Leading in School (2)

The last post about this was quite directly focused on the administration of OCR Nationals exams. This time, inspired by a comment on the last post from Andrew Field (of the excellent and venerable www.schoolhistory.co.uk), I’d like to think about the more generally applicable things I’ve learned from leading this team out of a bit of a hole.

Find out who gets things done, and how to ask them to do it.

This is mainly about working out where the real power in the school is for day to day getting things done. Examples might be the photocopy room, the caretakers’ room, school secretaries’ offices, bursar’s office. These people are really important – they work very hard and, through this hard work, can make things much easier for you.

Work with office systems, give them plenty of warning when you want something done, say thanks when things are done and make sure that if any of these people need you do do something, that you do it as soon as they ask. I’m not being machiavellian about this, nor, I hope, creepy or patronising. You can have all the plans in the world, they’re not going to work if you don’t have the support of the people who actually get things done in your school.

Ask for help

People will help you, if you ask. Chances are that there’s someone out there who can do part of what you’re doing much better and quicker than you, especially sending letters (thank you Jules!), exams administration (thank you Sarah!), or calling parents (thank you SLT!).

My team were also prepared to pull together, to take several hits for the team, so that we got closer to putting things right.

Ask for advice

Ask for advice – not to follow slavishly, but because other people will have thought of things that you haven’t – and their insight will be invaluable. This is one of the biggest things that I’ve learned – and the thing that has changed me the most in the last couple of years. Learning that I don’t have all the answers, that experience and insight from others is just as valuable (and in many cases much more valuable) than my own opinions has been an important lesson.

Serve your team

Make sure there’s paper in the printers, tea in the caddy, ice-lollies in the freezer, milk in the fridge, marksheets on the intranet, clear instructions and deadlines in emails. If your team is working twice as hard as usual, they won’t want to be confused about expectations, looking for treasury tags or bitching about their milk being stolen when they want a drink.

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