What I've learned

1st August 2003 at 01:00
Former headteacher and now LEA adviser Lynn Thomas tries to strike a balance

My first term as a local education authority adviser was frenetic.

Previously, I had been a primary school head, and the job demanded many additional skills and an awareness of a range of strategies and a variety of learning environments. It's important to avoid the "in-my-school" scenario.

I moved county, which was a change as practices differed. You need to understand a region's corporate identity as you get to grips with your new role and responsibilities.

And you're no longer in charge. As a headteacher, you can sometimes make instant decisions. But in an LEA you're part of a team with a lot of people, and sometimes the wheels turn slowly. But you do adjust. It's important I remember why I'm in this role - to try to improve learning for all children.

When I'm in a school, I always ask myself: "What does this mean for the children?" I also try to find the balance between the needs of the headteacher and the support staff. Although the priorities are always the children and learning, that may not be top of the list if the roof is leaking, for example.

I also have a mantra. I ask myself, "Have I left this school feeling good about itself, but with the energy to move forward?" I try to think how my visit will have been perceived.

I had a good mentor who I could phone at any time, which was incredibly helpful. In my first term I called him a lot.

I have to keep my skills sharp because it's my street cred at risk in the end. You can't afford to be seen as inefficient. You need to command heads'

respect. You don't get a second chance.

Lynn Thomas is a primary link adviser in Gloucestershire. She was talking to Martin Whittaker

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