3 things every new headteacher needs to know

David Rushby

With a total of 27 years working in education, including two Headships, David has specialised in successfully leading and improving schools within the most challenging circumstances. He now supports other school leaders as an School Improvement Consultant and is the creator and director of Nautilus, an online school self-evaluation tool that allows Headteachers and school leaders to accurately self-evaluate teaching and learning via an iPad or tablet.


Website: www.nautilus.education Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

I can remember it now. The silence. The momentary contemplation. The first time sitting in the headteacher’s chair with the door closed, on my own. The stark realisation that I was now responsible for everyone. The children. The families. The staff. The budget. The reputation. This is a moment unlike any other, because you have moved into a position where everyone is going to be reliant on the decisions that you are going to make. From now on, you will have to seriously consider how you frame each day and every situation, and will need to be on the front foot in doing so.

This will have to be your own conscious decision, and if well applied, it can serve you well. You will need to train yourself to see everything, no matter how challenging, as an opportunity. This is what can truly make being a headteacher the most rewarding and incredible job. The simple identification of opportunity can enable any headteacher to view each day with optimism, positivity and resilience. It can even help you to see failures and problems as win-win opportunities.

Opportunity #1. The provision. This is the most obvious. The opportunities for improving the environment, learning conditions, curriculum and enrichment, will present themselves daily. This can be quick fixes which can serve to gain momentum and present your statement of intent. These can be the little improvements that are visible to all stakeholders. Once you begin to apply these, it can be hard to keep up with the possibilities. This can also be useful when leading on the many shifts and trends within the world of education. Just be wary of confusing opportunity with unnecessary change.

Opportunity #2. Your relationships. You have new-found status and there are a multitude of expectations ahead. Everyone will be happy to meet and greet you, and you have a new opportunity to serve others. Every child that you will meet is an opportunity to create a unique relationship. Hopefully, you will have secured the position because you like, and are naturally good with, children. This may sound obvious, but the reason that you are here must be explicit in all that you do. You must be the headteacher because of your personal connection with children, and not because you wanted or found yourself in a position of authority. Soon people can respectfully refer to you as being visible, approachable and accessible. Genuine relationships with your families can serve to secure positive outcomes when things become emotional or strained. This is not something that you do: this has to be who you are. Your relationships can provide your intrinsic commitment to ensuring that your school community can succeed.

Opportunity #3. The chance for you to grow. What you have achieved and who you are has got you this far. You will now need to consider how you can become a good leader. This will require time and effort to be able to acquire the necessary attributes, strategies and self-awareness that can secure credibility, confidence and the possibility of success. This is about reflection and reading. A desire to be able to process everything that is taking place and to be able to secure your mindset in a position where you can perceive situations with clarity, control and with the potential of a positive outcome. This characteristic can influence others when you speak and it will manifest within everything that you do.

How you frame who you are, and what you do, is your responsibility. For the first time in your career, you are unlikely to have someone directing what you do. It will be your job to create the leader that you want to be, and to seek and discover the many possibilities for application. You will need to stay one step ahead, because everyone else will be looking at you for solutions, answers, ideas, reassurances and inspiration. If your staff team are talking about what children learn, you will need to be reading about how children learn. This does not mean that you will have to separate yourself from your team - it just means that you have to be the example amongst them. You are allowed to be vulnerable and weary, but only without losing sight of your purpose and direction. You will at least need to know why you are doing what you do, whilst you carve out your leadership pathway.

And whilst others may talk about the many challenges, how you frame this can be somewhat different. The bigger the challenge, the greater the opportunity.

 Looking for more resources to support your teaching and learning? Check out the best education technology resources on our sister platform EdTech Impact.

Get articles like this every week 


We promise to protect your personal information. Read our privacy policy.

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"