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Out of curiosity...

Discussion in 'Headteachers' started by Martin1296, Apr 25, 2014.

  1. Hi,

    I've recently been appointed Principal of an academy which has been placed on special measures a few months ago (I've started post inspection therefore wasn't in charge at the time). However it is coming up my second month in the role and having previous HT experience I have never come across such an atmosphere!

    Members of staff fully support my ideas and wishes but yet still seem to not want change bearing in mind that is what they agreed they would want, I haven't made any ridiculous changes but I have made it known to staff and students that it's time to for 'socks to be pulled up'.

    In my first week I held an assembly for the whole school and separate assembly's for each year group explaining that classrooms standards will be changing. I also made the decision to lock the sixth form common room as the previous head wasn't interested to what was happening in there - this however has caused a major conflict strangely from the staff than the sixth form?

    I have hit the ground running, the staff, students and parents was more than aware of the changes ahead as I regularly visited the academy before I started.

    I haven't made any staffing changes as of yet, however this is on my agenda, I have several lazy and un-passionate members of teaching staff, some of which has been given formal warnings but yet their attitude hasn't appeared to change.

    This is starting to become an increasing worry for me now as I hope to make more changes as they are urgently required, I announced today in a weekly staff meeting that certain aspects are becoming unacceptable and today alone have already called 3 members of under performing staff into my office.

    Starting to think that maybe I'm doing something wrong?
  2. minnie me

    minnie me Star commenter

    Well I assume that as well as pushing for the changes that your setting requires you have been quick also to commend the good practices you have observed in your school ? I expect that you have completed NPQH ? When I did this I found the training really useful around change and resistance to change. I am sure other more experienced colleagues will be able to offer more practical advice but do you have a mentor ? Curiously in all this you make no mention of the rest of the LT who surely are sharing the responsibility for moving the school on and making staff accountable ?
  3. Hi Minnie me,

    I didn't really have a choice about how fast these changes was being made due to how long the problems had and have been left for something was in desperate need especially with Ofsted due to make another visit soon!

    I have a rather large SLT, however some have been appointed due to the previous HT wanting more internal candidates meaning that not all have experience, leaving the minority of us battling on through! I have delegated alot more responsibility which is considered normal to other schools and this seems to be making the SLT more effective as a whole.

    I was discussing with my Senior Vice Principal yesterday about how maybe some members of staff, including SLT members have been given an 'easy ride' to what should be expected of them and suggested that they may have been given the responsibilities of leadership before they was ready, he made the suggestion that the SLT has become too large and needs decreasing slightly?

    Overall this has really stumped me of whether or not my methods that originally was admired by the governors are going to be effective.
  4. lightningconductor

    lightningconductor New commenter

    I often read this forum to get an overview of the common problems facing heads in the current climate and how they tackle those problems. One of the things that frustrates me is the apparent lack of empathy that heads (who have presumably previously been in the classroom as teachers) demonstrate when tackling school improvement issues. Forgive me for being judgmental from a distance and with minimal information (though, of course, in starting your thread with the title 'Out of curiosity...' you seem to be inviting comment and, therefore, judgement) but you give the impression of lacking empathy with your staff who have, after all, been through the difficult situations that led to being placed in special measures in the first place and have been attempting to deal with (or simply cope with) the issues that have caused that action to be taken. Your use of phrases such as 'several lazy and un-passionate members of teaching staff' and 'today alone have already called 3 members of under performing staff into my office' suggest quite a negative view of your staff. Now I'm not suggesting that every teacher sets off every morning packed with idealistic intentions; many simply set off determined to do a good solid job and, undoubtedly, some set off with no more intent than to survive the day and pocket another day's pay. However, as a head teacher, part of your role is to inspire, motivate and, if possible, train your staff so that they do a better job than they might have previously done in the difficult circumstances of Special Measures. (You may have done that; you don't say one way or the other. I wouldn't regard an assembly as part of that process, though.)

    Your statement that you locked the sixth form common room because the previous head wasn't interested in what was happening in there is odd to me. Did you first take an interest in what was happening in there and then lock it because there were serious issues with what you found or did you simply lock it? Did you discuss your reasons for locking it with the staff (who are your professional adults in the sixth form) or the sixth formers themselves (who are the young 'apprentice' adults in the sixth form)?

    If your actions are seen as simply aggressive, demanding, unreasoned or destructively critical then you will surely lose the support of your staff (who you strangely describe as fully supporting your ideas and wishes but not wanting change). I doubt if you have the support of the 'lazy', 'un-passionate' and 'under performing' staff anyway.

    Overall, I find the way you describe your predicament odd.

