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Is this normal and I've just been really naive?

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by MLmath, Mar 18, 2017.

  1. MLmath

    MLmath New commenter


    Any advice from other HoDs on this would be appreciated. Sorry it's a bit long, but bear with me....

    My school is now good but previously failed their ofsted, the current head came in and 'turned it around'. Ofsted are due again. Recently our head of maths got a job elsewhere (rumour is he was forced out, our predicted grades for the new GCSE are not good) and various members of SLT and my department encouraged me to apply for the job. Personally, I didn't think I had enough experience but I did it anyway and was offered the post. I have until Monday to decide.

    Basically, department morale is very low and the staff feel completely undervalued. Comments have been made to me from EVERY member of staff e.g. being scared of being made redundant, being 'disposalbe' in the eyes of the head, the head never coming in to see how new staff are getting along, being overworked etc. It is not a department of poor quality teachers, everyone has their weaknesses and there are a lot of things that need improving, but it's actually a good team, people are willing to do the work to move forward and results have been improving over the last few years (still slightly below national though). Based on this, I made the point at interview that it would be part of my role to ensure staff morale was at an okay level and to make sure people feel valued, any new initiatives are tailored to my departments strengths, making sure support was provided for weak areas/staff and apply them in a realistic timescale. The head didn't like this. We had a very frank discussion which ended up with her shouting at me... that's okay though, I think it was to see how I reacted under pressure.

    She said teachers are expensive and they need to do what they are told. It's their job and if they can't get it done well, in a quick time frame, then I need to build the evidence to get rid of them. When i said the way to bring in new policies, make them successful and help ensure people would follow them was to get everyone's input and expertise, she said 'no, you make the decisions and they do it, if they dont then they go'. It went on and on basically saying she doesn't care about the teachers input, only their output, it's all about students and if the teachers cant cope then tough. I was trying the make the point that the two can't be separated but she was having none of it.

    I don't for one second believe that I'm there to be people's friend and I know there will need to be tough conversations at times, but I also don't agree with putting staff under crazy amounts of pressure and actively trying to get rid of them when they are doing their best, working long hours and none of them are inadequate... and it's unlikely to find a good replacement. Our last teacher vacancy only got 1 applicant.

    So, now I'm wondering if management in this school is actually for me. My question is... is this normal (for the majority of not 'outstanding' schools under ofsted pressure) and I've just been really naive? Or if I were to move to management elsewhere, this would be different? Or do you think this was all interview technique and in reality the head would be reasonable... she was just testing out my inexperience? Although, I do see now why the department feel so low if this is her view.

    Thanks in advance for any guidance.
  2. MLmath

    MLmath New commenter

    I should also maybe add that this head is an effective head... at least on paper, so it's less of a 'is my head a psycho' and more 'is this a fact of life these days in teaching'
  3. secretsiren

    secretsiren Star commenter

    Unfortunately, in my experience, being HoD of a core subject these days is so pressurised from above that it quickly becomes untenable if SLT are not supportive.

    My head has had a personality change in the last few months and is also making semi-threatening statements like 'either you do it like this or...' without finishing the sentence. This applies mainly to members of my department but also to me. There is no apparent desire to recognise the difficulties of recruiting decent staff or that supporting current staff members to improve their practice is cheaper, less time consuming, less stressful, more humane, and actually part of the Head's job as well as mine. There is also no recognition of the fact that observations, learning walks, book trawls, endless action plans etc does not improve classroom practice; it simply increases anxiety levels and makes people either leave or have a breakdown. I am starting to think that after two consecutive headteachers have shown themselves so utterly incapable of showing any compassion or support for me, my department or other teachers in the school, it's not going to be different anywhere else.

    So in answer to your question: yes. Yes, it is like that. Low morale, staff bursting into tears, 60-65 hour weeks (and no one caring plus lots of added extras which you have to do because otherwise your neck is on the block), the constant gnawing anxiety of being watched, judged and found wanting regardless of what you're doing, the knowledge that human beings are disposable and worthless despite their many good qualities and their successes in the classroom...

    If I had a choice, I would resign my TLR tomorrow. Even better, I would never set foot in a school again. I hate it more than I can express.
  4. strawbs

    strawbs Established commenter

    does seem rather strange to me! have you seen that side to her before? is there another HoD you could speak to and see if that is how she expects them to behave?
    thistooshallpass likes this.
  5. MLmath

    MLmath New commenter

    I haven't seen that side, rarely have any contact with her but when I have she's always been very positive so my initial thoughts was that it was an interview game. It was only once I thought about what others in the department had said that I started to worry. I've only been at the school a short time.

