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Some Tips for School Leaders

The following are lessons I have learned about key issues for headteachers and school leaders after over 15 years in leadership and Headteacher positions. I share them is the spirit of co-operation and collaboration that I think is crucial for all working in schools. They are definitely things for aspiring leaders to think about, and perhaps for experienced leaders to remind themselves of if they have been distracted by everything else they have to deal with. I don't think the following issues are exhaustive but they are common to most schools and in most situations.


  • You really do need to understand learning and teaching, and have to see the development of this as your core business
  • Have a clear understanding of your values, principles,  and aims and vision, as an individual and for your school
  • Understand, and take time to develop, the crucial relationships that make the school real, and allow it to function at its best
  • Remember you are a leader and leadership involves getting your head up in order to recognise short and long term directions of travel
  • Recognise that self evaluation should be happening every day to inform school and individual development
  • Be emotionally intelligent and aware
  • You cannot lead from inside your office. You need to get out into classrooms and corridors to tune in to the 'mood music' of your school
  • Deal with issues whilst they are small, and as soon as you are aware, or you run the risk of these growing and becoming major problems
  • Be prepared to admit what you don't know and seek advice from others, including staff
  • Promote and encourage innovation and be prepared to accept the mistakes that are a natural consequence of such an approach
  • Promote professional dialogue and openness within your establishment, and be prepared to share your experiences in order to help others
  • Recognise that you really do need to slow down and give time for meaningful development and change to happen
  • Recognise the cruciality of professional development that is recognised by individuals themselves and how this is something that everyone should do, and not be something that is done to them
  • All planning should have enough flexibility to be adapted according to circumstances, and sometimes you have to go back before you can go forward
  • Get the work/life balance conundrum under control and model the behaviours you wish  to see in your staff
  • Be able to prioritise, but people are always the priority
  • Pick your fights so as not to waste energy and emotions, being clear about values helps here
  • Smile, relax and remember to say 'well done' and 'thank you' to everyone who deserves it, and regularly. Don't take this for granted.
  • Protect your staff from unnecessary and unreasonable demands from elsewhere
  • Recognise you are on a continuous journey of development, that you can manage and should be able to see how everything connects
  • Delegation is good, abdication of responsibility is not
  • You have responsibility for developing new leaders and contributing to education in its widest sense
  • Recognise that there is no 'one size fits all' solution to school development and improvement
  • Understand the complexity and messiness of learning and school development, and that linear models don't work
  • Your staff really are your most important resource, they deliver on any change or developments in the classroom, not you
  • You will be judged by what you do, not what you say you'll do
  • Your credibility suffers if you say one thing, but do another
  • Keep reading and talking to develop your thinking and understanding
  • You should be driven by what is important not what others are saying, if you are everything else will take care of itself
  • You won't, and can't, get it right all the time. Admit your mistakes and move on
These are a few of my thoughts on lessons I have learnt in leadership. I have no doubt you will have your own thoughts, so feel free to add them.

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