The first five days …

The first five days of headship have flown by… it’s been a roller coaster of emotions… but I love it! 

Even though I had spent a lot of time at the school, driving in to school on my first day I felt like a child starting school. The car was filled with my school life and I was ready to move in ( not had the chance to unpack  yet!)

I was greeted by the schools business manager and a smile. Staff have been so welcoming as have children and parents. I feel I belong already! 

Monday we interviewed for an EYFS lead and I was glad of the support from the Director of Quality Asssurance, he knows the school inside and out and the support of an expert in Early Years. We appointed and I could start to see my team developing. The rest of Monday flew by with popping into classes, quickly grabbing hellos in the corridors. School is busy all the time- each school has a different kind of busy, it is key to keep this in the for front of your mind.  

Tuesday met with SLT and looked at behaviour for learning, engaging hard to reach students. )As a fresh pair of eyes you see things people that have been living the situation don’t see. ) key pupils needed a different approach, systems were not working. Time to think outside the box! One of the challenges all schools face is being creative with the stretched resources and limited funds available. I’m lucky the school has an abundance to space to be creative, turning one empty room into a nurture room enabled us to support hard to reach learners with significant needs. Lunch times were an issue and so were the afternoons – from next week a structured nurture group will run at lunch times. 

At every opportunity I was visible, mornings, after schools, popping into classes, walking the corridors- getting to know the school, catching children doing the right thing, praising the children for their conduct around school. It’s amazing how quickly children have picked up on this, even before they see me coming along the corridor … they are walking calmly.  This has helped develop the high expectation and culture. 

Staff work incredibly hard! They are dedicated and resourceful. But at times stretched, we have had staff sickness this week which impacts on cover. Everyone has chipped in and as a team we worked through it.  I have even done my first stint in EYFS! 

Wednesday I actually managed to turn the laptop on at work, write two polices and answer some emails. I met with some parents and some staff.  Top tip don’t beat yourself up – you are only human and there are only so many hours in a day! One step at a time is my new motto! 

Thursday informal health and safety audit from my old head! I proudly showed him round school!  We had an emergency with a child having a seizure and had to call an ambulance. Staff were incredible and the child was fine thank goodness – then filled in all the paperwork! ( not so keen on the paperwork) 

It’s now Friday morning, and I’m waiting to see what it brings. 

Everyday I have had a text or a phone call from the director of quality assurance, as a new head this has been invaluble sharing good things, discussing challenges- or just asking questions. Having support around you is key, recognising your limitations and asking advice helps clarify things in your mind! 

I have taken many things on board this week and learnt daily! The week I had planned didn’t happen- the to do list hasn’t got done.  But I have started to get to know the staff, children and the community. 

We launched the school Facebook page and this was received well. The community communicates a lot through social media and this will enable us to enhance communication further. 

The week hasn’t been without its challenges… the village is in a rural blackspot! Mobile phones don’t work inside school, wifi is hit and miss – have a meeting on Monday with the ICT providers.

Top tips:

Be present and visible

Use the expertise around you

Model what you want to see! 

Share your practice, it is amazing how many people are in roles they haven’t had support for!  Invested in putting  the support in place. 

Start to create the culture you wish to see from the minute you walk through the door. 

Smile and be positive even when you feel like you are paddling against the tide. The staff need you! 

Don’t take things personally! 

Make notes as they pop into your head, start to visualise what your vision is for the children, staff and community. Then action them. 

Reflection: I love being a head, I get a buzz from walking through the doors each morning. I’m grateful I work for such a forward thinking and supportive trust! I couldn’t ask for a harder working and supportive team. 

It truly is a fantastic job ! 

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Preparing for the adventure of Headship

It’s all in the preparation so they say…

I knew I had been fortunate to get the post a few months prior to starting, this enabled me to start a transition to headship. The current head was incredibly supportive and we were able to spend many days together to ensure a smooth transition. As was my current head, who started to develop me even more to ensure I was prepared and ready for the next journey. I was fortunate to meet the staff and start to get to know them. However, our first meeting was a chance encounter at an events fair for the trust, I can honestly say I felt like a goldfish in a goldfish bowl: scrutinised! Many professionals have written about the change in status when you become a head, which I have to say I don’t think I realised. Inside, I was still me wasn’t I? Having SATS coming up (leaving my current role at the end of SATS week) enabled me to stay grounded. My priority was my year six children and what was ahead of them.

