Leadership and Management VS

Premier League Managers vs Headteachers – Do YOU Recognise Any of These Leaders in YOUR School?

Who would be a premier league manager? Judged by league tables, an unrelenting pressure from those who are supposed to be on your side, and seemingly everyone has an opinion and thinks they could do better. Sounds a bit like the job of the headteacher too! In this tongue-in-cheek article, sprinkled with just a dash of insight, observation and comment, author Max Kelly imagines the current stock of Premier League managers as headteachers. So do you recognise yourself in any of these descriptions? Or perhaps you already work for one them?

“Some people believe football is a matter of life and death, I am very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”

Bill Shankly, Liverpool Football Manager, 1981

1. Jürgen Klopp

This “elite” headteacher is charismatic and knows it. This headteacher has plenty of peer fans as well as near universal love from their parent and community base. Their results speak for themselves: the school is consistently high performing, often punching above its weight, and is known for its own unique style of education (heavy metal football) which may not always be the traditional approach but works in its own setting and attracts imitation from others striving for the same levels of success and recognition.

This headteacher is outward facing, always wearing a smile; but don’t underestimate their steel and mettle which is resolute and sometimes leads to outbursts and moments of controversy.

“We know this club is the mix of atmosphere, emotion, desire and quality. Cut off one and it doesn’t work – we know that. I’ve said it before. If I have to describe this club then it’s a big heart and tonight it was obviously like crazy, pounding crazy. You could hear it and probably feel it all over the world.”

Jürgen Klopp, Liverpool Manager, 2019

2. Ole Gunnar Solskær

This headteacher enjoyed a stellar reputation as a fantastic fresh faced and young NQT in the school they now lead. Famed for taming challenging behaviour in that tricky Year 6 class and for pulling some outrageously strong SAT results out of the bag back in the day, this headteacher went on to be a deputy and head in a smaller school down the road in a performance that didn’t exactly set the world on fire. Despite eyebrows being raised at their return to their original school, now as headteacher, some parents who had been around during their first stint are delighted to welcome them “home.”

This headteacher is slowly rediscovering some of their old magic, and their school is certainly improving albeit in a slow and steady way. Plaudits insist this type of improvement is deeper, more organic and more sustainable – an opinion being borne out in recent OFSTED visits which show a clear road map to a return to outstanding status for the school.

3. David Moyes

Previously hailed as the chosen one at a previous school where they were elevated into headship as the preferred choice of their predecessor, this headteacher has found more success in a new school where no longer trapped by the legacy of the former boss they have been able to find the freedom to pursue their own educational philosophy once more.

This wily old head has been been there and done it, and is one of the longest serving heads in the LA with experience of leading a school in a different country too, though they don’t really talk about this.

4. Sean Dyche

An uncompromising and no-nonsense headteacher brought in to impose old fashioned behaviour management strategies in a tough school. Over the years their personality has relaxed a little bit to give a glimpse of the pussy cat behind the bravado, but pupils and staff know that to cross them is at their peril.

5. Claudio Ranieri

A headteacher who has never seemed sure of their strongest staff deployment – a Reception teacher one moment may find that they’re the Year 5 teacher by Christmas. This tinker-man tendency caused unrest amongst staff, inconsistencies for pupils and frustration for parents, but all was forgiven when a few years back the approach suddenly and unexpectedly led to the award of Primary School of the Year, a success this headteacher has traded on ever since.

6. Daniel Farke

An eccentric headteacher who has long ago ditched the suit and tie in favour of a big parka and outdoor boots. Whereas some headteachers focus on the core subjects and sorting out traditional areas of focus such as reading and writing, this headteacher has a more nuanced philosophy and teams the academic with a heavy focus on life skills and social development.

This headteacher is famed for their charisma which shines through, even when the going gets tough. They’ve been described as a maverick and they like to approach things from a different angle.

“You have to believe in the unrealistic to do something extraordinary – to create a miracle. I always look for a challenge. Maybe it’s part of my mentality to create something special.”

