A school is like an ocean liner. It builds up a head of steam and gets carried along by its own momentum. It cannot stop or change course abruptly. You have to guide it and plan each change of course well in advance. It takes all the ‘sailors’ working as a team for it to run smoothly.
Headship is like a race down a steep snow run on an old tin tray. You have limited control and your journey is perilously at the mercy of events and obstructions that cannot all be foreseen.
Yet a Head sets the tone for everything that happens in the school.
The art of Headship is to sell your vision so that the whole community is pulling in the same direction.
Paradoxically a Head is largely impotent. As a Head you have far-reaching responsibilities but limited power. There are good things about this. Many Heads proceed to Headship out of a desire for power, control and money. They are ambitious and can be overbearing, ruthless, and self-centred. At least the system limits their desire to exert a regime of fear and control
A Head has limited control over poor teaching. The kids may deserve better but there are no quick fixes. Headteachers are prevented from exercising much power by a series of legal requirements. These can be frustrating but on the whole having restraints is better than having a tyrannical Headteacher. A Head therefore has to eliminate poor teaching through example and by supporting and leading their staff.
You always find when you reach the top that you’re actually in the middle. A Head is in the middle of everything pulled by the governors, staff, students, government, local authority and parents, you soon find you are not ‘in charge’. You have to juggle everything to keep all the balls in the air.
It is said that the fact that someone wants to be a politician should automatically ban them from standing; the same thing is true of Headships. Those that think they know what they are doing are usually the worst. If a Head starts Headship by asking for more power or money it is likely that they are doing the job for the wrong reasons. The only reason to become a Head is a passion for trying to make the world a better place. Education is the only way of achieving this. After all, education has to be better than war, religious hatred and sectarian violence.