Nurture 13/14

I just read a tweet wondering about the educational validity of the #nurture1314 blog project. There is a chance that they read like those Christmas cards you get from family friends who feel the need to update on their brood’s achievements over the year: Tom has just achieved grade 1 on the violin, Emily has won a scholarship to Oxford and Tony’s divorce has just come through…that sort of thing. Now I can’t promise that mine will be any more enlightening or interesting but it gives me something to do while Downton is on.

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  1. Ofsted: we got well and truly done. Not done over but it was tough. Having been in the job for 20 weeks in a school where I was the fourth head teacher in five years and where this previous instability had caused massive stagnation (not making excuses Inspector Ma’am) I knew it was never going to be easy. By the end of my first week I knew that the school’s previous judgement of ‘good’ was just not representative of the state of the school so had prepared the school for an ‘RI’ judgement whilst doing everything possible to improve things properly (for good not for show). In my naivety I thought Ofsted would be supportive of this and whereas I didn’t expect anything other than RI I wasn’t expecting to fight for it. Spending Day one being told that the school was inadequate and that I had my head in the clouds wasn’t exactly fun (or helpful) but we managed to convince them that RI would do and I promised to make it good by next time.
  2. HMI: This was more like it. Eight weeks on and I got a visit more akin to what I wanted in the first place. Very helpful, very supportive, very challenging: but respectful which quite frankly was a surprise compared to the section 5. Being told that I was on the right track was a huge confidence boost and helped me and the school push on with our incredible pace of change.
  3. Staff: I feel blessed with the staff at my school and nothing proved that more than ofsted and HMI. They were supportive of me and the changes I was planning beforehand but nothing prepared them (or me) for the pace with which we started changing things. At times it felt like we would go off the rails but we all managed to keep our heads and now things feel more settled. What I am most pleased about is their understanding of the job I have to do and the shared vigour with which we are all applying the rigour. School is an exciting place to be.
  4. New Appointments: Nothing tests you more (that’s a lie-wait for number 5) than bringing new staff in. It’s the first chance you have to show people the sort of people you think are good teachers/middle leaders. Get this wrong and your credibility can take a serious knock. Luckily we made some brilliant appointments last year – a few successful internal candidates and a few outsiders. All have had significant impact in classrooms and across the school and have been welcomed by all. Best of all everyone knows where I stand: No misplaced loyalties or easy choices, only the best for the pupils.
  5. Escaping children: You can read my candid blog post about this little adventure here. All I will say is it was truly terrifying and happily the child is fine and enjoying school. Irritatingly, a staffing issue will continue long into 2014 – HR is a wonderful thing.
  6. Governors: I have a funny relationship with governors; as in I normally leave meetings laughing hysterically and thinking what a funny thing governance is – it’s like fox hunting, the queen’s speech and fish knives: accepted traditions but serve no real purpose and are surplus to society’s requirements. I mean if we were starting over we probably wouldn’t bother making any of them part of our lives (in case my Chair is reading this: remember this is the 2013 section). Do they really help me run the school? Not really: all I know is that they make me work more (not harder or better: just more).
  7. Children: I normally call them pupils but thinking about them now my main memories are of children – happy children. As a Head I mainly see children in my office (to show me work and get praised) in assembly or around corridors. I am highly annoying to teachers because I miss having my own class so I compensate by going into classrooms whenever I get the chance to chat/make laugh/possibly annoy as many children as I can. I have probably disrupted more lessons than I care to think of but in my own selfish way I think it’s worth it. I want the children of my school to know that I’m interested in them and their work and smile when they see their Head – most of the time they do…unless they’re being naughty and remember kids, I always know when there is naughtiness going on in my school: so watch it.
  8. SATS: Sorry but if you remember my point 1 when the ofsted inspector said I had my head in the clouds she was mainly referring to my predicted expected outcomes for Year 6 that year. I’m happy to report that we actually exceeded those targets (and without cheating or denying the children a rounded education!) Sadly I’ve lost her email as I really wanted to send her a picture of me holding up my Raise online peppered with green while simultaneously giving her the finger.
  9. Technology: I love technology and coming to a school where they had a knackered old ICT suite and the only bank of laptops got stolen was rather depressing. So we’ve managed to spend a lot of money on lots of laptops and trollies and all children get to use them every day. We are also turning our now defunct ICT suite into a media suite. I proudly named each laptop trolley after past and present secretaries of state for education. It does take a bit of explaining to visitors as to why you’re wheeling a trolley with ‘BALLS’ written on it in massive letters but then you’ve always got the gag that the ‘GOVE’ trolley is the one with the slowest machines that is in most urgent need of replacing.
  10. Blogging: I started my blog almost a year ago and have thoroughly enjoyed updating it throughout 2013. You can find it at (well you’re here now so what’s the point). I try to blog once a week about something pertinent to my experience as a new Head. Often I’ll end up blogging about something else instead as a reaction to something in the news or on Twitter or someone else’s blog. I’m proud to be a primary blogger. I firmly believe that I contribute nothing to the cause of primary education across the UK but it keeps me out of trouble. One day I hope to write a post that receives more hits than my True Ofsted Conversation post but I doubt it: that’s the one post that keeps on giving.
  11. Celebrity: For about four days I felt like I was at the epicentre of the media world. I was invited to be part of a panel on the guardian online, that discussion then got turned into an article and I was at the top (the TOP!) of the piece which in turn led to Newsround ringing me up to ask me about it. In amongst that I was invited to a round table discussion with Tristram Hunt MP. I was bloody going places and it felt good. Then the phone stopped ringing, my job wouldn’t do itself and I sunk back into the dull and dismal world of leading a primary school.
  12. Friends: I’m very pleased that there a small group of primary heads who have started meeting up relatively regularly throughout 2013 for booze. This has been enormous fun: there’s normally one of us going through a crisis that the others can support (laugh at) them through. I’m sure it is very important to have a strong network of likeminded professionals to support each other but it’s even more important to have some good chums who can enjoy a cocktail and a burger.
  13. Mrs Primaryhead: I am very lucky to have someone who understands how much I love work and for that I am always truly grateful.

