The Seven Wonders of Headship…by @FloraBarton

We are all saying the same thing…how quickly two weeks flies by!  Christmas and New Year come and go and we are then suddenly back to reality.   But that is all right.  For those who love their job, the transition isn’t that difficult.  Especially when you have the best of both worlds, work and ‘life’ – when you get the balance right, everything maintains its ‘sparkle.’

I read @teachertoolkit’s blog; The Five Wonders of Teaching and thought I would respond with my own version of the Five Wonders of School (from a headteacher’s perspective).  These in a sense are some of the key things that make me jump out of bed each morning.

This is a re-blog post originally posted by Flora Barton and published with kind permission.

The original post can be found here.

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The Seven Wonders of Headship.

  1. The Children.   Of course this would be first, how could it not be?  They are the reason we are there each and every day.  Everything we do is centred on them – their learning, their wellbeing – helping them to be 21st Century Citizens, prepared, ready and eager to take on the world.

I try to make as much time to go into class to teach as my schedule will allow.  I cover some PPA sessions, subject leader time and meeting times, take maths groups, but also try to cover as much of the supply as I can.  When I have back to back days of meetings and deadlines, all I need is to go and sit with a group of children in class and I am reminded of why I love this job so much.  It is those moments when you see a child’s imagination light up, or the resilience they show when they keep attacking the same maths problem over and over until they understand it.  It’s about those children who aren’t willing to behave and then become your personal challenge to turn around and to engage with the learning.  This is why teachers love their job.

  1. The Staff. When you have a team, working together, things just run more smoothly.  It is about the TEAM.  You can have staff that make up a school, but it is the TEAM that promotes learning, excitement, curiosity and excellence.  There is a major difference.  As difficult as it may seem, a head needs to get everyone to work towards the same goals.  When this happens, change takes place more easily, challenges are approached together rather than alone….a family develops.  When family is involved, everyone looks out for one another and helps when things get tough.  In education, this is crucial to maintaining a really ‘happy’ school.
  1. The Classrooms/The Teaching. This is where the magic happens!  (Such a cliché, I know!) As a head, there is nothing better than sitting in on an outstanding lesson where the whole room is just steeped in passion.  You can feel it from the teachers and the pupils just soak it up and can’t help but exude it as well.  When I do lesson observations I’m looking for Pitch, Pace and Passion all underpinned by learning (this is identified in various ways).  It’s our 3 Ps.  You can ‘feel’ an outstanding lesson, you can ‘see’ it unfold.  There really is nothing quite like it.  As headteacher, you hope that every lesson you go into has the same ‘buzz’ about it.  When it doesn’t, you embark on a journey to help develop teachers to become really great.  You get to work with them, seek ways to support them, finding ways to inspire them to push past their own expectations.  Getting to watch teachers develop in this way is truly fulfilling.
  1. Collective Worship. I love Collective Worship.  I only could hope that my children would say it with the same enthusiasm that I just wrote that statement with!  I don’t think my ‘collective worships’ look like what you would expect them to.  We have whole school collective worships every day.  I try to vary them up, but always keep them motivationally charged.  I use lots of music, videos, stories and anything else relevant.  I base many sessions on inspirational leaders both historical and current – focusing on key values for life and learning.

What I enjoy most, is going and talking to the children and having them quote me word for word the things I have spoken to them about.  I don’t know why I am always so excited when they remember the things we have discussed or when they can explain ‘why’ what we talk about is relevant to our school.  But to me, collective worship is about leading the pupils in our ethos, vision and values, teaching them key and vital skills to become leaders of the future.

  1. Leading towards a Vision. It’s about getting everybody on board.  Part of this is ensuring that you’ve listened to different stakeholders and taken their views and opinions on board.  It’s about working alongside others and getting them to buy into the wider vision so that they put all their efforts into achieving the vision with  If you are working towards the vision on your own, you will never realise it.  Again, this is where having the TEAM helps.  Beyond the TEAM in school are the children, the parents, external agencies and the wider community, finding ways to get them on board is also essential and can often be difficult.  Finding creative ways to engage these stakeholders helps build the foundations of your school for the future.

Finally coming out of my second year of this current headship, I feel like our vision is finally coming to fruition.  Our school has changed so much, but the vision has been very clear from the start, everyone feeling a part of the process and working towards achieving it (Evidenced in our most recent survey) – this has been key to implementing but then being able to ‘embed’ any changes.

  1. Building a Community. Part of working towards the vision is building up a sense of community.  I strongly believe that the church and school are the centre of the community.  Therefore, it is our job to reach out to members in our community and involve them in what we do.  As they say, it takes a village to raise a child.  Having a community supporting you can provide a platform for great things.  Ways in which we reach out to our community is by inviting them to school events, sharing assemblies, Nativities, Church Services, etc.  At Harvest our children deliver harvest parcels to the senior citizens of our village (from a church list).  Then at Christmas they hand deliver Christmas cards and wrapped biscuits and chocolates.  At Easter, we send them Easter Eggs.  Such a small way to show our community that we are always thinking of them.  But by building these links, we hope that these families know that we are here for them.  A community should be able to lean on and support its members.  As headteacher, I feel in a very privileged position in which I am able to do this.
  1. Networking . The number of people that you can meet professionally is astonishing.  However, you have to seek this; it doesn’t naturally come to you in the world of education.   Too many schools shut their doors to the outside and become unaware of the excellent pedagogy going on around them.

The networking that I have been doing via Twitter recently has astounded me! I feel as though I have now properly delved into Twitter these past few months and already have made several links and have visitors like Julia Skinner @TheHeadsOffice coming into my school to share great practice.  This is the only way education as a whole can continue to get better – by sharing best practice.  I’ve read a few blogs talking about the ‘competitive’ nature of schools.  How can ‘education’ get better unless we ALL share what works best?  Teachers always have to adapt and change according to their pupils – the only way to learn what works best is by networking with others and sharing tools, methods and research.   Yes, we might be headteachers in our schools, but I like to think in some small way we are impacting the education of ALL children.  Only by schools sharing best practice, collaborating and networking with each other can we ever improve outcomes for every child.

I could add to this list but I’ll leave it there…

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