    Can I now be extremely critical and say that I would expect a head teacher to express themselves competently when writing, using correct and grammatically accurate English (at least within the bounds of a few, fairly normal errors)? Your text is riddled with punctuation errors and grammatical errors. I hope the communications you issue within school are written more accurately and coherently or your statement in assemblies that 'classrooms standards will be changing' might cause some rather interesting comments to start flying around between the staff!

    I wish you every success in turning you school around but please remember that your teaching staff are human, not simply machines with which you will achieve your aims, and treat them with empathy.
  5. I am terribly sorry if I have been vague and I do apologise for my bad punctuation (I often rush on this website - bad mistake I know). This will be something that is probably visible in my future posts, however on formal documentations this is not a problem!

    The sixth form was one of my first interests as I believe they should be the example to the younger years, I observed for a week the amount of work being done in the common room (It is known as the 'workroom' as sixth formers have a sectioned area to relax elsewhere) , I discovered that the workroom had been left alone to allow independence however this has lead them to the abuse the trust given them. I therefore kindly informed them that this had to change otherwise I would have to close it, with various warnings the nature of abusing the workroom continued and resulted in me locking it.

    I have tried to be fully supportive and enthusiastic and most of all inspiring, however these members of staff have been known to be like this with the previous two headteachers. The first assembly was mainly to inform students that there would be change and from the feedback I have had from staff and students they have seen a difference in teaching. I have held whole staff meetings, informal meetings with staff, I decided that my SLT was in need of some training regarding data and other areas of management which was addressed by organising training courses and more recently a visit to an academy rated 'Outstanding' (This has been rolled out across all staff and is ongoing at the current time).

    At the academy reviews of each department happened once every term, this now happens once every two weeks, It was made clear from day one that we would have a sharp focus on every single student, every single week, in every single subject of how they was doing and where we felt needed intervention and support then we could put that in for them, but more importantly as sense of belonging for each and every person associated with the academy.

    One factor of my headship that has been recognised by staff and governors is that the students now feel more interactive with the SLT than they previously had with the previous head, I spend alot of time in the corridors and visiting students in classrooms to see them enjoying what they are learning (I'm often told to get back to my office by my PA!)

    My staff are incredibly important and I do care about how they are feeling in the job, however I am not expecting anything that is not included in their job description, I have passionate and inspiring staff that have adapted to the change I am bringing to the academy but I will not sit back and see staff drag their departments down because they have no passion for the job that some have admitted previously.
  6. marymoocow

    marymoocow Star commenter

    Learn when to use was and were, a mistake you keep repeating.
  7. Unfortunately I tend to type how I would speak with my pure Lancashire accent, this is something that has always been a problem online, including my social networking accounts!
  8. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    I think that it is important to use language correctly, even though I know that, on occasions, I will make a mistake. However, in my view, Martin has demonstrated considerable patience with some of the posts. He is dealing with a very challenging situation and really some of the comments are unnecessary.

    It seems to me that a big problem is the time pressure. Sadly, in my view, too much importance is now being attached to speed. Genuine change takes time and needs to be allowed to flourish.

    From what has been posted I feel things are being tackled in a fair and positive matter.

    Please do not bother pointing out any errors - thank you.
  9. Thank you keepthespirit for the support both with my problem and my admittedly poor punctuation.

    Just to update - Ofsted informed us today that a monitoring visit will be taking place next week, this would be the first there has been since I was appointed so hopefully I have made some sort of positive impact!

    I have decided that all the staff should be notified as I know some schools leave this sort of information until the very last minute. I have reassured them not to panic and that teaching methods should not change in anyway, I was told however that the previous HT held a meeting regarding the visit to prepare them and go over their ideas, however I have not organised any meeting but have left plenty of time in my diary if anyone has any questions (hope that was the best decision?)
  10. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    A very important element, in my view, of any organisation is having trust. I was fortunate in having the time, and a marvellous staff, for this to grow.

    Right or not, like you I would have let my staff know in plenty of time and encouraged them to be confident. Too much reviewing etc, again my opinion, usually causes anxiety and confusion.

    In the early days of Ofsted I remember one meeting when a head was complaining she didn't know what to do. She continued to say it was because Ofsted seemed to have contradictory requirements.

    My contribution was to suggest she should do what she thought was right. If the Ofsted team are happy, great, if not, at least you were doing what you believe in.

    It is easy for me ( I'm liberated ) to say but we need to get back our professional conviction and not just jump to the wishes of politicians and Ofsted. In the real world, of course, you have to be pragmatic. Perhaps it will change in the future. I hope so.

    Keep The Spirit
  11. I base most values on trust, my staff are trusted by me immensely and are always welcomed to come to me if they have any problems. I don't like to dwell on the if's and buts and that's why there is no meeting organised to discuss the in's and out's of the visit, I've told them to carry on like any other day because I believe that the "inadequate" teaching has improved therefore they shouldn't need to worry!

