1. This site uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our use of cookies. Learn More.
  2. Hi Guest, welcome to the TES Community!

    Connect with like-minded professionals and have your say on the issues that matter to you.

    Don't forget to look at the how to guide.

    Dismiss Notice

New Head Problems

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by Bobby100, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. I've been reading another post with interest 'Lost backing of the staff'.
    I am experiencing similar problems. The staff at our primary school are established and are very comfortable. They have had 'control' of the school for many years, the previous head use to just please the teachers, I've been told. His main job was to keep the staff happy. They all loved him and are missing him greatly. I'm not particularly well liked as I'm not willing to be their new best friend.
    Since day one the teachers have got themselves into a panic and have heaped pressure on themselves. On several occasions I've said that they all work very hard and just need to relax. However they feel threatened by me and are silently fighting back, writing anonymous letters to the borough and CofG. Seems to be a collective. No one says much to my face but I believe the deputy is driving this. It's all a bit of a disaster ! I've been very reasonable and have been quite flexible. The school is satisfactory at the mo.
    I am very worried about the letters (signed the teaching staff). I've never had to deal with anything like this before. Some staff are even blanking me when I say good morning, seem to be getting the silent treatment from one or two teachers.
    Any new heads having the same problems ? What can I do ?
     
  2. I've been reading another post with interest 'Lost backing of the staff'.
    I am experiencing similar problems. The staff at our primary school are established and are very comfortable. They have had 'control' of the school for many years, the previous head use to just please the teachers, I've been told. His main job was to keep the staff happy. They all loved him and are missing him greatly. I'm not particularly well liked as I'm not willing to be their new best friend.
    Since day one the teachers have got themselves into a panic and have heaped pressure on themselves. On several occasions I've said that they all work very hard and just need to relax. However they feel threatened by me and are silently fighting back, writing anonymous letters to the borough and CofG. Seems to be a collective. No one says much to my face but I believe the deputy is driving this. It's all a bit of a disaster ! I've been very reasonable and have been quite flexible. The school is satisfactory at the mo.
    I am very worried about the letters (signed the teaching staff). I've never had to deal with anything like this before. Some staff are even blanking me when I say good morning, seem to be getting the silent treatment from one or two teachers.
    Any new heads having the same problems ? What can I do ?
     
  3. FabulousPoodle

    FabulousPoodle New commenter

    When a long established headteacher leaves a school, it is natural that a school staff who felt happy and comfortable in that school, will view a new head with a degree of apphrehension. Yes, they will have 'heaped pressure' on themselves because they know you will view them from a different perspective. They are trying to prove their worth to you and are looking for your acknowledgement of their efforts and talents!
    Their old head knew them, could make allowances for their 'quirks', while valuing their individual talents as teachers, knowing s/he could relax and give them a role in running the school because of knowing their various strengths, which taken together,in their view, made for an informed and united team, which supported the smooth running of the school, (according to the previous head's expectation).
    It is also natural that you, as a new head, will have come to the school with the ambition of improving that school. You will quickly form impressions of the strengths weaknesses of the school and the individual strengths and weaknesses of some of its staff and will feel pressured by the 'borough' to bring about improvements. It is difficult because while you know you need to gain the trust and confidence of your staff, you also need to demonstate that you are 'making a difference' in developing the school. Most LEAs will not be 'satisfied' with 'satisfactory'! Hence the pressure is on you to raise standards.
    You can share this dilemma with your staff, but you need to win hearts and minds before people will be willing to work to work with you. This is because they will view your attempts to improve the school as an attack on them - They think you think they are not good enough! Naturally, they will resent, then challenge this, by the means available to them- the LEA, Unions and GB.
    You need to think and act objectively.(I know this is hard when you feel so attacked. Generally the world cannot seem to acknowledge that headteachers have feelings too!)
    What are the issues being raised in the letters to the CoG and the LEA? Are they genuine issues, which you can address, or are they general statements? (I once had one such letter which said my staff felt 'intimidated' by me - it turned out that one member of staff had written the letter following a disagreement about a parking space, which had nothing whatsoever to do with the other 35 staff in the school, who were genuinely perplexed when I invited the CoG to share it with staff in an open meeting!!)
    One way to capture the feelings of the staff is to create a questionnaire which allows staff to feed back their views anonymously. Ask them what they like about working at the school and what they feel could be improved. What do they feel are the genuine issues in the school?Share the feedback with all staff and talk honestly and openly about how their issues can be addressed. You equally, can be honest about your ambitions for the school and what needs to change for 'satisfactory' to become 'good' etc;
    It is concerning that you feel that your Deputy is actively working to undermine you. Is it possible to have a frank discussion with him/her about what the issues are? If not, is your relationship such, with your CoG that you could ask for a meeting with him/her to allow your deputy to voice their concerns?
    You don't say how long you have been at the school. Perhaps you could give yourself one term to relax and allow things to settle down and allow your staff to come to know and trust you? Praise and value what is good in your school. Let your staff know that you recognise and value their individual talents. Let your LEA know that you cannot move forward in school improvement until you have your team behind you. Share with your staff what you feel needs to change and why. Ask for help in how changes could be brought about and harness the support of those staff who can offer suggestions by empowering them to bring about their ideas for change. I am sure that there will be some members of staff who will be ambitious for change in taking the school forward to the next level, whose enthusiasm you can harness.
    It is hard when you feel that you have lost the confidence of your staff, and it is so 'lonely' being a head, despite the wonderful feeling of improving outcomes for children and the intellectual stimulation, which makes the role so satisfying, but it is important to acknowledge the issues being raised and discuss and address them and keep minutes in a place that all staff can access, so that they know that resolution was reached.
    Hope this helps and good luck!!
     
