If you are a senior leader, how has the end of the year (2015) been for you?
This post has been partially written prior to the holiday season, and reflects a period between October to December 2015.
This is the 5th in the series of The Life of a Deputy Headteacher. The reason I write this is to post online how I am developing in my new role as a deputy headteacher; to offer a place to reflect and share with other senior and aspiring leaders. If you were left in charge of a large secondary school for the day, how would you go about your day? What I hope to offer here is a snapshot into my working day; to help the reader to compare, suggest or to use for reflection.
Return of the Deputy:
In ‘The Life of a Deputy Headteacher’ blogs gone-by, I can sum up each individual blogpost in one single word; note the time of the academic year may also be a factor;
- The life of the deputy headteacher-part one: written in May 2015 = relentless.
- The life of a deputy headteacher-part two: written in June 2015 = prioritising.
- The life of the deputy headteacher-part three: written in July 2015 = tweaking.
- The life of a deputy headteacher – part four: written in September 2015 = realism.
- What one word will summarise this post?
In leadership, it is easy to feel like the walls are closing in. Times are sometimes tense and it is often relentless. But, it is not always a pressure-cooker; there are many wonderful moments day-to-day …
A Day in the Life of …
(The section was written in October 2015)
I had just 4 hours sleep the night before stepping up to become acting-headteacher for the day. This wasn’t due to the fact I had not done this before or that I was anxious. No. It was from the exhaustion and sheer relief of overseeing performance related pay and the completion of the appraisal cycle for every single member of staff; the annual process coming to an end the night before at a governor committee. The meeting ended at 8pm and I got home and into bed by 9.30pm. I was shattered from the expectations and the emotional ending of this task …
The anticipation of presenting a fair and transparent process from our pay policy – thanks Mr. Gove! – and decisions for the very first time as a school – and in my role – was extremely challenging. In 2014, we had secured a local agreement with unions and had our pay policy delayed for one year due to various circumstances. The pressure to now get this right for all of our staff was immense. Of course, I did not do this alone; guided by my brilliant headteacher and a wonderful member of our support team to help me with the logistics, the strategy was left to me.
There was one over-ridding comment from the committee. “This process is robust, transparent and fair; far greater than what we receive in our industry.” This feedback resonated with me. Not because it made me feel better, but because we are clearly in a landscape where performance appraisal is clearly better-managed than other leading industries. I know, this is just one example, but it is food for thought whether you agree or disagree with the process. For me, I am divided.
As a leadership team, we had already witnessed the impact disjointed pay policies is having on recruitment to the school. Made-up pay scales and incentives being offered to our own staff, as well as staff arriving for interview with misconceptions. It has been an interesting year for schools and funding … I guess this is what leadership is for sometimes. To protect staff for nonsense and to shield them from the stress and constraints imposed on us all from the government.
All Before Lunchtime:
Following the personnel (governors) meeting, the very next morning, I was leading up the school. This blog sets about capturing the highlights from the day. Here is a snapshot into my morning;
- 7.15am: Overseeing and triple-checking a collapsed timetable to compensate for a year group of 220 students being out of school on an educational visit.
- 7.30am: Overseeing cover allocation for the day; buying in cover supervisors and supply teachers, as well as rarely cover.
- At 8.20am: leadership briefing, dealing with events from the day before; discussing any unresolved issues; planning for day ahead …
- 8.35am: Gate duty; welcoming students and dealing with late arrivals.
- 9.00am: Reading applications …
- 9.30am: Preparing for the stage 1 appraisal process (and reflecting on the success of 2014/15).
- 10.00am: Ensuring 220 year 7 students depart safely to their residential. Waving them off!
- 10.30am: Managing the diner break time for service queue entrance/exit; thanking staff and clearing the playground for the next lesson.
- 10.45am: Teaching a one-off technology lesson to year 7 as part of the collapsed timetable.
- 11.45am: Welcoming 20 food technology technicians to school for the day for a training event. Followed by a quick walk of the main building …
- 12.00pm: Reading, replying and mainly deleting emails. Picking up a few conversations with staff.
- 12.30pm: Lunch duty around the school building until 1.45pm. (We have a double lunch period for KS3 then KS4/5).
After midday, I lost track of my thoughts and failed to record what happened next. Typically, I stand in the diner with students and staff on duty from 12.30pm until 1.45pm. We have a double lunch hour with lower and upper school rotating. I help manage the queue system to ensure a calm and safe entrance into the diner. This is steadily being taken over by lunchtime supervisors to allow me the freedom to walk the site and speak with students and staff; manage unplanned cover and so forth. Gradually as we settle into our new building, I am managing to visit tutor time (during the lunch hour); assemblies (when not leading them) and walking to the far reaches of our new playground.
Of course this blog does not capture all the corridor and playground conversations; the decisions and thought process behind each comment, action and movement, but I hope that above at least captures a 24-hour period in my working life.
January 2016 onwards:
To support this blog, below is (a photograph of current to-do list) my office whiteboard. The image was taken on Friday 18th December 2015.
These are a few of the projects I need to push forward during January to February 2016.
Urgent and Important:
- As CPD leader, the first day back INSET day always sets the tone.
- Learning Policy; particularly a marking re-visit after our work sampling in November.
- The launch of our coaching and mentoring CPD.
- Department diagnostic reporting – blog to follow on this.
Not Urgent But Important:
- To review the CPD budget expenditure for 2015/16
- To launch our CPD loyalty card scheme and CPD menu.
- To launch our staff well-being scheme.
Urgent But Unimportant:
- To launch TeachMeet London.
Not Urgent and Not Important:
- To buy a blind for my office door as it is made from glass and offers no privacy for one-to-one conversations with colleagues, students and parents. My office leads out onto the school playground. Here is one photo I have of the space when we first moved into the building.
- To purchase tickets for our Extended Leadership Team to attend the ASCL conference in March 2016.
The cogs in the wheel are already turning, but for now, it is time to relax at home for the holiday season. Despite the exam and revision season heating up, there will be several CPD and teaching and learning priorities next term. I will be useless to everyone without a proper rest …
Have a relaxing holiday everyone!