Lately on twitter I’ve seen a recurring theme in the blogs of educators. That theme is Leadership bashing. All school SLT are grouped together and thrown in to a communal sin bin. As a member of SLT I’ve kept quiet about this for a long time. At first I thought that some schools must have some dreadful leaders and I pitied the staff and children in those schools. Then I read some more on the same topic and I thought, my word, leadership in schools must be getting worse. A couple of months down the line I’ve realised that leadership bashing has actually become a new way of venting frustration, letting off steam and generally being trendy. It’s joined the weighty themes of Ofsted and lesson observations. Well I for one am a little disheartened by this. Please remember there are real people reading these posts and while some SLT may be rogue, many of us are just trying to do our best.
As a member of SLT I’d like to dispel a few myths. I have a 60% teaching timetable. That’s at most 30% less than a class teacher. Contrary to popular belief I don’t sit in my office making up emails to make the lives of teachers miserable. Not at all! Here’s a flavour of what I do.
This year I don’t have class responsibilities. I’m aware that class responsibility is a biggie and I know it takes a lot of time and effort. What I do have is responsibility for the running of Key Stages 1-4. That’s around 20 TAs, 5 teachers plus all the children. Timetables are my responsibility, cover for TAs and teachers and general organisation of the day is mine. While teachers are doing their pastoral duty in class at the start of the day I am dealing with staff absence, parental complaints, staff issues, absent children and many other issues that have arisen.
During the school day I am teaching for a good deal of my time, just as everyone else. So what do I do with my surplus 30%? I’ll start with the small things that upset teachers the most. I check that books are marked. As a school we are not ridiculous with this. We don’t ask for essays on the end of children’s work, just the bare minimum that will help them to move to the next level. Teachers complain about marking, imagine having to check all the marking of the books. Of course my colleagues are superb and I give the books a cursory glance, that’s all that’s needed. But please remember, books do need marking and none of us are so clever that we don’t need supervision. I have a brief glance at lesson objectives as I pass through classrooms. I have to do this to see that IEP objectives are being addressed. It’s not my choice, but as you know IEPs are a legal document and must be addressed correctly. I move on to behaviour for learning plans. Are they in place, are they up to date, do they actually work? Work files have to be in good shape too. The general environment is also my responsibility. Do the displays reflect current learning, do they still look smart? Are the corridors and hall tidy or will the children fall over things? These are all small things and to be honest they aren’t too time consuming if you’re an ordered worker.
As Assistant Head I am responsible for the Annual Reviews of all children in school. This is a huge undertaking. Teachers have to write all the reviews, TAs write the care plans and I draw it all together in one document. It is then sent out to all the visiting professionals and the parents. I also run the collaborative meetings. This is where 5 or 6 professionals will discuss what is needed for each child’s education. Again, this is a huge task and takes care of every single Wednesday morning. The reviews and collaborative meetings take care of 10% of my extra time.
My next big role is assessment. As data leader I spend parts of every day scrutinising data. I look for gaps in achievement in every class and in every subject and discuss this with teachers. I implement interventions which I hope will help children and staff to be successful. I also compile regular assessment reports for Governors and for each Annual Review.
Three times a year I have student teachers. I am the only trained ITT mentor in school. Therefore all training, lesson observations and report writing falls to me. I am in regular contact with the University as this is an aspect of my role that I love. Since September I have also helped to train 12 Teaching School students and give them experience in a special school. Teacher training is enjoyable but jolly time consuming. New teachers are also my remit. This academic year we have one NQT and one new teacher, both requiring me to mentor them.
CPD is next. As CPD leader it is my job to organise all the CPD for all TAs and all teachers. I have to see what they would like, decide what the school needs and marry the two together hopefully. I also organise all the Inset days and arrange for the CPD which will happen on those days. I try and introduce large initiatives which will help the school move forward. Recently our CPD has seen us embrace GApps and Coaching. I have to lead and plan these sessions too.
Have I used up my spare 30% yet? If not I think I may be getting there. I haven’t mentioned the fact that I am English, History and Geography leader too. I also have a large role to play in ICT and the direction that the school is travelling in with regards to ICT. I am also lead for the Primary curriculum. Every time the Government changes something I have to reflect the changes in our school.
Meetings are next. There are more meetings to be attended than there are hours in the day. I have to be selective. I attend the Primary Federation meetings and the Teaching School meetings. I also sit on a Statutory Assessment Panel for children with SEN. All of these meetings take my time.
Before I finish I will tell you a few things I do with the staff in mind. I do my utmost to protect their PPA. I know it’s vital to teachers who have 90% class contact. I make sure that the assembly rota is not too onerous. Assemblies take a teacher’s time like nothing else. Our HT is very good with observations. She isn’t obsessed with having hundreds in a file but I still try to make sure that we only do enough to keep us all developing. I keep our HT up to date with things that I’ve learned on twitter. For example, progression over time rather than in a 20 minute observation. When I’m observing I try and remember that just because something is not being taught the way I would teach it, doesn’t make it wrong.
When I think about my role in school and consider introducing a new initiative I always stop and think first. How will this impact on the teachers? Will they have time to do it? Will they see the value of it? Really I do! I never forget what it was like to have a 90% teaching timetable and be at the beck and call of middle leaders and senior leaders. I also remember that as much as we love the children we need a break from them. Of course this doesn’t always work because as humans we are pre programmed to think we have enough work to do and we don’t want to take anything else on. But as schools we have to keep moving forward and evolving and improving for the sake of the children.
I’m not asking anyone to feel sorry for me, you’re probably thinking I chose this path and this work load. You’re right I did. I didn’t choose all the sleepless nights and the stress that goes with it though. As I said on twitter last week, leadership to me means helping every child and every member of staff to be the best that they can be. My role takes me around 70 hours a week, a bit more than my spare 30% non contact time allows. Please, please be gentle when you’re lumping all SLT together, we’re not all the same.