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What keeps me awake at night - It's all too much, too soon on the fast track

News | Published in TESS on 27 September, 2013 | By: Jon Severs

How soon is too soon to become a school leader? With fast-track schemes, it seems as though headteachers are getting younger and younger. Ours has made it to the top with just six years in the classroom - and he is now in a leadership role with few classroom commitments.

In my experience, those six years are not nearly enough. While our headteacher is certainly an efficient manager of the school in a business sense, he lacks any real empathy for the experience of the teachers he employs. In meetings, you can quickly ascertain that he has no real idea of the amount of work that planning and teaching a lesson entails, nor about how to help us to be better teachers. Indeed, ask him about the latest research or for some assistance with a classroom problem and you get a blank look and short shrift.

Then there is his conduct. He talks at us, not to us. He seems uninterested in what we are doing or how we feel. He fails to praise good work. He never involves himself in anything but his leadership responsibilities.

It is extremely bad management and is having a detrimental impact on what was a very successful school. While we used to be a place where teachers went the extra mile, we are now reticent to do so. Why should we when we get little respect or support from our leader? He has created conditions under which teachers feel unappreciated and undervalued.

What he fails to realise is that good schools are built on an engaged and valued staff. With just a little more interest in how we are and what we are doing, and a little respect for and knowledge of the job we do, he would find his day-to-day role transformed. Suddenly, everything would become easier as the teachers would do everything they could to roll out his vision.

Will this ever happen? I can't see it. School leaders are now picked from their birth as a teacher and so have an ingrained belief in their own superiority and supposed gifts for management.

I doubt our headteacher even sees that there is an issue. Which is an incredibly sad state of affairs.

The writer is a teacher in south-east England

Tell us what keeps you awake at night

Email jon.severs@tes.co.uk.


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