I only served five years as a Head. This is something I now regret. I was never personally ambitious and was severely lacking in self-confidence when it came to formal situations. One thing that was obvious was that there were going to be many formal situations and they came with the post. I ducked it for too long and was content with deputy headship. Consequently I came to Headship too late. As a Head I became used to the formal situations and overcame my anxiety attacks. One thing I have learned from life is that you should always push yourself and try to extend your reach. To not do so is perhaps to leave yourself with an unfulfilled life. You never know what you could have achieved.
I guess I’ll never know. I would have liked to have served as a Head for longer and really set my philosophy into full operation. The school was motoring. The cherished beliefs, that I had spent thirty six years establishing, were bearing fruit. The atmosphere inside the school was warm, friendly and buzzing with energy. We were a positive, can-do, all inclusive community. There was a lot of love.
If you review the full panoply of responsibilities involved with Headship, as with many other jobs, it becomes obvious that it is not possible to carry out the whole role effectively. You are responsible for everything twenty four hours a day, seven days a week. You have to know every rule and regulation inside out. You are expected to represent yourself in the most exacting of circumstances without legal representation. To achieve this you would need to be in ten places at once, have a myriad of skills, be super intelligent and be able to read and hold in your memory a mass of legal documentation sufficient to fill a library. As with all such roles you learn to prioritise, deal with the pressing, delegate and relax in the knowledge that you are always exposed and could flounder at any moment from circumstances largely beyond your control. The stress is enormous. I was threatened with prison three times during my short stint. You can go two ways. You can become anal and try to nail everything down, creating a bureaucratic mediocrity or you can hold on tight, guide the tin tray over the bumps and away from the trees, experience a spectacular journey and enjoy the adrenaline rush.
Outstanding can only come as a result of going for it and reaching as far as your spirit will allow. All the checklists in the world cannot create a single spark of originality or flash of genius. Inspiration comes from passion.
Headship is a lonely place but it can be exhilarating when you have the support of the community you have helped create. Sometimes it all comes together and is transcendental. Those are the moments we live for.
As far as I am concerned mediocrity should never be an option.
What follows are my views on education and the mechanics of how the school came to become Outstanding while prospering as a friendly, supportive community in which everyone was loved and valued. I have sprinkled it with illustrative anecdotes from my own experience. This is about how to become Outstanding.
I believe with all my heart that we can mend broken kids, soften the arrogant and aggressive, and use education to change the world into a tolerant, peaceful place that works in harmony with nature.
When education is practiced properly it soars. It should work to take humanity out of the morass of war, poverty, environmental destruction and religious intolerance into a new age.
This is no idle dream of a helpless romantic idealist. This book is about good education.
Good education requires great Headteachers.