    Good advice, thanks. I want to talk to other core HoDs in the school but I'm not sure how to phrase it to them without it being fed back to her....
  6. strawbs

    strawbs Established commenter

    maybe start with something innocuous like "what's your workload like as HoD compared to class teacher" and see where that gets you
    phlogiston likes this.
  7. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Your post sums up so much of what I have heard from others in teaching at the moment and my heart grieves for teachers today.
    Yet another dedicated teacher who would like to quit.
    :( :( :( :( and :mad: :mad: :mad: for the people who have the situation like this!
  8. ViolaClef

    ViolaClef Lead commenter

    If I were in your shoes I would not take up that post under any circumstances and I would quietly start looking for another job. The things you write sound very loud, warning alarm bells. I have never known people in teaching interviews to play 'games' with the interviewee; if your Head said those things then I would assume that is what she believes and how she wants you to work. There is no way, as a HOD, I could work with such a Head and treat other staff in that way. What disgraceful and appalling things for her to have said. Turn down this poisoned chalice and get out as soon as you can - before you find yourself the next one on her extermination list.
  9. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    As someone who isn't sure if he wants to stay with supply or go into more lucrative but much more stressful 'proper' teaching I've decided to ask at interview "What is the school doing to retain staff?"

    It sounds like the HT is still following the model that worked for most schools recently.
    "Sicken off as many staff as you like, there's plenty of bright, young things to replace them"
    Not sure that works anymore and will it work in Maths at your school?
    phlogiston and tosh740 like this.
  10. foroff2233

    foroff2233 New commenter

    This sad thread illustrates typical events in many schools today. As a HoD I was asked on a number of occasions to 'collect dirt' on colleagues but refused to do so. As a result I was placed on Capability procedures and eventually resigned. I then moved to the independent sector and enjoyed my best teaching decade by far. The point I want to make is that it can pay to have a change of school.
    Good luck, MLmath!
    Pomz and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  11. MLmath

    MLmath New commenter

    Thanks for all the advice. My head really pushes a business model with the school but maybe she's been watching too many episodes of the apprentice!
  12. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    This job is not for you. Your ethos is spot on. Hers is total stupidity. Good for you for being honest about your approach in the interview, and her response tells you everything that you need to know. You have been offered the job, which means you will get offered other jobs in schools where your values and the SLT's values coincide. Bide your time and find the right school. This job is not the one for you.
  13. thistooshallpass

    thistooshallpass New commenter

    If it were me I would politely, but firmly say no thank you; You could always cite feeling that that you feel that as one of the two pivotal Core subjects that you feel that on reflection the school and department need someone with a little more experience, however you would enjoy playing a pivotal role in CPD for Maths. The sub-text is 'run for the hills'!
  14. install

    install Star commenter

    Focus on your teaching and politely drop this 'hot cookie'...otherwise you may become a 'scapegoat' yourself.
  15. Pomza

    Pomza Star commenter

    No, this type of behaviour is certainly not 'normal'!
  16. September

    September New commenter

    Is there a pattern of heads of maths being threatened with their jobs because of this new GCSE?
  17. krisgreg30

    krisgreg30 Occasional commenter

    What did you decide in the end?
  18. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    collecting dirt seems to be expected at all levels against everybody these days. As a TA, we are expected (actually instructed) to collect dirt on the teaching staff, needless to say, most of us refuse.
  19. Tigerlearn

    Tigerlearn New commenter

    I certainly don't feel it's normal for your Head to shout at you during an interview and she doesn't sound like the kind of boss I would want. That said, she makes one good point. Whilst it's nice to get input from everyone and make a policy which was created by everyone, occasionally you do have to just make a decision, or implement a decision from someone higher up the management chain. Most of the time you can rely on goodwill and relationships to ensure policies are implemented, but once in a while, you need to be clear that things aren't optional. That can result in some very uncomfortable meetings, but a school can't run with people picking and choosing which aspects of their jobs they are prepared to do after signing a contract.
  20. MLmath

    MLmath New commenter

    Hi everyone,

    Sorry for not replying for so long, as you can imagine, things have been tough at work. I just wanted to update you all and thank you for your advice and own stories of your own experiences.

    I dragged out my decision a bit but then turned down the job saying I didn't think I was ready for it (and then panicked that I had made a mistake). I was then being pressured into acting as the HoD until the new one came in Sept and caved a little under the pressure (hence the stress - although I've stood my ground now and said I'm not doing it unless it's in my job description). BUT a head of KS3 maths role came up in a school near me and I applied and got the job so it's a happy ending :)

    Hopefully my new place will be better, counting down the days now...

    Thanks again everyone

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