The Headship Game: The Challenges of Contemporary School Leadership

The Headship Game: The Challenges of Contemporary School Leadership

The Headship Game: The Challenges of Contemporary School Leadership

The Headship Game: The Challenges of Contemporary School Leadership


Being an effective headteacher requires a combination of leadership skills. What does an aspiring head need to know to win the ¿euro~headship game'?Tessa Atton and Brian Fiddler focus on particular pressure points and key issues that can be particularly problematic and suggest ways of dealing with them. Comparisons are made between headships and chief executive roles of other organisations and extensive examples are included from current headteachers to illustrate aspects of the job which they find most challenging.The authors also examine the career of headship from application to retirement and emphasize the need to learn about leadership before becoming a head. Using examples of current headship practice, they suggest ways of developing good practice further. Some of the issues covered in this practical guide include:* development of leadership thought* achieving headship* selecting and supporting headteachers* understanding the demands of contemporary headship* after headship.The Headship Game will be a valuable resource for current and aspiring headteachers, deputy heads and those on NPQH courses.


Our publishers produced the cover design and sent it to us for approval. We agreed that chess was probably a very good choice of game to illustrate the kind of game that we had in mind when we suggested the title. We were not seeking to be frivolous by taking a gaming analogy for the career of headship but trying to suggest that this too has its rules, norms, expectations and gambits which are seemingly well-known to a few but quite obscure to the many.

Chess captures the idea of a series of planned moves being needed to move from beginning to successful conclusion and a great deal of thought being needed at each stage. However, we agree that the element of luck and the part that good fortune can play in a headship career is probably largely absent from chess (at least when the players are experienced). This is an important distinction. Whilst thought, reflection and advice can improve the chances of making the 'right moves', the headship game is not as predictable as chess.

Chess has a large number of possibilities but each piece is allowed only a certain range of moves, the play is in two dimensions and there are only 32 pieces that take part. Also chess is a game for only two players and each is the opponent of the other. Each of these limitations is different in the case of headship. in the career of headship there are even more possibilities than the large number in chess and yet there are patterns that appear to lead to success and checks that need to be foreseen. in headship the opponents are not so easily identified and much the biggest 'opponent' may well be circumstances and chance rather than any individual or individuals.

We were pleased with the allusion to chess in that the headship game is an intellectual game and that moves need to be thought about in advance, and their likely consequences foreseen, before committing to them.

There are winners and losers both on the way to headship and within headship but perhaps the situation to which chess provides an insight is stalemate. This has recently been noted in a small number of schools where heads and staff have reached an accommodation. Each would like to make moves but is thwarted by the other and the resulting stalemate means that the school is the net loser.

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