  4. Keighleigh

    Keighleigh New commenter

    A recent leadership course I went on said be respected first and then liked. Very difficult when HT and DHT are singing from different hymn sheets, seen it locally and it isn't good. Have the staff been involved in looking at whole school improvement rather than a new Head arriving and saying this is how it needs to be done?
    Lots of reassurance and take the time to speak to people individually about how they feel. At the end of the day as experienced Heads will no doubt tell you, you have a job to do. You are not there to make friends however, I think that good heads have good people skills and infuencing your team is a big priority. Will watch the thread and good luck!
     
  5. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Your case sounds a little different to the other one. From what I can pick up there are two key aspects to this case. Firstly, you have stepped into the shoes of a much loved (regardless of the reasons why) former head and secondly you seem to have tried to make changes in haste. Don’t worry too much about the first issue, you’re not there to be liked and loved, but with the right leadership you can expect respect to follow in due course.

    If you are new, as in first headship, then you will find you will naturally make mistakes from which you should try to learn from. It isn't too late to salvage the ship, but you may need to open yourself up to fair criticism; a bit of humble pie may go a long way. If this is not your first headship, but simply new to this school, then you need to look more carefully at where you have gone wrong; some say second headships are the worst, as heads try to repeat what went well in their first school, not realising that every school is different.
    Unless you have done something serious you can safely ignore any letters from disgruntled staff.
    Was the school in special measures or barely satisfactory in the last Ofsted inspection? If so, then fine, quick change may have been needed, but you should still have worked closely at bringing key staff on first. If the school wasn't in serious difficulty then you have to accept you are guilty at trying to bring unnecessary change at the wrong time.
    You need to get clarity with the deputy; did they apply for the job you now have? If so, then there may be emotions going on which you can do little to extinguish for now.
    My advice for now: Review all the initiatives you've brought along and decide which to dump and which to keep. Ideally do this with a working party so that the staff can begin to feel part of the process and more empowered. When you are sure you are only making necessary changes have a meeting with the Governors, or whoever you report to, and ensure they are on-board with what you intend.
    After doing this, if you feel you are the innocent party, seek advice from another Head. Get them in the school and develop a supportive relationship. You’ll find bringing in an outsiders perspective is very useful and certainly better than waiting for the next formal inspection.
     
  6. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Whilst some of your points are good I don't agree with this. Wrong initiative at the wrong time. It will almost certainly bring a tirade of anger against this poor head and I can't see much positive coming from it.
    Similar to the LEA contacts. If they've received letters they may want a discussion, if merely to confirm it's groundless, but the Head should be careful not to bring the LEA in too much for now. I think informal discussions with someone neutral would be better long term than formal measures for in the short term.
     
