I’m all about freedom.
One of the reasons I became a Head was because I am a control freak. Don’t worry I’m not a megalomaniac; in fact, when I started teaching I thought that I’d never want to be Head. When I was a young and a slightly less tired human being, I was all about the classroom and the kids. The idea of going into management sickened me. If the young me could see me now he would have no problem standing in a field with a shotgun waiting for the current me to materialise, out of thin air, all bound up in a bag, to pull the trigger and end the pathetic existence of this useless head teacher. Then again, the young me was a bit of a tit and we’ve never been able to aim properly.
Anyway, I digress. The point is, as I furthered my career, I began to enjoy the influence (not the power) but the influence my ideas, hard work and willingness to support others could have on more than just the thirty children in my class. Then it got to a point where I felt that my ideas could influence a whole school full of children and I enjoy that a lot. The idea that what goes on during a school day is to some extent shaped by what I believe to be important in improving children’s lives motivates me more than anything else. And when it actually works…when you see children ‘improve’ as a result of your ideas, well, that’s a pretty good feeling.
Where I am still very similar to the young me (still waiting in that field the idiot, he’s no idea I swapped bags, it’s @oldprimaryhead in there now) is that I tend to ignore some of what we’re told we ‘have’ to do. I prefer to put in place what I believe will have an impact and have the ability to ruthlessly prioritise to help children in whichever way they most need – and if that means not doing guided reading for two terms whilst I concentrate on times tables then that’s something I’ll do and I just won’t tell the Literacy leader about it (I did make the mistake of telling my Deputy Head at the time as she was giving me a lift home – she practically stopped the car and kicked me out). I felt vindicated though, the children still made progress in their mental maths and of course I made sure that they made progress in their reading too.
I’ve always been about the freedoms.
I behave in a similar way as a Head. There are certain things that I either just don’t understand or believe in. So I don’t do them. I assume that everything will be fine; even when the SIO asks me ‘What percentage of your Year 1 pupils have achieved the phonic screening pass score so far?’ and the answer in my head is ‘I don’t know, I haven’t even asked if my Year 1 teachers are rehearsing for it.’ I don’t let it bother me. I know, it will be fine because I believe in what we have in place down there.
All these freedoms are making me nervous.
So why then, if I’m so cool and running the school like I’m Shaft, am I so worried about these freedoms the government keeps banging on about? I should love it, right?
Well, the big difference between me now and the young me (the pathetic moob) is that I’m a Head. This means that I am not just responsible for the children (that bit’s fine) but I am also responsible for the school. And there is a difference. A school is all the children inside it plus about a million other complexities and issues. What’s more, a school is now increasingly judged on these other things and deemed successful or otherwise as a result of the head’s leadership and management of them.
Now, this wasn’t a surprise to me when I became a Head. I didn’t suddenly become aware that staffing, performance management, pupil premium, finance, governors, parents, children in need, children in care, looked after children and loads more stuff besides came with the job, it’s just…there’s a lot there and it’s getting added to all the time. Not just getting added to but levels of expectations on how the school should perform on these areas are being put out there as well.
Again, this is ok. If we’re being asked to do something we might as well get told how well we’re doing it. But my problem, the reason why at times I wish I had kept myself in the bag that is now hurtling through time and space towards my younger self, is because guidance and suggested ways of checking to see how I’m doing are disappearing. All in the name of ‘greater freedoms for Heads’. I may know what’s best for children but I struggle with knowing what will be judged best for the school when judgement day comes along.
What’s more, I don’t like the sneaking suspicion I have that the judges still know what they’re looking for and know how they’re going to arrive at their judgements but now they’re choosing not to tell me and disguising this as a freedom. They’re letting me fumble around for myself. It’s like they know how reckless I’ve been creating freedoms of my own during my career and now they’re punishing me for it. ‘’Come on, you say you know what’s best…well come on then: You tell me…
- if that teacher should get a pay rise;
- how to judge progress throughout Key Stage 2 without levels;
- what’s a good way of spending pupil premium;
- why PE is supposedly better now we’ve given you some cash;
- how parents know where their child is in relation to every other child in the land;
- what makes your approach to the national curriculum so good;
oh, well your answers aren’t the same as the ones I’ve got in my little golden envelope. Turns out you couldn’t cope with freedoms after all. Come on then, climb into this bag, you’re going on an awfully big adventure.’’