Some tips from the staff room on how to be a great Head Teacher

I have never been, nor do I desire to be a Headteacher. There are so many attributes that you need for this job that I have either not got, nor  do I want to learn. I couldn’t take the angry parents, badly behaved pupils and grumpy staff all day long. All those meetings. The responsibility. The serious face you have to wear most of the working day. The job title is wrong  – you are not a Head Teacher, because you don’t teach anymore. what’s the point of getting into education and then not being in the classroom?

But I have worked under a few headteachers over my career so far and I know what doesn’t work. So what I offer here is the opposite of that. I have learnt from their mistakes. Unfortunately I am still learning from them.

  1. All that pressure you are under from OFSTED? Filter out as much of it as you can, so that you and your SLT can deal with it. Don’t tell your staff, how they should be doing something BECAUSE OFSTED WILL WANT IT. That is not why any of your teachers teach. It will piss them off.
  2. That 3 day a year compassionate leave? Don’t let them know you count up how many are being taken. I can count on 2 fingers all the staff I know who have taken advantage of compassionate leave. If you give someone the time off because their family life demands it, you will be paid back 10 fold over the rest of the tenure at your school
  3. After school meetings and parents evenings? Don’t scrimp on the biscuits and tea. What percentage of the school’s annual budget would it cost to provide these necessities once a week to all staff?
  4. Your union reps are a huge resource. Give them 30 mins a week off timetable, schedule a regular meeting and I promise you staff/HT communication will improve dramatically
  5. The staff room at lunch and break times? stay out – apart from end of term farewells and the like. Its not that staff don’t like you, its that they need to unwind and have a good moan and they cannot do that if you pop your head around the door to see someone a few times a week.
  6. Dont allow your new SLT to start a new strategy until the previous good idea is settled in. Change is good but only if you allow the schemes to have a proper effect.
  7. Now being a head teacher is an often thankless task, but don’t forget what it is like being a teacher. Don’t begin to believe that their job is easy compared to yours, don’t forget how draining a full day in the classroom in front of 30 of the demanding blighters is, don’t forget how much teachers want to get it perfectly right each lesson BUT NEVER DO SO, don’t forget about the non existence of breathing space in your day and the lack of control you have over when you can STEP OFF THE HURTLING HAMSTER WHEEL to make a cup of tea or go to the loo, but most of all don’t forget how no one tells a teacher what a good job they are doing, how no pupil will leave a classroom and say “thank you, I really learnt well in your class Miss”, how no parent will ever ring up just to say how pleased they are with the progress their child is making in your class, how OFSTED only want to find fault and how even the best teachers with a great lesson plan can find it all falling about around their ears for no fathomable reason. And as a result of all this not forgetting, take time in your day to support, praise and thank your teachers for the effort and sacrifice they are making every day in your school to find better and better ways for their pupils to learn. For if you don’t say well done chances are no one else will. And if you do say well done it will mean so much and your teacher will go home with a smile on their face and come in the next day and even better teacher. That 30 seconds of praise will be the best investment in school improvement you make all year.

And you will notice that I didn’t use the adjective “outstanding” in the title as that word has been so discredited in UK education now


Things that make me angry about teaching


The Department of Education

When a new government gets in because the DfE then changes its philosophy

Mr Gove

Mr Twigg (who may nullify my hatred of a change of government and its effect on the DfE)

SLT that fall under OFSTED’s demands without question

Parents evenings

Heads of Department that always accept the decisions of their SLT without question, but who were running down that new idea only yesterday in the staffroom

Parents who havent set foot inside a working classroom in 20 years let alone the one their child is in, yet have decided whether I am a good teacher or not WITH NO EVIDENCE AT ALL

OFSTED gradings for single lessons

NQTs who already know how to teach better than the guy in their department that qualified before the NQT was born

PGCE tutors who havent taught properly in the last 20 years, but ‘know’ what an outstanding teacher is (see parents above)

Mini plenaries (the multiple intelligences and brain gym of 2013)

Performance management (though this could be a fantastic thing, I have never found it so)

CPD and TDDs (continuous professional development and Teacher Development days) Well I ask you, can you remember any you went to more than 12 months ago?

Teachers who insist that the tablet (especially the bloody ipad) is the answer to all of education woes

Behaviour policies written by Governors

Governors who don’t come into school between one meeting and the next. (picking up your children doesn’t count)

JUDGING A SCHOOL, A DEPARTMENT  OR A TEACHER BY THE EXAM RESULTS THE PUPILS TOOK. (You shouldn’t judge anyone by the exam results, but if you have to judge the pupils and the lives they have lived for 16 or 18 years)

Did I mention OFSTED? (I know I did)

Teachers who think they are cooler than the other teacher because they blog, tweet and carry an ipad (see above)

Its not a political thing but i cannot remember one thing the Daily Mail has ever said about schools or education in this country that i have ever agreed with (i remain open to the possibility that this will change)