Sailing in the storm

My first venture in to blogging and it is out of desperation rather than confidence. Having spent the last 10 years in various Senior Leadership Teams at AHT and lately DHT, I find myself contemplating my next move with a hesitation that’s new to my career so far. In the past, progression to different challenges were seen as exciting, exhilarating opportunities not without risk, but justified by clarity of purpose. My moral purpose and my beliefs about education haven’t changed, but I do believe that the risks associated towards leaders have. When discussing my aspirations with my headteacher, the best I could articulate was the sensation of sailing in a storm. I am but a little boat, in a huge storm knowing that the only course to take is the one you set out on, despite the risk so evident around us. After all, are you ever ‘fully ready’ for the next step?

National Governor’s Association in September 2015, 43% of 4,383 respondents reported it was difficult to find good candidates when recruiting senior staff. The Guardian

Fair weather doesn’t make for skilled sailors and no teacher starts their careers believing it will be plain sailing. However, in a time where headteacher recruitment crisis looms, I am reflecting on what else I can do to support my development. The Guardian captures the pressure on headteachers putting further questions in those considering the next step as the picture painted is grim and challenging.

Who would want to be a headteacher? 

I do what I can to keep abreast of key issues and take comfort from the ‘king pins’ of the blogging and twitter world by following the likes of  @TeacherToolkit @LeadingLearner  @JohnTomsett  and @JillBerry who offer insightful advice and challenge in their posts. It is clear to me that there are educational leaders who are confident in their ability and skilled to navigate the choppy waters we face, but I can’t tell if my ‘anxieties’ are limited to me alone or if they are echoed in the hearts of others.

Let me say for the record, I may well be sharing my inner thoughts that only confirms that my ambition is superior to that of my ability; but if this is the case, then what a lesson to learn!

@JillBerry writes in her book, “Making the Leap. Moving from deputy to head” about the journey that all heads must go on to appointment and beyond. Early in the book, she writes that:

“Preparing and supporting future generations of incoming head teachers is crucial if schools are to be strong and stable institutions where students and staff thrive.” p5

I’m lucky to work in a school whose own improvement journey has led to greater challenge as well as opportunity to develop. My headteacher recognises the need to develop leaders of tomorrow and supported my application for a NCTL sponsored ‘Stepping in to headship’ programme as well as ensuring that development and leadership courses are at our core for staff. Whilst this is a welcome route for me personally, it has as of yet, done little to remove my fears over contemporary headship.



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Our profession is facing multiple ‘waves’ of varying challenge that are not simply limited to a decline in headteacher applications. We are facing:

  • a new controversial funding formula,
  • a recruitment crisis of both teachers and headteachers,
  • changes to GCSE grading and specifications,
  • increased demands to school responsibilities with mental health, PREVENT and SRE all critical and all requiring attention,
  • a sanguine media who neither champion teaching or drive political change.
  • And much more.

So, why post? Firstly, to see if I am alone in my boat or if the huge waves that offer such anxiety and actually shared by others. Secondly, as an attempt to help clarify my own position and development. To see if by chewing over the issue, I become satisfied that it is a wave that offers significant challenge with greater satisfaction. Finally, to selfishly hope that those that have taken the captains post of their school offer some old sea dog tricks in getting through this initial storm.