  7. Thanks for the advice, it's good to read evryones views.
    To add some more info. An inspection is coming soon and the school was satisfactory 3 years ago. My deputy is unsupportive because I haven't done exactly what she wanted me to do. She doesn't have many ideas how to improve things and thinks the school is doing well. Infact there has been little improvement, no observations in the last year and not very much monitoring. The SIP thinks there could be a danger of notice to improve but when I mention this to the deputy she just says the he's old and doesn't know the school. She is very dismissive and doesn't like any changes. I haven't put many new systems in place other than monitoring. This I think is causing them anxiety as they are not use to having anyone in 'their' class. Along the way I have eaten some 'humble pie' and this has not made any difference. I have never come across this previously (although it's my first headship) in the 5 other schools that I have worked in. I feel it is very unfair and quite malicious. A very stressful time ! I seem to be getting the blame unfairly.
     
  8. oops. sp. everyone.
     
  9. The staff's main issue, written in an unsigned letter was that I was not approachable and dismissive.
     
  10. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Welcome to headship, it's normal to feel like that. How long have you been at the school? Since Sept?
    The extra info is helpful. How did you go about the classroom inspections? If they're not used to it they will be nervous; you needed to ensure they were crystal clear about your motives. Did you discuss timing with the teachers beforehand? After the first inspection, did you go through your findings with the DH in the same room?
    Have you dissected the last inspection with the DH? There are likely to have been a few 2s along with 3s or 4s. Look for the good and the bad and don't throw the baby out with the bathwater.
    You may have done all of these things right but still be in the same situation. Don't take criticism personally, reflect and learn from it; no matter how unjustified you think their remarks were, work on that aspect to ensure you can't be labelled again with those faults. Poor communication is often a problem with First headships. How long were you a DH before becoming a head? Hopefully a few years as DH; review your relationship with your last head. Have you spoken about your problems with him/her?
    If you haven't already done so, review Covey's 7 habits. The emotional bank account is at the root of good relations. Whatever your next steps are, keep smiling around the school. Your words of encouragement will count for little if they aren't backed up by a sense of genuineness from the teachers. Clarify in your own mind your spheres of influence.
    Your DH is likely to be an ongoing problem, so you will have to develop a strong SLT; include the DH in all discussions but ensure the SLT are singing from the same song sheet. If you haven't already done so, a SWOT session is very necessary so that SLT, governors and you can gain an agreement on which areas to focus on.
     
  11. They should have been doing lesson observations for Performance Management!
    Some excellent advice being offered here, so hopefully you'll find a way forward.
     
  12. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Any unsigned letter should have been dismissed immediately by whoever received it. There's plenty of stupid people on ridiculously high salaries in local government, but unless they are completely incompetent they should be aware that an unsigned letter is irrelevant; at most they should have simply been polite informing you but if they try to take it further than that inform the NAHT (presuming you're a member, which you should be).
     
  13. >> inform the NAHT (presuming you're a member, which you should be).
    There are other unions!
     
  14. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    Perhaps, but seriously, a head not being a member of NAHT? c'mon. [​IMG]
     
  15. MisterMaker

    MisterMaker Occasional commenter

    ASCL is ok for those who want to play at being school leaders, real headteachers will choose NAHT. [​IMG] (Guess which I choose to join!)
     
  16. Hi, read 'Shackleton's Way' as it gives great advice about how to be a leader in difficult circumstances. One of his best pieces of advice is always draw your potential enemy closer, so my advice would be pull the deputy close to you and use her as an intermediary on your side for the good of the school. To win 'hearts and minds' you must give them ownership so be open and let them participate fully in the process to raise standards, eg. leading staff meetings, distributed leadership, make them think they are doing it not you. I am now in my third year of headship and was recently asked by the cleaner if I had forgotten to go to the meeting about the curriculum and my answer was 'they said they didn't need me there!!! That was a great achievement for me.
     
  17. Middlemarch

    Middlemarch Star commenter

    I believe ASCL still does not accept primary headteacher members.
    From some of the comments people make about 'real headteachers', quite right, too.
     

Share This Page