“I chose Into Headship because I wanted to develop a solid foundation for my first head teacher role. The course offered me the support, guidance and the framework to develop my leadership capacity. My progression through my leadership career has been relatively rapid and Into Headship has allowed me to focus on what is important to me as a head teacher.”
I’ve always believed that it’s not enough to be named the leader or head teacher of a school – to be respected as a leader, you have to earn it.
For me, earning it comes from showing a confident belief in your own convictions while at the same time ensuring all staff are valued for what they do, can take ownership of a shared vision, and feel motivated to improve their own practice so that together we can make continuous progress and improvement for our school.
I saw Into Headship as an important step in my journey towards developing my leadership capacity and credibility, and while my first permanent head teacher role came sooner than I expected – shortly after I began studying for the course – the benefits of continuing have been valuable.
The opportunity to meet face to face with people at the forefront of educational leadership has been interesting and it’s been really helpful to have that protected time for academic reading and research.
In fact, the research we’ve had the opportunity to pursue has been a real eye opener for me. The level of political insight into educational policy and reform has been fantastic and more than I could ever have hoped to achieve on my own.
Building this knowledge has given me credibility among my team and the wider community that I may otherwise have taken much longer to build, and I now feel confident and competent when talking to people about my opinions, views and values – whether they marry with the status quo or whether they differ.
The programme has also helped me reflect on my own practice as a leader. It’s allowed me to build a network of colleagues and critical friends to offer guidance, advice or kind words, and it’s ensured a focus on involving people in my schools community and valuing what staff can bring.
As a school leader, there is no point in me pretending its always easy to be a teacher or refusing to recognise that motivation can dip. I understand that it’s my role to motivate people, my role to get everyone on board, and my role to value my team as people, not commodities who will deliver for our learners.
I believe that schools are built on strong relationships and that a great head teacher is recognisable, approachable and insatiable. I believe a visible presence leads a school well. Issues or ideas will never progress if they aren’t discussed so I need to be open, approachable and adaptable to the community I lead if it is to reach peak potential.
Developing our school’s vision was a great example of this and something that can be clearly linked back to my learning on the programme. The visioning exercise was based on reading I’d engaged with on the course and because of that reading, I wanted to involve everyone in creating a clear and deliberate idea of what we wanted the school to be.
The vision statement we created is “Ratho is a curious, creative community”, and while I’m not sure it represents me as an individual, I’m delighted with it because staff, pupils and parents shaped it. It’s something our team believe in and want to deliver upon so you can begin to see it positively permeating in everything we are aiming towards.
School leadership has been seen in different ways across different generations and initially I worried that it could be taboo to admit I was ambitious for my career and wanted to move quickly into headship, particularly when there are many more experienced people around me.
I was afraid my ambition and willingness to take hard decisions would make it look like I didn’t want to be part of a team when in fact I feel the opposite. I wanted to be a head teacher because I want to deliver my high expectations, my beliefs and values as part of a wider team and for a bigger benefit.
I’d encourage anyone who feels the same to follow the same path.
I believe in the overall rationale behind the Government message of tacking inequality and closing the attainment gap. I really want that to be achieved for all children in Scotland and I want all of the children in my care to have freedom of choice, a path they are happy with and the ability, skills and drive to achieve this without barriers.
As for my own learning? It matters too because it keeps me progressing. The world is changing daily and there is a need to keep developing with it. Like it or loath it, change is inevitable. How I continue to learn remains to be seen. I’ll consider In Headship in the future and can see myself doing that at some point but timing wise, it’s right for me to turn my attention back to my school just now and to look at other ways to keep up to date while supporting those around me and striving to make my difference every day.
If you are aspiring to headship, read more about the Into Headship programme and application process.