What lets you know that you are ready for headship? Perhaps it is all the praise you’ve received from your peers and line manager. Or, maybe it is becoming increasingly frustrated by your own headteacher and thinking: “If they can do it, surely I can”.
Both scenarios lead to the same destination: finding yourself appointed for the wrong reasons. Headship is a very public place to be, especially if you don’t truly believe in your actions. The only way to know if you’re ready is by reflecting on whether you have a genuine belief that you can improve children’s lives. Your moral compass will pull you in the right direction.
Next, reflect on the type of school you want to run. Do you want to be head of school within a multi-academy trust? Would a small or a large school suit you best? Would one requiring improvement offer you the right level of challenge? In a bid to prove yourself, it is tempting to accept any headship going, but you need to be pragmatic. Imagine you are a prospective shop owner, completing due diligence before acquiring a business that you are about to spend a lot of money on. Every venture will have pros and cons, and it’s your job to ensure you understand them before you occupy the big chair.
Once you know the type of school you want to run, you can start preparing yourself for headship. Begin by behaving like a headteacher at all times. You are always being observed. So, no gossiping, look smart when you walk around school and pick up litter when you see it.
Shadow a headteacher
Ask to shadow a headteacher for a day, and try to gain as much knowledge about school finance, human resources and safeguarding as you can. Typically, you will become a headteacher through being good at managing teaching and learning. This won’t prepare you to know what an age-weighted pupil unit is or to understand the finer points of employment law. Shadowing the school business manager or the designated safeguarding lead can also help.
Never forget the importance of being a great teacher, as this remains the barometer by which staff will judge you. As you might not have a class as a headteacher, the assembly hall will become your classroom. So spend time upping your assembly game.
Being a headteacher is different. In the eyes of children, parents and teachers, you are the public embodiment of the school, which isn’t easy. But being a headteacher is also a privilege; it gives you the opportunity to improve children’s lives and communities. And isn’t that why we all came into the profession in the first place?
Dr Tim Cook is headteacher of Liskeard Hillfort Primary School in Cornwall