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Leaving HoD post before GCSE exams

Discussion in 'Workplace dilemmas' started by rebbywoo, Aug 18, 2017.

  1. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Hi all.

    I'm currently working as a HoD in an academy where I've come to realise I'm not happy. This is mainly due to a massive lack of autonomy - my assessments are written for me, I've had to change my curriculum six times this year to fit the head honcho's agenda, I've had no say in exam boards, I've been told what novels to teach (I'm not allowed to have my dept teach LotF for example, as head office think it's too hard. They've asked me to read and learn another novel instead, and to get the dept to do the same). We do 15 assessments per year. I'm not allowed to argue this. I generally feel like a glorified messenger and I'm totally miserable. My mock results are awful, but this is because I'm teaching what I'm told to, rather than what I am good at.

    I've lost my entire department this last year. One was never fit for the job, but my concerns weren't listened to and he had a breakdown. Another cited that she couldn't cope with the workload, but that she was sad to no longer work for me. Another is on maternity. Another moved away.

    Basically, I want to leave. However, I have GCSE exams - a first cohort - in May. It would mean leaving with no results under my belt, at a crucial time. I love my year 11 class, but I know that their results aren't going to be as good as they could be, and I don't want my name attached to them. I'm stifled. It's awful.

    Would I ever be able to secure another HoD job without results under my belt? Also, how would I explain my leaving to prospective employers?

    I'm sure I've missed a lot and so am happy to clarify anything. Help is greatly appreciated.

    I'm looking to move as soon as January.
  2. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    I wouldn't hang around in that environment

    You're not really a HOD anyway - other people make all the decisions it would seem

    I don't think it will improve - get out as soon as you can
  3. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Just start looking around for a new HOD post in a nicer school.
    Results under your belt mean not a lot.
    Try to put a positive spin on what you have done, despite all the restrictions.

    As soon as you get something, go.
  4. Trendy Art

    Trendy Art Star commenter

    If you are not fulfilled in your role then neither will the students under your tenure be able to achieve the best possible results. The lack of trust from others makes your position untenable.

    You can secure another HoD job - consider all of the strengths you have in gaining the current post once upon a time. I am sure there are lots of qualities that you have apart from the results and the things you did to manage a volatile department.

    Explaining your leaving can be any reason e.g. new challenge, different school ethos, shorter commute, professional development. Choose a reason that concentrates on motivation rather than talking about a negative situation.

    It's never a good time to leave a teaching job in terms of students, but for you to give your best in the long term to young people, take the move that you desire.
    steely1, rebbywoo, Pomz and 3 others like this.
  5. install

    install Star commenter

    1 Yes - you can secure another post as hod
    2 You need to ensure that the reason you give for looking for a post elsewhere does not ring alarm bells though either with those you work for or with thise you are applying to
    3 Many teachers including hods often leave for a variety of reasons eg travel, moving, to broaden experience, etc
    steely1, rebbywoo, Pomz and 1 other person like this.
  6. JohnJCazorla

    JohnJCazorla Star commenter

    You can't leave until Xmas and your notice must be in by end of October, so plenty of time to look around.

    Is it possible that the act of asking for references and time off for interview may bring about a change of mind in your management and so the 'freedom' you seek? I struggle to see a downside to this, if you're any good (as shown when recruited) then your school and others will want you.
    rebbywoo and Pomz like this.
  7. hhhh

    hhhh Lead commenter

    But if this is the norm now, will things be any better elsewhere?
    When I started, all teachers could choose some things how/what they taught. HODs would advise, but everyone was treated as a professional and people didn't tell the HOD how to run her dept.
    Mind you, back then we'd have laughed at the idea that someone who wasn't even trained in English(or whatever) could observe and criticise English teachers!
    rebbywoo likes this.
  8. peakster

    peakster Star commenter

    Not everywhere is like that - even now
    rebbywoo and Laphroig like this.
  9. phlogiston

    phlogiston Star commenter

    Heads of department often leave at Christmas - I've even known one go at Easter. There is no reason why yuo shouldn't get another HoD job, although there may not be many advertised to start in January.
    Spend some time thinking of the sort of job you would like, then see how it matches up to the sort of job you might get.
  10. Cooperuk

    Cooperuk Senior commenter

    Leave the place - it sounds HORRENDOUS.
  11. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thank you, all who have commented so far.

    My first thought was to wait it out until the end of the year, but then in the last week of the term I had a meeting with the CEO who basically told me I was terrible because my students only got 4s in their literature and language mocks (based on their algorithm). My head stuck up for me, saying my students were knowledgeable and able, but the CEO insisted then that my lack of literature degree was a problem and that my staff and I must teach what she asks us, even though she doesn't teach my subject. It was the nail on the coffin, really. The worst thing was, I initially came away thinking it wasn't too bad, as she hasn't completely lambasted me.

    The issue with the mocks is that we spend so much time on assessments that very little learning is done. I've raised this for two years now, and she just digs her heels in and refuses to hear me. In my last job, I won awards for innovation and was allowed to follow paths I felt would be effective. Now, I just feel stifled.

    We are being forced through a horrible exam board despite the old department members and me lobbying for a better one. I want to do Entry Level English with my weakest, but am being told no - I have to do the FS cert under the exam board we use for GCSE. I am concerned that there is a deal going on; decisions aren't being made in the kids' best interests.

    I want to make all this clear when I resign. One of my staff did so, stating in their resignation letter that the demand for assessments had made them leave. However, they had lots of prior stress-related illness so their concerns haven't really been listened to. I feel they need to know the effect they are having on us.