    My teachers have all been notified and well informed, there are members of staff that have already made it clear they do not want to co-operate and that's their decision but they have been made aware that they have no right in putting a threat on the future of the school or the students education.
  12. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    Out of curiosity...! What are your methods that so impressed the governors at your interview?
  13. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    There are many points in what has been posted that would have impressed me on an interview panel.

    Very importantly being ready to confront poor performance. Being a happy band of brothers is worthless if children are receiving a below standard education. Getting out of the office and being with the pupils is another. A desire to trust and encourage teachers to flourish is commendable.

    I was not on the panel but I can perceive why he was appointed.

    Out of curiosity...... why are you curious ?
  14. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter


    The OP in their first comments talked about lazy and un-passionate members of staff being given formal warnings. In the light of lightningconductor's post about the 'apparent lack of empathy', I am curious to know if you would say these things to governors at interview! Are these the things they want to hear?
  15. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    Thank you - I was genuinely interested. I understand your viewpoint. My philosophy of education has always been based on caring and encouraging. It is how I always tried to work and still try to support.

    However, I believe you have to be realistic. It does depend on the reality of a school situation. It has long been recognised that there is a difference between those who wont and those who can't. My reading of the posts has been that those who would not co-operate were, in my view, quite rightly being confronted.

    Whilst the governors may not like to hear something, perhaps sometimes there are things that need to be said. Obviously, I was not at the interview but I expect that OP was honest. I would like a candidate who was capable of dealing with differing scenarios and was ready to take on the challenge. I would expect a candidate to give an honest assessment of how he saw the school : and would want to hear it.

    We were informed at the start the school was in special measures - a challenging situation.
  16. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    I agree with you; I always want to support and encourage and develop the strengths of the staff.

    Yes, I can see that you would need to give an honest assessment and strategies to improve the school.

    I agree that as a headteacher you would need to challenge the underperformance but I would want to do it preserving the dignity of the people involved.

    I am applying for headships at the moment and I am finding the final 45 minutes formal interview a bit tricky to get through!!
  17. keepthespirit

    keepthespirit New commenter

    I attended a day's workshop by John Novak speaking about Invitational Education. There is an American based organisation promoting the ideas and it is well worth a google. I am sure you will find much to like, and their values include being able to deal with underperformance and maintaining respect.

    In 1989/90 I had three headship interviews. In the first I was advised that I had come over as too confident. Took that on board and on the second told that I lacked confidence. In the third I thought that I should just be myself. Probably my worst interview, but something clicked with the governors and I was appointed. I had fifteen very happy and successful years in post.

    It may sound trite but the right school will come.

    Best wishes - its a brave person going for headship now.
  18. Sorry for my late response, we was expecting Ofsted to arrive last week for a monitoring review, however the phone call came through today and we have been informed that they will be on site tomorrow.

    In light of what the governors feel about my way of working, admittedly some do not approve of how open I am about the current failings, however they also know that if I don't highlight them at this stage (in what has recently been named the "Road to success process" by students) it is likely that they never will be highlighted and will continue time after time to let us down. I have come down hard and hit the ground running which has made the impact that I wanted. Unlike some new headteachers that wish not to make big changes in their first term and wait to settle in, I wanted to take the opposite approach, I intended on making noticeable changes from day 1 and this was made clear when asked to take up the role. The Chair of Governors does however support me along with a few other governors that have accepted that the academy will fail if change isn't implemented.

    I held another whole school assembly today to notify the students and staff regarding Ofsted's visit tomorrow as I feel that to improve anything that involves more than one individual, it requires a whole team effort. I wanted to make clear that when Ofsted arrive that they are made to feel welcome rather than the enemy (however the older students did see this part of my speech as a joke, but then again I expected that to happen!).

    Overall hopefully the inspectors will see a dramatic change in everything we do, from the standard of teaching in the classrooms to the standard of food in the dining hall I want to show them just how far we have come in the space of a few months!

    Hi digoryvenn - I didn't have to face an interviewing panel for this specific headship as I was headhunted rather than me applying for the role :)
  19. digoryvenn

    digoryvenn Lead commenter

    Hi Martin and keepthespirit - thanks for your replies.

    Well done for being headhunted; you must be brilliant! I can understand what you are trying to do. Good luck with Ofsted.

    I have an interview for headship next week; this will be my third interview! I know you are right keepthespirit - the right school will come along. I will keep trying.
  20. Lots of luck!! I'm sure you'll be fine, remember be yourself, do research about the school and tell them how your vision will benefit the school. Obviously along with the rest!

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