Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Ace of spades


Many schools and colleges had to close last month when snow almost brought Britain to a standstill. But how did ASCL members use their snow days? The following conversation was overheard in a snowbound pub one January evening.

Joe Public: So, what do you headteachers get up to once you've found an excuse to shut the school for another well-deserved holiday?
Head : Well, as soon as we've fulfilled our statutory responsibility and met the moral imperative to safeguard our students and look after the welfare of staff, we spend the day engaging in appropriate strategic activity.

JP : So you have a lie-in...
Head : No, if you really want to know, I'll tell you. Once I'd taken the decision to close, set the 'snow closure emergency communication cascade' in motion, informed the chair of governors and local authority, emailed staff and students, phoned the radio stations and bus companies and put a message on the website, I set about planning a day which embraced the very core ethos of what our school is about.

JP : So you watched DVDs and surfed the internet all day?
Head : Absolutely not; my first priority was to enhance my credibility as headteacher of a technology college which is at the forefront of the DCSF's healthy eating campaign.

JP : What does that mean to the layman?
Head : I made vegetable soup. After that, I carried out a risk assessment and engaged in a health and safety, work-related learning exercise.

JP : Ah yes, I've heard that you have to arrange work experience for all Key Stage 4 students.
Head : We do but I was referring to clearing snow off the drive.

JP : Oh. Didn't I see you on the hill a bit later with the kids, sledging?
Head : You may have thought you did but I was reviewing the GCSE physics module on friction and momentum whilst doing my bit to encourage five hours of physical activity.

JP : As I said, sledging. You must have been starving after your busy morning.
Head : Well, as it was lunchtime, I did engage in a bit of monitoring and evaluation, linked to some peer assessment.

JP : What, you marked some books and reviewed your improvement plan over lunch?
Head : No, we ate the soup and discussed how it could be improved next time.

JP : Fair enough. What next, anything vaguely educational?
Head : I planned an activity which combined creativity with health-related exercise and met the government's enjoy and achieve aspect of the Every Child Matters agenda whilst promoting independent learning.

JP : So you watched the kids build a snowman. I'm beginning to understand how you think. You've had quite a day. And I've heard lots of people say they don't envy a headteacher's lot.
Head : Too right. After all that, I was close to exhaustion so I sat down with a sandwich and the SEF.

JP : I've heard of that, isn't it something to do with evaluation?
Head : Apparently so...but this was a sausage and egg filling.

JP : Well, that's all of the well-being agenda covered. So what are you doing in here tonight?
Head : A bit more brain-based, alcohol awareness research.

JP : Meaning...
Head : I want to see if after five pints tonight I can match today's strategic brilliance when we go back to school tomorrow.

JP : I think you'd better hope for some more snow mate! So, basically, you've done bugger all but can claim to have spent the day tackling pretty much every government initiative of the last five years.
Head : Just another typical day in the life of a headteacher. Now, how about you make a positive contribution and support my economic well-being at the same time.

JP : My round again already?
Head : Absolutely. By the way, did I mention that Ofsted gave us 'outstanding' for our partnership work recently? Any chance you and the neighbours could help me push my car up the hill in the morning? If I can't get in, we might have to shut the school again!

Jonathan Fawcett is head of Swanwick Hall School in Derbyshire.

Want to have the last word? The Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you'd like to share your humorous observations of school life, please email Sara Gadzik at leader@ascl.org.uk ASCL offers a modest honorarium.

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