Daniel Farke, Norwich City Manager, 2021

7. Pep Guardiola

This highly successful headteacher, with a track record of running very effective schools, is differentiated by their quest to not only run a good school, but to make the running of the school magnificent in its efficiency and effectiveness. They combine a desire for standards with a desire for beauty, and the lessons in this school mirror that philosophy: some call it “total education” others refer to it as “tiki taka teaching” buts its hard to miss when you see it in action. Everything links together: the school’s vision matches the curriculum which in turn is delivered using the trendiest pedagogy and is consumed by highly engaged pupils who are intrinsically motivated to learn. This headteacher has quite the reputation and many admirers amongst their peers who recognise the finesse as well as the end results, which have a strong foundation in quality CPD. This leads to many teachers wanting to work for them knowing that they will be coached and developed into better practitioners.

“Creating something new is the difficult part. To make it and build it and get everyone to follow? Amazing.”

Pep Guardiola, Manchester City Manager, 2020

8. Marcelo Bielsa

An intense persona is indicative of this headteacher’s passion for the theory of school leadership and they are revered for their religious-like attempts to align the practice of school leadership to that which they read and study. Sometimes it clicks and sometimes the ideas translate from book to school which has earned this headteacher the reputation as a mastermind of school improvement. Their intense persona is mirrored in their intense attention to detail: those who work for this head will know that their planning, practice and paperwork will be subject to strong scrutiny and feedback. This headteacher demands a lot from their staff, but they respond to their philosophy and share in their confidence; this headteacher has always issued instructions, staff meetings, CPD and data analysis with confidence.

“I will never give up and I will always fight, I always believe and keep the faith and always try to find new ways to make the team do better.”

Marcelo Bielsa, Leeds United Manager, 2020

They may not be held in quite the same regard as the younger more modern headteacher of the school down the road that tops the SATs league table, but they still stand among a select few in the LA as an innovator, a thinker, a mentor and a symbol for educational theory and intellect.

9. Brendan Rogers

An exciting headteacher who is gaining plaudits for running an innovative and forward thinking school in the local authority despite the smaller budget than that of their bigger academy-rich counterparts.

This headteacher is frequently headhunted by the academy chains for big jobs, a recognition of the track record they enjoy, but loyalty to the school community they serve; loyalty to the pupils they work with; and loyalty to the staff team they lead means it will take something very special to entice them away from the role they love.

10. Nuno Espírito Santo

This headteacher finds themselves in the big chair even though they know – and everyone else knows – it was someone else’s job until they unexpectedly pulled out due to personal reasons just before the start of term. This has meant an uncertain start to headship and a hesitancy to introduce much needed change. Just before the summer holidays the star EYFS teacher was offered a TLR at the school down the road, but was pursuaded to stay on by the Chair of Governors just before this head’s appointment, and its difficult not to sense the feeling of regret whenever you pop down to the Reception class.

You get the impression a new headteacher will be installed before long.

11. Graeme Jones

An acting headteacher who knows that the job isn’t theirs long-term. Resigned to the fact that an “up ‘n coming” head will be brought in from an international school in Saudi Arabia who will be handsomely paid and provided with a bottomless budget to turn around the fortunes of this sink school.

12. Thomas Tuchel

Riding high on a reputation of modernity, this trendy headteacher cuts their cloth on maths mastery, nanolearning, online schooling and any and everything else that is new and exciting. And to be fair, they are building a brand of education to which their school community is responding positively. Some of the pedagogies are starting to catch the eye, and teachers and schools leaders from all over the country are queuing up to see what is going on for themselves. Some are calling it an educational revolution and its hard to disagree that their school is improving rapidly and has an energy and buzz about it.

13. Rafael Benítez

A highly experienced headteacher who has been round the educational block a few times, and enjoys a phenomenal CV which commands respect. This headteacher knows that trends come and go, and builds their schools on a solid foundation of books, libraries, reading and more reading. There is a forensic focus on teaching phonics, reading, guided reading and reading for pleasure – this headteacher knows that success is built on getting the basics right and believes that reading is the key. Away from books, they work with their staff team to hone the core subjects – the buzz word of this headteacher is “solid” and its hard to argue against when the assessment results are in.

Has worked in China and knows this mastery stuff in far better detail than many of their contemporaries, and can suss out the style over substance that goes on in other schools.

14. Dean Smith

This headteacher is a renowned “man manager” and puts people and relationships ahead of everything else. This is a headteacher who appeals to the hearts and minds of their staff, and who instills a sense of pride and community around the school. The outcome is undeniably good and the teachers feel comfortable and secure to try new things and take a few risks.

“I think management is always about that because you’re dealing with people, and when you’re dealing with people, you’re dealing with emotions, sensitivities and differences. It’s something I enjoy, and enjoy trying to get the best of them.”

