It has been my misfortune to observe the erosion, dilution or reduction in Headteacher competence since the days NPQH began at close quarters. The advice below is for any further candidates who wish to add to the chaos, confusion and cock-up that passes for “management” in many of our secondary schools. It is not modelled on any one Head but on direct experience of the three most incompetent that I have had the misfortune to work for but even the best that I worked with had hints of some points.
Just to be crystal: this is not fiction; I have lived these.
To be a Sh*t Head:
1. Vision: For Gove’s sake don’t have one of these, your vision is simply that you are in charge. If asked, trot out the cliches: “outstanding”, “no-child-left-behind”, “growth-mindset”, “21st century learners” etc. Take a serious tone and ensure that the audience understands that you are determined to “drive-up” standards and achieve “educational excellence”.
2. Visibility/Accessibility: Make it clear: your door is always closed. You work from your office, you do not accept e-mails from staff. If teachers have to talk to you they can make an appointment like everyone else (20m max.). The reason for this is obvious; you cannot risk children being ‘cheeky’ to you in public, therefore you cannot mix with them in unstructured settings. You simply want the staff to do as they are told, you are the Head so by definition you. Are the most qualified, experienced and knowledgable person in the faculty. Q.E.D.
3. DO NOT TEACH! Simply tell them you were outstanding.
4. Charisma: Is overrated. John Major and Ian Duncan Smith weren’t so bad were they? It’s policies and procedures that make a school not personality and people. Don’t even try to make an impression: your position is your personality.
5. Sweat the small stuff: Your motto is “consistency” (you mean compliance and uniformity) do not allow staff any leeway for individuality or originality: they conform or face action; whether this is the colour of their pen or the length of their skirt. You probably won’t be aware of the chaos in the English corridor after break (see 2), this is a good thing as you can concentrate on their late submission of their Rapid Improvement Plan.
6. Consultation: Minimise this. You rule by policy: devise it, inscribe it, have it agreed by representatives one-to-one, present to Governors and only then ask more widely for comment. For best results present it at busy periods and allow a week or less for response (written). Do not allow any discussion in open forum. Remember: you truly believe in your “pointy” command model of management with you at the pinnacle; what could a classroom teacher know that you don’t? after all, you taught (some specially selected groups, sometimes [meetings! Meetings!]) only a few years ago.
7. DESTROY DISSENT: Tell them you won’t tolerate it, stamp on any grumbling. Scan social media for this: any criticism voiced or written push to formal disciplinary via HR. Particularly watch SLT, remind them of ‘corporate responsibility’ and that you are their appraiser/referee.
8. Pace of change: This must be rapid to show you are “taking firm and decisive action”. Make sure you have a major staff re-organisation at least every six months, role changes more frequently and curriculum or timetable changes termly. Try to have a minor rule change or policy shift at least fortnightly. This will be what you can point to to show that you have been working hard for improvement and will keep everyone off-balance and hopefully exposed to a policy infringement if you need it.
9. Lie: If caught out in error or at risk of exposure to censure, alter truth. This may extend to providing policy or role outlines that were never agreed or even seen. Present them as if they were. Particularly lie to Governors about progress: use statistics in the traditional way.
10. Corruption: Is a dirty word for treats. You and your SLT deserve those away days in luxury. Your salary compared to some of these exec Heads is paltry. Maximising expenses payment is nothing like the M.P. Scandal. Finally, if you have to ask a staff member to do something dishonest or immoral, they are unlikely to ‘blow the whistle’ after all, you have all the power: it’s your game and you are the referee.
……and if it all goes wrong? Resign for ‘personal’ or ‘health’ reasons and become a consultant, inspector or step-in SLT. Leave chanting “A school cannot exceed the quality of its teachers”.