Who’d be a headteacher in 2012?

It’s the view of 3Di that schools can only run successfully if they’re made up of a team of enthusiastic and expert teachers/support staff that is well led by a team of experienced & able senior managers.

This week we’ve given some thought in this blog to the differences between leadership and management. Prior to this we’ve reflected on the new headperson of Ofsted and his concern for 5,000 ‘failing’ headteachers – whom he’s described as ‘inept’.

Yesterday the Guardian’s Education pages carried this interesting article by Joanna Moorhead:

 Who’d be a headteacher in 2012?

 Ofsted head Michael Wilshaw’s comment that 5,000 headteachers lack leadership comes at a time when it is already proving difficult to recruit heads due to a ‘football manager mentality’


According to Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, “negativity and over-accountability have combined to mean that, especially in schools where there are extra pressures, it’s much more difficult to attract candidates for job vacancies at the top”.

 “Right now, good people are being turned off becoming headteachers because the element of risk involved in the job has increased significantly. We’re in a situation where the knee-jerk reaction is that if a school has problems, the answer is to get rid of the head. It’s the football manager mentality, whereas what schools need is stability, and what heads need is constructive support, not the adversarial system we’re in now where school inspections are hit-jobs.”

 For Sion Humphreys of the National Association of Head Teachers, the crucial thing for outsiders coming into headships is the need to prove themselves. “There have always been career shifters coming into education, and there’s often a suspicion that hard economic times is part of what’s fuelling that. It’s not always the case, but these people do have to prove themselves in the classroom – they have to get professional credibility.”

 Andrew Day . . . believes his past career – running a travel business – was a good grounding for running a school. “There are many similarities,” he says. “Just as when I was running a company, a great deal of running a school is about interpreting data, identifying trends, and marketing yourself.”

[So that’s OK – if you’re a headteacher and you’re running a school then your focus is naturally and mainly on marketing yourself, interpreting data and identifying trends.  “Now let’s think – what IS the latest trendy idea that Ofsted and others think we should care about?”]

 “With the greatest of respect, how can someone [who has only been a teacher for a handful of years] go into a classroom and talk about learning pedagogy?” asks Phil Allman, head of Olney middle school in Buckinghamshire. “When I sit down and observe lessons, teachers know I can do it because I’ve been a teacher for 20 years. I don’t object to Future Leaders or fast-tracking, but in terms of credibility there’s no substitute for teaching experience.”

 According to Allman, more and more of his senior teaching colleagues think twice now before applying for a headship. “Who in their right mind is going to place themselves in the firing line to head up a school that needs improvement?” he says. “I certainly wouldn’t want to – and I’ve been in the job for 20 years, and I absolutely love what I do.

 “I can understand why you’d be averse to it when your livelihood is going to be determined by a two-day inspection. Many good senior teachers don’t put themselves forward for the final step because they are smart enough to know that if they take that step and things go wrong, they could be out of a job.”

 The problem, Allman says, is that the current system is “so adversarial that it puts the best people off”. “You don’t go into a classroom and pick all the bad things you see going on there to use as a basis for improvement,” he says, “you go in and look for the positive, and then you try to build on it to make things even better. That’s the approach we need to take with schools and with headships because, while things are bad at the moment in terms of headteacher recruitment, I think they’re going to get a lot worse.”

 In Allman’s area, between a third and a half of all heads will retire in the next five years. “We don’t have enough people willing to put themselves forward to take their places,” he says. “And that’s being played out in authorities across the country.”

 Future Leaders’ chief executive, Heath Monk, explains that the project wasn’t conceived as a way of enticing those from other backgrounds into becoming heads, but over the five years it has been in existence, that has been one of the outcomes.

 “The idea of Future Leaders was to identify people who were able and prepared to take on headships in the country’s toughest schools – the ones that find it hardest to recruit leaders – and what we always expected was that a proportion of those who applied to the scheme wouldn’t come from traditional backgrounds.

 “We give our recruits a huge amount of intensive training and support. And we recognise that to have credibility as heads, they need experience of teaching. But our point is, you don’t have to have been a teacher for 20 years to be able to step up to these top jobs in tough schools.

 “The people we bring on board often have experience that turns out to be highly relevant to their work as heads, and, far from being stale and not interested in reflection or change, they’re brimming with enthusiasm and keen to bring in change.”

So headteachers need ‘experience of teaching’, according to Heath Monk. Not expertise in anything to do with education, please note. Any sort of teaching experience should be OK. Not any great depth of knowledge regarding pedagogy, literacy, learning styles, multiple intelligences, supporting SEN, working with second language learners, managing support staff, curriculum leadership, etc. Just so long as you’re “brimming with enthusiasm and keen to bring in change”. Any old change, presumably. That should do the trick.

‘Bring on board’, indeed.


There are more than 60 comments ‘below the line’ on this article. Worth taking a look at.


About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Please leave a comment - and tell others about 3Di!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s