Dean Smith, Aston Villa Manager, 2021

15. Graham Potter

A principled headteacher who leads their school with a sense of purpose and consistency. They place a strong emphasis on professionalism and expect to see this reflected in attitude, work ethic, and personal responsibility.

In a quiet and understated way, this headteacher has crafted a growing reputation amongst parents and fellow professionals for getting the job done and for making considered and well engineered school improvements. People are starting to tip them for “greater things” though they seem perfectly grounded to those that know them best.

“What am I going into this for? What do I want from it? Part of the answer was: I like developing, I like seeing people improve.

I think professionalism is about doing your best, taking responsibility for what you do, analysing what you do and trying to get better. Its not about being perfect and having all the solutions and answers”

Graham Potter, Brighton and Hove Albion Manager, 2019

16. Ralph Hasenhüttl

This headteacher is relaxed and comfortable in their school – they’re the first for some time to bring a sense of calm and give the impression that they’re sticking around. The whole school community seems delighted that at last, a school leader appears be invested in the school and confidence is slowly returning. This headteacher draws on the philosophies of Klopp and Pep, distilling their own unique brand of education that is both “heavy metal” unique and artistically and elegantly delivered – think new reading scheme introduced alongside an AI reading analytics system. The improvements in reading speak for itself.

17. Mikel Arteta

This headteacher just looks as though they have the weight the world on their shoulders. They are constantly viewing everything through the perceived lens of OFSTED trying to get everything right but always looking like they’re getting it wrong. Their sense of worry permeates through the school staff and talented teachers start underperforming because they just don’t buy into the headteacher’s belief of what OFSTED will be looking for. And rather than coaching and developing the teachers, this headteacher talks frequently about bringing in new talent, when in fact the only new talent required is in the headteacher’s chair.

The parents are offside – the occasional glimmer of something positive like the recent introduction of TT Rockstars offsets the negativity a little bit – but deep down the parents know that this is just stuff all the other schools have been doing for ages anyway.

The one thing in this headteacher’s favour is the Board of Governors who can’t even agree on who their chairperson should be, and have for now committed to keeping the current school leadership in place.

18. Thomas Frank

Internally promoted to the head of school position in a multi-school federation, this leader is notable for not having had a background in teaching before taking up a role in the federation to bring a fresh approach to quality assurance across the chain. They certainly impressed their bosses as a move to take over at one of the smaller schools was agreed where it is hoped their experience in feeding back to teachers on the quality of their teaching will stand them in good stead to develop the staff and therefore the school.

Despite some raised eyebrows at the lack of direct classroom experience, this head of school is a humble and personable leader who has tried hard to build up credibility by studying for an M.Ed, reading widely around school leadership and attends lots of courses focussing on the latest pedagogy. It remains to be seen whether this school thrives or struggles this academic year and beyond.

19. Bruno Lage

The headship appointment that surprised everyone as their record and overseas qualifications became even more challenging to clear as UK equivalents following Brexit. This headteacher has a recent track record at deputy headteacher level, having held several such posts in several schools before landing this headship. Young(ish) and keen to prove themselves, this headteacher and school is one to watch.

20. Patrick Vieira

Whilst not completely untested (this HT has had a couple of stints as a Head of School at a couple of smaller schools) this is their first shot at headship – and it’s much anticipated. Back in the day this headteacher won Teacher of the Year and enjoys a reputation as one of the best classroom practitioners out there, although it is accepted they haven’t had a classroom responsibility for some time now.

An enviable attendance record, this headteacher prides themselves on not having had a day off for sickness since the mid noughties and many references to their “invincible” nickname give rise to the hope that they can maintain this incredible record through the C19 landscape and have some of that invincibility rub off on the rest of the staff team too.

This headteacher knows the importance of being seen and is a visible presence on the playground each morning. They are committed to building a strong link between home and school and credits his old boss – their greatest mentor and now a lifelong friend- as developing this belief and practice.

Well, there’s the final whistle! I’ll leave you with a question: Do you recognise any of the headteachers here? Perhaps you’re a headteacher and you can see which premier league manager you’re most like? Or perhaps you work for someone like this? Please leave your thoughts in the comments section below… I always love to see your responses!

And don’t forget you can check out a whole range of original blogs and articles on manxmaxim.com – for school leadership stuff and things like that 😀

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