    We will be relocating so reasons for leaving should be easy. However, I'm keen to avoid making this mistake again. Is there a way I can ask, respectfully, at interview about autonomy?
  12. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    (I have a language degree)
  13. snail_friendly

    snail_friendly Occasional commenter

    Leave - results are not the be all and end all - if you were wanting to move up to an AH role then the 'story' of the improvements that you made *might* be of importance.

    Be honest during the interview process if asked about why you are leaving the role.

    Being the Head of English is a tough job - and you may find it frustrating at times - when you move to a new school you may still be restricted with regards to the texts that you teach because of what is already in place / what has proven to be successful.

    Persoanally, in my dept we all teach the same texts as this allows for collaborative planning, sharing of resources, moving students classes with greater ease etc ... we all do the same assessments, as students will, when they sit GCSEs, complete the same assessments so again this allows us to offer better analysis and support for our students. However, that is not to say that teachers are not free to deliver these texts in whatever way they want / best suits the needs of their students. So although there is a consistency across the faculty each member of staff still feels like they are treated as a professional.
    steely1 and rebbywoo like this.
  14. Trendy Art

    Trendy Art Star commenter

    At interview, I am sure you will get a sense from the people and the ethos of the new school with a visit. You could ask informally what it's like as a place to work in or speak to department colleagues at the interview. The triangulation of your experiences of how they set up the day with tasks, the people and the interview experience, research of the school, etc should tell you all you need to know if it feels right.

    You don't need to list the reasons in your resignation letter or in person to the Trust, CEO, Head or whoever. If they weren't listening then, they're not going to listen now. Put on a professional face - you never know if you meet someone inadvertently related to them in the future or require a reference and so on. Your need is to move on and leave the toxicity of this situation behind.
  15. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thanks, Trendy. This is sensible advice! My worry is that they will continue to send these messages to the new HoD, and will continue to lose staff, and the students will get a terrible deal for the length of their time at school.

    However, you are correct in that I need to maintain a professional face.

    Is it worth having this discussion in the first week back, do you think, or should I wait a while?
  16. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    Thanks, Snail.

    I am completely understanding of the need to teach things that are successful, but this is our first ever GCSE cohort and so we should have had free choice!

    Two staff want to teach one novel, two the other, because all of us have extensive experience in these novels. I've been told no. We all have to do a completely different one that none of us have ever taught or read, and use the academy-designed SoW from a partner school! It's madness.
  17. Trendy Art

    Trendy Art Star commenter

    At the end of the day, it's the Trust's responsibility to recruit the staff. While it is noble that you have a concern for your potential successor, that is where they are accountable for the results and the student experience. No doubt, if it continues, then there will be other bodies to hold them to account. Conversely, they may take on someone else who may suit this way of working - but bottom line is that's what headteachers and CEOs are paid to do, so why do their job for them.

    You may wish to consider waiting until an appropriate post arrives - your patience may be rewarded. Going back in the first week of term to lay it on the line - this would from the outset appear to be your need, not the school's at one of the busiest times in the academic year.

    Ask yourself the question - what is the value you will gain in this conversation?
    rebbywoo likes this.
  18. rebbywoo

    rebbywoo New commenter

    You're right, Trendy. It's more about being cathartic for me than it being a good thing. I guess that now I've realised I want to go, I'm impatient to make it happen. However, it wouldn't be good for me to do that; I know that really!
  19. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    It isn't the norm and can easily be better elsewhere.
    Don't do that. They won't listen as they know they are right and you are wrong. There is no point souring relations.
    You could, but the naff SLT are hardly going to tell you that they are control freaks and will micromanage every second of you week. You will need to rely on gut instinct and see how the department staff are with SLT. If relations are icily polite at best, run a mile.
    Have a discussion about relocation and so looking for other posts. Ensure your head knows you are keen to see the year out (even then you aren't) but will need to take a post in the new location as soon as one becomes available.
    rebbywoo likes this.
  20. binaryhex

    binaryhex Lead commenter

    You don't sound like a HoD to me, more a lackey who can't be trusted. My only surprise is why you need advice about going! You aren't going to win. Neither is anyone going to be in the slightest bit interested in your reasons for resigning. Make the decision to leave and start applying. You will feel better. You could do things that may or may not help but will make you feel proactive, like put together an up-to-date CV and speculative letter and send them out to good local schools and agencies. Think about abroad and sign up to agencies dealing with international jobs. Sign up to the Guardian job alerts. Look in Tes and local papers. Go to any area meetings and mention that you are looking to change jobs and network. Make sure you visit any potential new school if possible before interviews, so you can find out if you can teach and lead in the way you want by asking the right questions informally and talk to those who are there.

    Stay calm and profession but as you are going to leave, throttle back the extras so you don't leave while having a nervous breakdown - I've seen teachers up their hours and go mad in the run-up to leaving and it helps no one. The kids will miss you for about a week maximum and then will forget you after you have left to don't worry about them.

    When you resign, keep it short i.e. Dear Head, please note I am resigning and will be leaving on December 31st 2017. Kindest regards, xxxxx

    Don't discuss why you are going with anyone except close friends, unless you are asked, and even then, keep it short, professional and evidence based. Don't get emotional or sound bitter. If the job starts to get too much, just go sick for a few weeks with a bad back or something mid term, to keep the time you have to be in school for the next term to a minimum.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2017
    rebbywoo likes this.

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