Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

It's Scary If You Lose Your Head

Magazine article Times Educational Supplement

It's Scary If You Lose Your Head

Article excerpt

How one school faced up to replacing its headteacher

It WAS the moment that every single chair of governors most dreads. Yes, we had spoken about it for some years, but the actual words, "I'm going to go at the end of next year," set off a great variety of emotions and concerns.

Foremost in my mind was the fear arising from the examples of schools that have advertised once, twice, even three times; and still ended up with a caretaker head.

Would we be able find the right successor? What follows is our experience of trying to find a new headteacher.

Kevin Wilson has been headteacher of All Saints Catholic Secondary School in Barking and Dagenham for over a decade and was a deputy with us before that. Succession planning had been on our agenda and very openly examined. The school has taken great pride in its development of staff; we have been teacher training for years and welcome every opportunity to move teachers on in their careers. However, for a variety of good reasons, there is no expectation that our next head will be an internal appointment.

Our succession planning therefore focused on being certain that we knew what we wanted. We could articulate where we are in developing a vision for the next decade and we had the data to explain our current position. Crucially, we were ready to embrace a new head who would be sympathetic to the foundations on which our success is built, while innovatively guiding us to the best use of our opportunities, in the context of our current expansion, the wider challenges of change in education and the transforming local demographic.

National ambitions

The aspiration is to move the school from being a leading school locally to a leading Catholic school nationally, with the head recognised as a national education leader.

The next step was a general preparation for the recruitment. I called some Catholic school headteachers around the country and, thanks to their kindness in taking the time to talk through their ideas and experiences, I learned an awful lot. While each discussion started with the dearth of good candidates, particularly for Catholic schools, they quickly turned to teasing out the key features of our school that would best attract the sort of headteacher that we wanted.

As these discussions progressed, I found that I was ticking a wide range of boxes:

The school is not a basket case, but neither is it perfect. A new headteacher is not walking into a disaster, but nor would they be without a challenge for the future. …

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