After assuming a new headship, it can still take some time before your decisions and priorities start to filter through and effect change at a whole school level. Is there any way of speeding this up so that you can start making your mark, without distancing or alienating your staff in the process?
As an experienced Headteacher I’ve overseen many whole-school changes. It’s a process that is far from easy, and by no means do I suggest that I have all the answers. However, for those new to headship, I would offer the following principles as useful starting points in helping you bring about change in as quick and efficient a way as possible.
- Operate with a genuine purpose
A new headship often calls for brave leadership. One way of doing this is to appear to sit back initially. However, far from doing nothing, this time is spent watching, observing and noticing. It is so important not to go in like the proverbial bull in a china shop. Take a considered approach based on what you see, and fit this to your own philosophy of education. Make every change matter – if you operate with a genuine purpose, rather than changing for the sake of change, you will bring people with you and that becomes a more powerful catalyst for school improvement.
- Collaboration – we are all in this together.
Schools are about people; first and foremost, the young people who attend each day – but they’re also about the staff, from the teachers to the support team; from the administrator to the caretaker; from the ancillary helpers to the kitchen staff – each has a key role in the running of the school and in the lives of the learners. Schools are about parents who are such key partners in the education of the children. And schools are about community. Recognising this and building on the unique and individual community strengths that surround a school is critical in securing continued improvement. Relationships are everything. Getting this right will mean you can affect change quickly without distancing or alienating staff in the process.
- Establish a clear direction of travel
Work with the school community to articulate a shared vision – be clear about the steer you’re putting on that as a leader, but use this as an opportunity to build a shared sense of ownership and buy-in. Experience tells me it is far easier to affect whole school change if everyone has a sense of clarity about what is changing, why it is changing and how it will be achieved. Let your team see that you trust them to have their say and then to deliver.
- A relentless focus on communication
A strategy for good communication is built on you knowing your purpose, building relationships and establishing a clear direction of travel. If you want to affect whole school change quickly, you need to have everyone on-side and singing from the same song sheet. Simple things such as active listening, being consistent with your messages and taking feedback are really important to try to get right… but remember that communication can alwaysbe better. Never think you’ve cracked it.
- Develop others
Be clear with all partners about your beliefs; build a vision; realzie the wider goals to which you are part; and bring people with you. The best people. And help to make them better through appraisal, through coaching, through CPD and through expectation. Never be afraid of helping people become better at something than you. Integrity, trust and belief – it’s infectious, and once you have that it grows quickly in others. And that’s a powerful place from which to build for lasting changes in your school.