Monthly Archives: April 2014

#WhoIAmWhatIdo What made @Mishwood1


Prompted by the inside story from @cherrylkd and encouraged by others including @Nichola80 and @eddiekayshun , this is me now putting pen to paper to give my potted professional history!

You know how when you’re young and people ask you what you want to do when you grow up? I always knew! I always knew I wanted to teach and I always knew I wanted to work with people with learning difficulties. I took the opportunity whilst at school to make contact with a local special school and whilst doing my A levels I supported in the classrooms as a volunteer each Friday morning. This confirmed my view that the path I had chosen to pursue was the right one for me.

Having investigated teacher training courses, Westhill College in Selly Oak, Birmingham (affiliated to Birmingham University) was one of the few places that delivered The Bachelor of Education Degree with what was at the time called ‘Mental Handicap’ as the main subject. Off I went therefore to Birmingham for 4 years….and a great 4 years it was! As well as learning about child development, child psychology etc, the course enabled me to study about learning difficulties of all different types in great depth. My teaching practices included mainstream as well as special which I think was an important part of the context of what I was doing. I also spent one summer on a residential placement with a family with a 10 year old autistic son which gave me another important perspective to support my understanding of the work I was embarking on.

Birmingham was a great place at the time as well for people who have become significant figures in the world of SEN including spending time at the school where Barry Carpenter was the headteacher and placement at the school where Penny Lacey was teaching.

Out I came into the world with a B Ed hons – a shiny new special education teacher ……………

I am a Lancashire lass with my family still living in Blackburn and as a coincidence, a teaching post came up at one of the Blackburn special schools – Dame Evelyn Fox.  As I was approaching qualification I applied, was delighted to get the job, did supply work there as I finished in the June / July and started as a full time teacher in the September! The school was an all aged school (2-19) and in the 10 years I was there I taught all through the secondary department with music as my ‘specialist area’ *coughs. In the time I was at this school I became TVEI coordinator and then assessment co-ordinator. One thing I was very sure of – I was never going to be a headteacher!

Having ventured out of the classroom a little to dip my toe into aspects of leadership, I then began to apply for deputy headships. I was successfully appointed to another all aged special school where my teaching role was across the school releasing teachers for PPA / training etc. This was a great opportunity for me to get to know all of the children and staff across the school and for me to teach all ages right from EYFS to post 16. My headteacher and the Chair of Governors at the time encouraged me to do my NPQH – which I reluctantly agreed to do – but only to become a better deputy mind you!!


I then applied for my first headship! I was headteacher at a small special school in south Manchester, an under 5’s assessment centre where children were placed to complete their statutory assessment and determine which primary placement was the most suited to their needs whether that be mainstream or special. I loved it! A significant part of the role here was the relationship with parents and families. For most it was their first contact with the world of special education and families came to the school with a whole range of experiences varying knowledge, fears and worries, hopes for the futures…….

I was headteacher there for 5 years before applying for my second and current headship at Camberwell Park School., a primary school for children with a wide range of learning difficulties and disabilities. In the time I have been there I have completed my M Ed in Educational leadership and worked as an LLE, been lucky enough to have had an article published in an educational journal and been proud of the school achieving two outstanding inspection outcomes in 2010 and 2013.

So, what made @mishwood1?

A passion for working with children with learning difficulties which is still as strong now than all of those years ago when I was considering it as a career choice, an empathy with families of children with learning difficulties and a commitment to supporting families in whatever way I can. I would not be where I am though without a number of other elements. My parents who supported me through university and all of the people along the way who have inspired me, encouraged me, empowered and enabled me to do what I do – there have been many of them. As a people person myself and a believer in being an ‘Investor in People’,  I now enjoy not only working with but encouraging and empowering others to develop just as I have been encouraged in the past.

Why be a headteacher? Having said through my entire early career that I wouldn’t; here I find myself in my second headship! I love being with the children and find it hard sometimes not being able to spend as much time with the children as I would like, however, at the risk of sounding ‘twee’,  I now feel I can make a difference on a bigger scale, not just in my own school, but as a system leader sharing good practice across different schools.

I am Passionate about the work I do, I Respect all of those I work with, I am an incredibly Organised person, I feel I have developed a good Understanding of the needs of the children I work with and their families and I am Dedicated to be the best I can be.

I am PROUD to be the headteacher of Camberwell Park School

Thank you for taking the time to read my story

Mary Isherwood


Are schools a business?…………………. The complementary roles of the Head teacher and School Business Manager


April. The start of a new financial year.

In school the budget for 13-14 has been closed down, checks and balances done.  Are we in surplus or deficit? Have we got enough funding to get us through the next  financial year  as the new budget is beset with rising staffing costs, rising costs of Service Level agreements and ongoing pressure on the budget for repairs and maintenance of the building before we even get to any new developments?…………………..

As a headteacher, all of these issues weigh heavily not only just at the time of a new financial year, but indeed all year round. I am not alone in this however; I have a key partner at my side – my School Business Manager. In my own school, her name is Carmen. @cking1607

Over many years, delegation of responsibilities to schools, including financial responsibility, has brought its opportunities and indeed its challenges. The freedom given by delegation of budgets and increased choice around procurement has indeed opened up opportunities to pursue suppliers and services that were not previously available and indeed, in many cases, improved the quality of those that were as they faced increased competition in what is becoming an ever more commercialised world of education.

I started my career as a teacher and being a teacher (albeit a head teacher), is still at the heart of what I am. I absolutely take my overall responsibility for financial management seriously and have over the years developed knowledge and skills in this area, including completing the obligatory module in NPQH. However, as delegation increases, the ‘business’ side of the role has increased and it would be impertinent and impossible to believe that as headteacher I could have the full knowledge, skills, especially the time, to be able to be able to fulfill all elements of what is required.

So bring on the School Business Manager ……………..

Of course I recognise that the role of the School Business manager covers more, so much more than finance alone. In different schools, of different sizes, roles and responsibilities will vary, however, in my own school, my Business Manager’s role also includes Health and Safety, overall premises and facilities management, some aspects of personnel management, marketing  and income generation. She has overall responsibility for the admin team and site staff including acting as a reviewer for the Appraisal process. She has completed the DSBM, NEBOSH qualifications and is also a moving and handling trainer, delivering health and safety training to all the staff in school.

The knowledge, skills and experience of Business Managers as an integral part of school teams are clear. You only need to follow and read the tweets of the range of Business Managers on Twitter including @bbgeagles1, @smileydenden, @miconm, @SJJones2014 to name but a few to see the commitment, involvement and impact they have not only within their own schools, but also their contribution to the wider debate.

The relationship between the Headteacher and the School Business Manager is an essential one to get right. I work closely with Carmen to ensure we keep each other up to date on all aspects of school development and budget monitoring. She is an integral part of the leadership team and contributes her perspective on all discussions including the financial aspects of school improvement, recruitment and selection of staff, value for money on purchasing of resources, in fact, whatever is on the agenda – proactively bringing her own items to the table for discussion too.

In the time I have been head teacher at my current school, changes have brought us further into the commercial world, including, with the shrinking of services previously automatically received from the LA, the world of increased procurement and with the development of our own outreach service, the world of charging! We are all learning fast! We also find ourselves increasingly in a situation of losing essential elements of funding such as for our After School Club and so the world of income generation including fundraising and obtaining grants, becomes ever more significant to us.

April. Start of a new financial year. Are schools a business? I take the business of doing the best for the children and their families very seriously and in order to do so I want to take this opportunity to applaud the increasingly significant work that School Business Managers do to ensure Head teachers like me can achieve that goal.

Thank you!