Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Crown and Castle

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

Crown and Castle

Article excerpt

"How is it," asked a TES reader in an email to me, "that some headteachers can be so unsuited to managing people?" It's a question I've pondered many times.

What makes an effective leader? Ofsted's Sir Michael Wilshaw might tell you it's somebody who drives their staff hard. Educationalist Sir Tim Brighouse would say it's a manager who treats their staff with sensitivity and encouragement.

Headship is a funny thing: you're the lord of your manor, with control over everything that happens in it. It's an awesome responsibility and it needs to be thought about often, lest you fall into the trap of believing you're omnipotent.

During my early career, I learned much from the three headteachers I worked for. One was outstanding: a trim, dedicated woman in her fifties who cared deeply about the children in her deprived South London school. If the snow was thick on the ground and her train wasn't running, she'd be up at 5am walking to work. If a teacher was away, she'd take the class herself and thoroughly enjoy it. In doing so, she commanded great respect from her staff - unlike my first headteacher.

People would fall asleep in his staff meetings. As a young, enthusiastic teacher, I couldn't believe how tedious his assemblies were. He would thunder out All Things Bright and Beautiful, followed by the Lord's Prayer and a telling-off. It was pointless. Supply agencies didn't exist then, and if teachers were ill and he was forced to take a class he would always do exactly the same lesson: graphs illustrating the children's favourite animals, colours or football teams.

My second headteacher had a thing about lost property. …

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