During my NPQH, (which I have to say has been invaluable CPD) we read numerous papers regarding the change in status and your first days as head…. So this is my real life blog of my own transition to headship and the first 100 days.

I am lucky I am going to be working for a trust, who put the children at the heart of everything they do, something that is incredibly important to me. The support around me is comforting, I have a Director of Quality Assurance and School Improvement working with me, I am really excited about this as I already feel like I am growing professionally. Additionally, I have the support of fellow heads ( a wealth of experience), my current head, who is my mentor for NPQH and finally the trust have linked me with an infant head to support my key stage 1 development (coming from a junior school this is also invaluable). I am also a keen twitterer, I follow some great people but four strong women heads have been a part of my journey for a few years now, they inspire me to become a better leader, they challenge my thinking and are always supportive. So a big tip get yourself on to twitter, follow like minded folk.

Having all this support is like have supportive arms around you, especially with the ever-changing landscape of Education at the moment.

 

The hand over list:

  • Safeguarding -(as I said, children first)
  • School Improvement Plan
  • Self Evaluation Form
  • Raise Online
  • Attendance data
  • School timetables, routines and rotas
  • Staff Handbook
  • Emergency plan
  • Passwords for all systems, laptops, tracking tools, FFT aspire, DFS checking, NCA tools, Simms, school website, school twitter account, Evolve, etc etc etc
  • Monitoring and assessment timeline/ timetables
  • Staff handover
  • Curriculum
  • Teaching and learning
  • Calendar dates
  • SEND, LAC, Pupil Premium
  • Interventions
  • Performance Mangement
  • Staffing and roles and responsibilities
  • Future actions such as 30 hour provision for early years
  • Community engagement
  • Policies
  • Identify strengths and areas that need strengthening
  • Handover the keys…

After each visit to the school, I started to plan, to think and gather what I needed. I wanted to be ready to hit the ground running.

A list of things to do prior to starting:

  • Familiarise yourself with all of the above
  • Write your introduction letter to parents
  • Set up a school Facebook account (my community communicates this way best to be in control of it rather than having unpleasant suprises) Plan a letter to send out with your own expectations on how this will be used.
  • Plan first staff meeting: brief introduction, expectations, visions and values.
  • Put dates in the diary to meet with parents
  • Think about the training needed for headship role – for me this was the Health and Safety IOSH training.
  • Put dates in the diary to meet all staff for personal one to one meetings.
  • Plan ahead for quick wins, things that will make an impact quickly.
  • Start to plan strategically to move the school forward, thinking short term, medium term and long term. (Love a good mind map)
  • Organise for a Health and Safety check (my old head helping me with this one)
  • Organise for a Safeguarding check ( Audit coming up anyway)
  • Have a clear idea of when policies need reviewing, also check you have all the ones your require

My inbox had never been so active in this transition period: top tip remember that you need to look after you too, so work life balance is important to remember and model to staff. No-one can work on empty, deal with what you can deal with -there is always tomorrow.

I am now three weeks away from starting my first headship and no doubt  I will add to all my lists and no doubt I will have forgotten to make a note of something obvious.

My diary for my first week is already busy, on my first day I am interviewing for a EYFS lead to start in September, meeting all staff, getting out to meet parents and the community, getting in the classrooms so I can get to know all the children. It will be the week of firsts: first staff meeting, first SLT meeting, first assemblies, first meetings with parents, PTA and some of the governing body, I did have governors on my second day but thankfully that has been moved, meeting with business manager to discuss budget, health and safety audit. In all I think I may be a tad busy!

For now, I need to prepare myself to say good bye to my current school (12 years is a long time). A school I know inside out and a community I live in and am a part of. I have loved every single moment! Well most of them! I have grown and I am now ready to spread my wings and begin my first 100 days…