5 tips for new headteachers

5 tips from experienced headteachers for new headteachers

Today was the penultimate session of the mentor headteacher training programme I have delivered for Bury county council. This group of experienced headteachers have been developing their knowledge in relation to supporting headteachers, who have recently joined the profession.

Early on in the programme we explored the knowledge types needed in headship, focusing on informal knowledge and self-regulatory knowledge as a key strengths in experienced heads. After 5 months of training with me and sessions with their mentees, we decided, as a group to pull together our top tips for new headteachers, with special consideration for their context. What came out was golden and too good not to share. With their permission I give you:

Bury mentor Heads’ 5 top tips for newly appointed headteachers:

  1. Be aware of your own emotions

The group thought this was integral to so many things a new headteacher would need to master if they were to make it to the end of the year in one piece. By increasing your awareness you can make choices about how you behave. The consensus was that most important were choosing to fake calm, stop yourself losing control (unless you are faking it or it’s a choice) and be annoyingly positive in front of staff, students and parents. Alongside this you will absolutely need ways to let out your frustrations that don’t result in further problems. Examples included, a trusted peer, a mentor, a coach or time alone to work through the tough bits.

  1. Develop planning tools that work for you.

All of the group have approaches to planning that enable them to stay as strategic as possible and the consensus was that your approaches to planning your time should include the following:

  • Planned time for reflection
  • Monthly and weekly planning of your time so that key priorities remain the focus of your work
  • Daily routines or promises (examples included, spend time with students, talk to parents, practise mindfulness, celebrate achievements and self-care)
  • Build in study or research time
  • Plan in planning time as it is an important job that should be done while you’re fresh and able to predict issues with scheduling
  1. Nurture connections

Building your network was deemed to be essential for survival. The advice is simple, invest in relationships with your team, your peers, your governors and people outside your organisation. While this seems to be distant from the daily challenges a new head faces, the group thought it important to learn quickly how this becomes one of the biggest levers in your school leadership journey, so the sooner you start the quicker you feel the benefit.

  1. Be crystal clear on your priorities

According to the experienced heads, this enables you to guide decisions, reducing fatigue and depersonalising the tough calls you have to make. It also helps guide your planning, daily checklist and approaches to all tasks through the week. Revisit the priorities constantly and check you are keeping the main thing, the main thing.

  1. Be discerning about initiatives

All members of the group were able to look back and say they had got swept along by projects that had been presented top them as essential, only to later down the line realise they weren’t right for their school. This takes confidence and courage but remember you’ve been appointed as head because you can navigate well. This goes hand in hand with clarity on priorities. Just because all the other schools around you are doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right for you or your school.

I hope you agree that this is great advice and ample evidence that the best thing you can do for an incoming head is give them a mentor head. Well done Bury Manchester for making this happen and thank you to the group for allowing me to share this more widely.

Nadia offers 1:1 executive coaching for headteachers as well as coaching services and programmes for schools – nadia_destino@outlook.com

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