and heads of department. Will you? Or will you alter the management structure and make some colleagues feel unvalued?

* Will you do us the courtesy of letting us know why you are out of school whenever you are?

* Will you always remember that staff morale is fragile and, increasingly, often shattered, and consider carefully the possible effect of every deed and word before you act and speak?

* Finally, Plato said that the bane of every intelligent man is to be governed by politicians. Please, will you do everything in your power to ensure that it is not the bane of every intelligent man and woman in your school to be led by you.

Holly Budd is a pseudonym. The author is a head of department in the north of England


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