I’m definitely a lark, not an owl, and having checked my diary the evening before and set out an outfit to wear accordingly, waking at 5 am, with thoughts of what lay in store for the day is not unusual. I enjoy that short time of peace and quiet, listening to the birds singing and watching the sun rise before the hustle and bustle of the day begins.
I aim to get into school for 7am again, giving me that time to ensure I am appropriately prepared for the day. I like to make sure the school is welcoming to all as they arrive and this includes putting on some music to greet staff as they arrive – maybe Michael Bublé, Il Divo, Adele or many other choices. The early start also gives me chance to catch up on emails and catch up with staff as they begin to arrive, many of them also in school well before the official staff start time of 8.30 am. The staff team are an essential ingredient of what makes the school successful so having an ‘open door’ to staff is important to me and before school starts is such a good time for such conversations to happen. A regular and essential such conversation is with my deputy with whom I work very closely.
The only other predictable thing about my day is that it is unpredictable! But then that is part of the appeal – wondering what each day has in store. My days are very variable and I guess as in all jobs, parts of my role I look forward to more than others. One of the key things being spending time with the children; my reason for going into the job in the first place. Whilst my role means I am not able to have a regular teaching commitment any more, having time with the children in different ways each day is crucial, whether it be giving stickers for good work, chatting on the corridor, delivering assembly, sitting and eating lunch or spontaneous time in classes.
Contact with parents and carers are another regular and significant part of my role. Parents and carers asking to visit the school before making choices about placement is something I take very seriously. For many families it is the first contact with a special school and as such it can be a very challenging time for them. It is important I give them the time to ask questions and to respond in an honest but empathetic way which demonstrates that whilst we are a special school we are absolutely all about aspiration, progress and achievement – a school like any other school but with lots of added extras I will often say!
Meetings! Lots of them! Whilst I am not into meetings for meetings sake, they are of course an important and necessary part of the role. Each day begins with a full staff briefing, 5 minutes to start the day as a whole team making sure everyone is briefed on the day’s diary. Other meetings are more varied and less frequent for example, weekly senior leadership team meetings, weekly teacher’s meetings etc. Networking and support meetings with colleagues outside of school also feature including those with district headteacher colleagues and Manchester Special School headteacher colleagues. Governing body meetings, both full governors and committees form a regular part of the headteacher’s landscape, including more frequent meetings with the Chair of Governors to update on school events and plan ahead.
I have been a head teacher now for 13 years, my current role being my second headship and I have seen how the role has changed and developed since I first took up my post all of those years ago. Schools have increased responsibilities and increased autonomy in many areas but hand in glove with that has come increased accountability. As a head teacher I am very aware of the enormity of responsibility I have to ensure that I provide the highest of standards of service to all of the school’s stakeholders. What is for sure is that the children are at the heart of everything I do, every decision I make. As a head teacher I do have much more freedoms and choices about many things but the needs of the children must be the primary factor.
I do not make decisions or lead and manage the school in isolation, far from it. I have already made reference to my deputy and my leadership team. I have a knowledgeable and skilled team across the school who ably lead and manage alongside me and hard working and committed staff team who equally contribute to the success of the school each day and beyond the school day for example holiday play schemes, residential visits.
Increasingly, as system leader, my role includes working beyond my own school. This includes working as a Local Leader of Education, in schools which need support and working with schools within and beyond Manchester both to challenge and support what goes on in my own school and others. Being part of a self –improving school system, looking to colleagues for collaboration, sharing good practice and support our own school self-evaluation. Also, representing special schools on Local Authority developments such as most recently a multi-agency strategic group working on the development of Education, Health, Care Plans.
So a typical day for me could include any or all of these things! My day usually ends up pretty much as it started – catching up with staff, catching up on emails. Whilst I try and leave school at a reasonable time, my work doesn’t end there. An advantage or maybe disadvantage of electronic tablets mean that catching up on emails, writing up reports and reading documents continues many evenings too. A perhaps more surprising new development for my role has been the positive networking I have gained through Twitter @Mishwood1and most evenings I will be in contact with various people in relation to education. It has been a great source of knowledge and support.
What is for sure is that I am Passionate about my job, I Respect all of the children and their families, I Understand of their individual needs, I am Organised in ensuring I am prepared for all elements of my role and I am Dedicated to making sure the school is the best it can be. I am a very PROUD headteacher
Now – checking the diary again – the most important wardrobe decisions – what shall I wear tomorrow?
This post was originally written for SEN leader magazine and published in Issue 8, October 2014,