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I’ll try to keep this brief for anyone still reading.

  1. The School: We’re going from strength to strength and I expect it to continue. There are some hard times ahead (for the school, for the city, for the country) but I’m determined to make the school a huge success in spite of all of these.
  2. Governors: We have a new chair of governors who is whipping governance into shape a treat. They are starting to become useful and although I am still at times frustrated, I am on the path to enlightenment!
  3. HMI: Bring it on…next time you really will say that we don’t need you.
  4. Behaviour: It’s pretty good at my school but there is still something blocking it becoming even better – something around collective responsibility and sharing a pride in the school that goes beyond individual wants and demands. I’m not sure yet how we’re going to beat it but I’m sure we will.
  5. Teaching: It’s massively improved since January 2013 and I know that through our system of performance management / lesson observations / data / teaching and learning support we will make it even better.
  6. Twitter Opinions: And on that note I’m determined to get some  twitter teachers who hate all of point 5 to see that it can help and support (no matter how good you are/how crap you think SLT are)
  7. National Curriculum: Just putting this out there: I’m very happy to be a consultant for the next one if you folks in Whitehall are running short on ideas people.
  8. Ofsted: Just putting this out there: I’m very happy to be a consultant for the next framework or help deliver training to any inspector who has received feedback that they are truly horrible people when inspecting schools.
  9. Appointments: The school is really settled in terms of staffing with everyone knowing how we work. That doesn’t mean I can relax however! There’s always a possibility that things will change and it’s just trying to keep that in the back of my mind and make sure that any staff changes (if they happen) are managed effectively.
  10. Professional Development: Whether it is through my own leadership coach or by going to the PHAB conference or whatever the national college conference will be this year: I look forward to them all.
  11. Get the band back together: We talked about it last year but his year we should make it happen. A few head teachers, a guitar, bass and tambourine: what could possibly go wrong?
  12. Job Swap: My brother is a house master of a private school: I would love to do a week’s job swap. I think it would be fascinating for both of us: channel 4 if you’re reading, this could be next year’s ‘Educating Yorkshire’, channel 5, this could be next year’s ‘The biggest pair of tits in the world’.
  13. Family Time: I should spend more time visiting my family. I see my brother and sister and their family about once a year: terrible. So please, no good box sets or books or dramas at work please.
  14. True Identity: Maybe 2014 will see theprimaryhead finally come out. Don’t be silly…anonymity to the end!

8 thoughts on “Nurture 13/14

  1. Truthful Classroom December 28, 2013 / 12:02 am

    I like reading your stuff – every time I read things written by a primary head, it makes me wish mine was less of a passionless droog.

    • theprimaryhead December 28, 2013 / 12:07 am

      That’s a very kind comment thank you. I’m sure I appear to be a droog in person.

  2. Jill Berry December 30, 2013 / 6:37 pm

    A great read – I may have said this before but you always make me laugh and make me think.

    I’ve read (and commented on and retweeted) quite a few of the #nurture1314 posts and I find them fascinating, and DO think they have an educational purpose. For a start it’s a good way of taking stock and giving structure to your reflections on the year. And it’s good to help yourself FEEL good by listing the things you’re proud of/where you feel you’ve moved forward (or helped your school to move forward – not the same, but clearly related). And reading others’ reflections often sparks your own, you can pick up ideas or sometimes just feel reassured that others are grappling with some of the same challenges you’re dealing with. I didn’t find headship lonely, but I know some can.

    So thanks for sharing this. Hope you’re having a really good Christmas and that 2014 is a positive year for you and your school. (Do try the temporary job swap if you can talk your brother into it – am sure you’d find it illuminating and your brother would too! I taught in four state schools and two independents. The sectors have more in common than people usually realise – but the differences are fascinating too).

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