Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

The last word

Last word

This month, The Last Word looks at the pros and cons of living near, or rather too near, the job.

Location, location, location. So you've got the promotion to the leadership team or headship at last, but it is in a different authority and really some way away. You just can't drive that far; it would be ecologically unsound.

You've convinced the partner, kids maybe, that a move can be seen as positive and that there are nice people, golf clubs, restaurants, swimming teams everywhere. You're off.

Now the real dilemma - how near the actual school you should live. It's catchment area 22. Live outside, in the next borough and you'll be standoffish, or snobby or trendy. But inside, where the students and their parents live - this needs careful consideration.

The first head I worked for, in his talk to probationers, as we were then, put to us: "I always say never live in the same borough. It's most unfortunate if children see you buying potatoes."

Potatoes! More like loading the boot of the car at Majestic or emerging from the local pharmacist with a small package.

I live five minute's walk from my school. How bad, or good, is it? Well, you don't need to drive but, if you do, you suffer the guilt for occupying a car space and excuses sound feeble: "I had to bring in my laptop, my lunch, my marking, my daughter..."

Naturally, you can always be there at a moment's notice. You have to appear even if it snows. But you can always nip home if you've forgotten your memory stick, phone or glasses - things you can be fetching if you want to meet the decorator or check your stocks on the internet while phoning your broker.

And once your son or daughter is on study leave in the sixth form, it can be an advantage to point out forcibly that, "I might have to nip home any day at any time, actually."

Late night meetings are not so late and you can go home for tea before careers evenings. Much easier to keep an eye on building work during the holidays as well.

However, there is the slight dilemma of what to do when walking past and spying several unknown lads playing football on the tennis court.

And how pleasant is it to be served in Smiths or Sainsbury's by smiling sixth formers? Or by ex-pupils home from university asking: "How's it going?" Or by students who left ten years ago: "You still there then?"

If next door neighbours have children in year 9, you may be able to put extra pressure on sensible levels of music volume. Better still they may have children in year 5 or 6 wanting to get into the school - very happy to feed the cat while you're away.

Local tradesman can be parents. "My Dad can do you a good deal on garden clearance," one youngster offered over the fence.

Students knowing that you live a life like them, and that you don't just materialise like a hologram from the ceiling projector, is a mixed blessing. "Hey sir, how was your party?" "Nice new car, sir." " Was that your wife, sir?"

Of course there could be a downside. Walk in to some bars and you can form the strange impression that you're in the sixth form common room. How was I to know that one of the year 13 girls was having her 18th there?

If you do fancy a Big Mac or a foot-long from Subway you will have to accept the risk that everyone will know.

In restaurants, you may well be served by someone you last saw a mere four hours ago. Of course this can be an opportunity to continue the intense debate about King Lear or to reiterate the point about missing coursework. One lad I taught who used to deliver the free newspaper posted his home work inside it.

A year 10 girl appearing in the mirror behind you in the hairdresser can be disconcerting, though in my case it was good to see she was using her time for paid work.

An intense conversation with an old friend in a new restaurant was changed by gradually realising a gathering of slightly inebriated year 11 boys had gathered at the window to offer opinions on the menu.

Perhaps the trickiest experience is hospital procedures. There are the ones that can be done on the day and just require a little bit of anaesthetic or relaxant, and then there are the ones where they get a nurse to talk to you in order to keep you calm and distracted while they get on with things at the other end.

There I was having a simple systoscopy accompanied by a nurse who, within recent memory, had been showing me her health and social care project. Still it could have been worse: at least she was the youngest from her family.

In the end, in deciding where to live, I suppose you'll just have to decide how much you've got to hide.

Rupert Tillyard is an assistant head in Yorkshire.

The Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you would like to share your humorous observations of school life, please email Sara Gadzik at leader@ascl.org.uk We do offer a modest honorarium.

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