Becoming a Headteacher

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    • 00:11

      TREVOR MALE: I'm Trevor Male.I've been working in education now for over 40 years,first as a teacher, then as a local authority officer,and for the last 20 years or so, I'vebeen working in universities specializingin educational leadership.I got my doctorate about 10 years ago for a studyinto the issues relating to career transition to headship.

    • 00:33

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: As a consequence, I went on to writea book, which was published by SAGE, whichis called Being an Effective Head Teacher.And what I'm going to do in this tutorialis try and tease out some of the key issues thatare important to taking on the role of headship.I'm only going to talk about headship in England,although many of the things I talk aboutare actually relevant to other societies and other systemsacross the world.

    • 00:56

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: But it's the notion of being a head teacher whichis central to my thesis.So what I'm trying to do in this tutorialis to cover three key issues.What is it to be the accountable executivein your school, the person with the ultimate responsibility?Secondly, how to build the relationshipsthat can sustain you in that role,and support the intentions of the school?

    • 01:21

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And thirdly, to provide some tips and guidance of adviceof how to behave in that situationto get the best outcome.Headship is in a very challenging positionbecause you are the most accountable personin the system.And being accountable means you are actuallythe person who everyone looks to when things go rightbut more often when they go wrong.

    • 01:47

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: Now, in most systems, in most school systems,you will find there's a body which is supposedlythe accountable arm of the organization.In maintained schools, for example, it's governing bodies.In independent schools, for example,it is the Board of Trustees or the Board of Governors, again.So you have this position where you are allegedly onlyresponsible for day to day management and the governingbody or Board of Trustees is the accountable body.

    • 02:15

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: But in truth, it's you.Now, I don't want to make that too frightening because thisis not only one of the most challenging jobs,it's one of the most exciting jobs to take on as well.Because at the end of the day, itis about your determination, your capability,and your desire that drives this organization forward.

    • 02:35

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And as a head teacher, you have a very, very good opportunityto express yourself in practice more thanin any other job in education.What I was interested in when I starteddoing my research into the entry,preparation and entry into headship,was how people made that career transition.

    • 02:56

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: Now, what I discovered was the people actuallyhad to go through quite a change of expectationsand the way in which they thought about doing their job.All the way through their career,typically, these people had been successful as whatI call first order practitioners.In other words, they had a direct relationshipwith other in the system, particularly students,that made them outstanding.

    • 03:20

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And as they moved more and more towards the senior roles,they got less and less exposure to that first order practice.And they had to achieve objectiveswith and through other people.This is what is termed becoming a second order practitioner.In other words, you achieve objectiveswith and through other people.

    • 03:40

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And while you've made your career in educationbeing a very successful teacher, a very successful leaderof year groups or whatever, it takes you forwardto be seen as an individual with great capability,now you're going to have to become reliant on other peopleto deliver to the same standard or even betterthan you could on your own.

    • 04:01

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And that produces a new dimension to your role,that instead of being the instrumental figure,you have to achieve objectives with and through other people.So in effect, this requires you to become a more strategicdecision maker than actually an operational decision maker.You are asking the organization to beginto meet certain expectations, and you are leading by exampleand encouraging others to deliveron those agreed aims and objectives.

    • 04:32

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: So your role becomes very much more a steeringand facilitating rather than directing and controlling.So being a second order practitionerrequires you to be able to relate welland to work well with the people who are also largelyresponsible for the delivery of the school's purpose.

    • 04:52

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: That means the school governing body, typically made upof people who are well meaning and oftenhave particular skills that relateto their own professions, but very seldomare they skilled educationalists.And your job therefore is to relate well to them,to keep them informed, and to actuallyhelp them to make what you can sayare effective decisions rather than correct decisions.

    • 05:14

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: But they are good decisions.And to relate well not only to the senior leadershipteam who is surrounding you, but also to all the restof the people who work within the school,whether they be teaching or support staff.So to stress the relationship with governors and trusteeboard members, it is quite important to recognizethat they are, in law, the accountable body.

    • 05:40

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: But because they do not have the expertise, the experience,or the knowledge and skills that you do,it is your responsibility to makesure they understand the consequencesof the decisions you're discussing.And that brings a new dimension to the wayin which you actually take actions,that you're having to convince members, effectivelyof the lay public, as to why this is a good way to behave.

    • 06:06

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: A key role of the head teacher isto establish an ethos, a culture,in the schools that is based on the concept of eachand every child receiving the best education they can.This means that every decision shouldbe framed by that value, that core purpose.And you should encourage the staffto work with you to take decisions in that light.

