Talking deputies

31st March 2000 at 01:00
Katy Blackler, 39, works at Avondale Park primary school in Kensington and Chelsea, west London. There are 380 pupils on the roll, 70 per cent of whom qualify for free school meals, and who, between them, speak 37 languages.

* Describe your career path I've been a deputy here for five years. Both my mother and aunt were teachers - then heads - and talk was often about education. There were often teachers around which made me wary of becoming one but, after taking a humanities degree, I knew that's what I wanted to be.

I did a PGCE in Lincoln and then taught in Islington for four years, after which I moved here on a B allowance. After four years here, I became acting deputy. When the new head arrived, she appointed me as deputy.

* How would you describe your management style?

I think I work well withteachers. I set deadlines but am very supportive too. I'm self-critical - perhaps a bit too much - and hope I have a sense of humour. I also hope people find me personable and respect my work.

* What do you enjoy about the job?

I love it - most of the time. I love working with children and staff - they are very giving and responsive. I get a buzz out of making things happen. I enjoy working with a very dynamic, inspiring head who I learn so much from. I like so much of the job, including the challenge and being able to develop and work with teachers. I just love the atmosphere of being in school: every hour and every day is different.

* What do you not enjoy?

As I'm a non class-based deputy, I get an opportunity to be involved in every aspect of school management and leadership, but it does mean that I do very little teaching now and I do miss that. I also find it difficult to come to terms with never actually having time to finish anything and, now that I have a baby, that's even more difficult.

* What is the most important aspect of the job?

Working with the head to lead and manage the school.

* And the most difficult?

Trying to prioritise when so many things happen at once.

* Who have been your influences and role models?

I've been very lucky and had several: my mother, who is asecondary school head, my current head, the previous deputy here and many teacher colleagues from whom I pick up so much when I do classroom observation.

* Describe your professional development experience and plans I enjoy being a mentor for the Institute of Education's PGCE course, which I've been doing for six years. I've delivered in-service training to newlyqualified teachers and, with my head, gave a talk to heads in another authority. I've also given a talk to final-year students at Roehampton. All these experiences helped develop my confidence and reflect on what I'm doing.

I'm now doing the accelerated route for NPQH (the headship qualification). It's early days yet, but I'm finding it quite helpful, though there is quite a lot of work. It encourages self-reflection.

It's a good idea to have a qualification for aspiring heads, especially for those deputies who are classroom based and have little opportunity to practise and develop management skills.

* Describe your relationship with your head We're very supportive of each other. She has always made it clear that we work as a team and she's ensured that I'm involved in all aspects of school management. I know she sees her role to develop me as a future head. She has quite a high profile, which involves her being out of school fairly often. This gives me the opportunity to run the school.

I think we're complementary: I'm more cautious than her; she's prepared to take risks and is more of a go-getter.

* What are your responsibilities?

I'm officially the curriculum leader, but I'm also involved in every aspect of school life.

* Describe your support networks My husband is a good listener and problems never seem so bad once I've talked about them. I talk a lot to the head and friends who used to teach in the school. The local authority used to run a deputy heads' network and a few of us still meet occasionally for a supportive moan and to exchange ideas.

* What sort of head would you be?

I do want to be a head, but not quite yet. I would like to find a school where I could make a difference and, with the teachers, take it forward.

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