Leader magazineASCL - Association of School and College Leaders

Stacked in your favour

A man behind a stack of papers

I think I'm regarded as being a pretty good leader but I spend more and more of my time feeling utterly swamped by the workload and overwhelmed by the expectations of what I should be able to do. Any advice?

Welcome to modern headship. It's the most extraordinary mix of roles - some challenging, some deeply tedious; some high profile, some largely invisible. The problem is that there simply isn't time or space to be able to do every aspect of the job well. It's too diverse for that.

Be realistic and try to be as good as possible at the bits that really matter and do your best to hide or lose the other parts of the job. Here are three hints on how:

  1. Call my bluff. What NPQH did not teach us is just how much of headship is about bluffing. Even the most battle-scarred, long-serving heads will confess to times when they feel out of their depth and just pretend they're in command. Accept this as the norm and worry less about it.

  2. Make life easier for yourself. Throw as many documents in the bin as you can. Personally, if something comes in the post marked 'headteacher' rather than having my name on it, it doesn't get opened. (I'll make an exception the day it is marked 'From Buckingham Palace'.) Be ruthless with your time; you'll feel better for it and more in control.

  3. Go walkabout. When things feel grimmest, walk around the school, dropping in on lessons. As well as raising your profile, there's something about a slice of school life - seeing youngsters engaged in their learning - that can prove genuinely uplifting while anchoring us back into the core part of our job. It's especially recommended on a wet Friday afternoon.

Geoff Barton is head of King Edward VI School in Suffolk.

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