I want to be a headteacher….
Well at least I think I do, who can really be sure until they’re there? It was this question that was really bothering my boss (and co-author of this blog, Vice Principal Jason Bridges) and I when we were discussing staff CPD. We have worked tirelessly within our SLG to change the focus of our appraisal process and whole staff CPD, driving towards a position where we give staff opportunity after opportunity to decide the focus of their CPD and engage in the most meaningful session for them. Within this we have allowed staff to offer strengths as workshops with all staff then given a free choice of which session to attend and implemented a system of supportive learning triads with staff at similar career stages (watch out for future blogs on how this has gone). Additionally, all staff have been given a key educational text and offered opportunities to discuss this with their peers, staged our own Teachmeet and facilitated every member of staff visiting a secondary school of their choice to focus on an area of their interest or development targets.
Across our staff we have SLE’s, AST’s, teach first participants, numerous staff completing a masters, future leader participants and staff completing NPQML, NPQSL, NPQH and anything else you can think of that is a training program with a not particularly memorable acronym. Having participated in a number of these courses, gained a few qualifications professionally and considered the theory of my current and potentially future leadership roles I felt particularly frustrated at the lack of opportunity to work with “the chosen ones”. It was during one of these low moments that i challenged Jason (holder of pretty much every title listed above and others to boot) on the CPD currently being offered to him. “Well i learn on the job, that’s the best CPD isn’t it?” was his earnest and truthful response.
So I wondered whether there was something else? Ninestiles is a great school, rated outstanding for a very long time with a magnificent leadership team and huge wealth of experience in being at the forefront of education in Birmingham. Of course Jason benefits from working with and seeing the daily practices of Gaetano (our principal), Chris Quinn (our executive principal) and previously Sir Dexter Hutt (the man that practically made Ninestiles) but surely this isn’t the same as living through the process that got them to and then kept them at the top of their game?
And so it was that we struck on the idea of the “I want to be a Headteacher” sessions. As is so often the case, Jason made it happen. The first session was with Martin Collins (Director oF Primary Education in the Ninestiles Academy Trust). Prompted by just 3 short questions as shown below, Martin kicked us off in style.
The audience, all there by choice from across the Trust, numbered around 30 and contained a number of senior and middle leaders as well as some younger aspiring leaders. Martin was fascinating and inspiring in equal measure. Not just the “Primary guy from Erdington Hall” anymore, he told us about the full range of jobs he had fulfilled, the luck involved in some of his appointments and the heads he had learned from both good and bad.
Chris Quinn was next with her session, the latter part of which i knew but the early days in the challenging, politicised education climate and sideways moves was all news to me. Then came Sir Dexter, a man you could listen to all night and still laugh when he dropped another bombshell of taking on the local authority, leafletting the parent population and establishing the first hard federation with 4 schools at the distance of 150 miles! Lastly (for now) we’ve had Tim Boyes of Queensbridge fame. Another fascinating story of opportunities in Pakistan, knocking on headteachers doors for a job and building a theatre with National Lottery funding that was off limits to the Deputy Head!!!
So what I have learned? Well firstly and perhaps completely unsurprisingly there is more than one way to become a Headteacher. Martin talked of the richness of different experiences and teaching in different contexts which made me think I should move. Then along came Tim with his thought that you should build up a high quality body of work in one school. Between the four they have taught in different continents, different types of school, different subjects and with different outcomes but there was one theme that shone through. The need to have a purpose and commit to it fully. To be unshakeable in your progress towards this goal and to have the conviction to stand by your beliefs no matter who comes knocking on the door. All four shared a passion for social change driven by enabling the most deprived students to thrive and prosper through education. They were bold and resolute in their decisions, they certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly and they were prepared to take the tough decisions when needed.
The sessions were very different from normal CPD, I don’t think I heard anything I didn’t already know about education or leadership other than maybe some historical context. But I benefitted immensely from hearing the human side of the journey and sharing in the tips and tricks they may have gathered along the way. My advice is that if you have one of these luminaries in your network, find them and hear their story.
If you’ve heard similar stories or have a recommendation for a speaker for our future sessions get in touch!!!!
Alex Hughes – Assistant Principal, Essentials