    • 06:28

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: You can't run every aspect of the school operationon your own.So you have to involve others.And you have to give them responsibilityfor decision making.They need a point of reference to whichthey can say, why am I making this decision?And to me, any decision should beabout what's best for this child's education.If you can establish that culture or ethosand be able to express it in simple,shared, and explicit values, then eachand every member of the staff who work in your schoolhave a frame of reference when they're taking action.

    • 07:01

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: This means when you ask them to do something in the future,they will do it from the frame of reference that says,is this going to support children's education?Not, how do I get a quiet life?How do I make these children conform?And that to me is the critical attributeof being a head teacher, to establishthat culture and that ethos.So as a head teacher, what you're trying to dois to build the capability of the people whowork with you to take effective decisions.

    • 07:27

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And if you're going to do that, you'regoing to have to take some risks.So as a frame of reference for you,as a way of thinking about this, I'dlike you to consider the following attitude.When you consider letting somebody else take a decision,try and work out what the worst possible thing thatcould happen would be.

    • 07:49

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And then ask yourself a different question--can I live with the consequences of that?So if you decide to give someone authority to take a decision,and it goes badly as wrong as it possibly can,can you live with the consequences?And if you can, then let them take that decision.And if you count, don't take the risk.

    • 08:09

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: It's as simple as that because youare the one, as accountable executive, whohas to take ultimate responsibility for thatgoing wrong or going right.So give them the chance, therefore, to fail,which is the second maxim.If they make a mistake, that's fine.It was Einstein who said without mistakes, there is no learning.

    • 08:30

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: So if we're going to give people the opportunityto take decisions, we've got to recognizethey may get it wrong.Now, the trick there is not getting it wrong.The trick is to make sure they don'tkeep making the same mistake.The ultimate skill of headship is to be able to listen.Now, you've got two ears and one mouth.

    • 08:51

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And it's exactly the right proportion.Too many people rush to a decision,especially in this country.It's seen in some ways as being a laudable way to achieve.Oh, he's such a good decision maker!We always know where we stand.Or she always tells us what to do,and we know exactly what's happening.No, the best way to make a decisionis to listen and to buy yourself what I call decision space.

    • 09:13

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: Don't rush to a decision.Don't prevaricate either.Nobody wants to be wondering what's going to happen next.But give yourself a little time, give yourself a little spaceto listen to as many views as youcan before you have to take action.And if you can do that, you're going to be very successful.One of the best heads I ever met waswhen all the staff said she alwayslistens before she speaks.

    • 09:38

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And that to me is the key skill of headship,that you know what your staff are thinking.Because at the end of the day, they'rethe ones who are going to have to go out and putthese ideas into action.Not you.You make the decision as the head,and you support them into putting those ideasinto action.They are the ones who need to actually determinehow best to make it happen.So in terms of making decisions, give yourself as much timeas you can without avoiding making a decision,but give yourself as much time as youcan to make the best possible decision.

    • 10:09

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: Another selfless trick you can tryis to respond to questions with questions.Don't provide answers.People are hoping that you have answers because then theycan stop thinking.So if they say to you, what are wegoing to do about so and so, try answering, I don't know.What do you think we should do about so and so?And that way, you'll start to getthem involved in the decision making much more.

    • 10:32

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: If you provide answers, that's the only answeryou're going to get.It's better to ask questions.And the last thing I want to bring to your attention todayis to remember that the school is not a static entity.It's made up of people.And those people come with different experiences,different frames of mind, different opinions,different views, and different experiences every day ,every minute of the day.

    • 10:55

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: The best description I've heard of tryingto manage that, it comes from the Greek philosopherHeroclitus who comes out with the statementthat you can never stand in the same river twice.If you think about that, everything looks the same,but it's actually subtly different.And that's exactly what happens in a school.Everything changes, very slowly, very slightly,so the decision you made yesterday, which was perfect,may not work as well today because circumstanceshave slightly changed.

    • 11:24

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: And do remember that school is nota static entity waiting to be told what to do.The best way to handle your headship,be able to recognize what's going in front of youand take action as appropriate to that momentand to that situation.

    • 11:47

      TREVOR MALE [continued]: In conclusion, what I've tried to do in this tutorialis to demonstrate to you that although the role of headteacher is an exposed one which has high accountability,it's also one where you can take a great deal of pridein doing your job and in building the capacity of othersto lead within your school to the same standardsas you would do on your own, or youwould hope for them to aspire to.

Becoming a Headteacher

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Abstract

Dr. Trevor Male discusses key issues for those taking on the role of head teacher. Male identifies three key points: what it is to be an accountable executive in your school, how to build relationships, and how to behave to achieve the best outcomes.

SAGE Video Tutorials
Becoming a Headteacher

Dr. Trevor Male discusses key issues for those taking on the role of head teacher. Male identifies three key points: what it is to be an accountable executive in your school, how to build relationships, and how to behave to achieve the best outcomes.

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