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One more step

One More Step is a song we sing quite a lot in assemblies in Primary schools, usually at the start or the end of the school year. The words tell of taking another step on our own particular journeys, across the world and through time, 'From the old we travel to the new', and seem particularly apt for myself this week. I have decided that next term, following our return from the Christmas holidays, will be my last as a Headteacher. After eighteen years of headship, I feel now is the right time for another small step, or giant leap, on my own particular journey.

I have mixed emotions about my decision, but I do believe it is the right one for me at this time. I have always thought you know when it is time to move on, or time for a change. This is how I feel, and have been thinking this way for a few months now. I still love my job, and working daily with fabulous people, to help all our learners grow and develop. Headship is an intellectual, emotional and organisational challenge, but all of that is what makes it appealing for myself and others. I will miss the daily interactions with children, teachers, support staff and headteacher colleagues. I will miss the highs I can get every day by just walking into a classroom and engaging with the learners and their learning. I will miss the feeling of being able to make such a difference in so many peoples lives through face to face interactions and by being able to offer support. I will miss facing and overcoming the challenges presented by the role. I will miss all the school events that happen throughout the year, the ones that give the school year a rhythm and structure. Have I really attended my last Christmas Performance? My last Christmas church service?

Of course there are some things I won't miss. The battles with bureaucracy, the push to standardising everything, the ever-increasing accountability and top-down agendas of others, the lack of trust in the profession, the league tables. I could go on, but I am sure you get my drift. I still intend to be an observer and commentator on such things, as I still think I have a view to represent which is valid and which needs as many voices as possible. What I don't want to become is 'the grumpy headteacher' as that would devalue the profession I am proud to be part of, and would leave a sour taste after many years of so many highs and challenges overcome.  I am leaving whilst I still love my job, rather than going for negative reasons, linked to issues currently high on the agenda of many education systems.

I remain an optimist, but I also am a realist. I believe there are an overwhelming majority of people in our profession who want nothing but the best for each and every one of our learners, and they want to achieve this in way that is well thought out, considered, informed by evidence and research, as well as their own experience. They understand the complexity of what they are trying to do each day, and they are driven to get better throughout their careers. I will remain a voice and advocate for those people, as they struggle with agendas set by others with less expertise but more power to shape their working conditions, often to the detriment of learners. I want to encourage more in the profession to stop being so compliant and to fight and be more vocal in defending what they know to be right, and oppose what  their experience, expertise and research shows to be wrong for learners and learning.

I may be leaving the schools I lead, but I will never leave the profession I am proud to be part of. I have always been driven by personal and professional values, and always will be. These have allowed me to make decisions about what I would do, and what I wouldn't, both as a class teacher and as a school leader. They will continue to help shape my ongoing engagement with what schools and teachers are being asked to do by those who think they know better than the profession. I will continue to read, and write, and will continue to share the work of researchers and academics who are credible and who still ground what they do to practice and  for practitioners. I will continue to argue against those practices and changes that are merely fads and trends, or which have no credible research base.

Next term is going to be emotional, but I am determined to enjoy every minute of it. I hope to keep things real and in perspective. My priorities will still remain the leaners, learning and the development of relationships, the people. I will spend even more time in classrooms, with pupils and teachers, and even less on paperwork, and 'proving' what I do. I will continue to work with parents and colleagues and will do what I believe is right and in the best interests of all the learners. I will refuse to tick even one box! I will make some preparations for my successor, but really my whole career has been part of that process. Whoever that person may be, I wish them well and every success. I hope they appreciate and enjoy every day in two wonderful schools. They will be working with excellent teachers who are committed to career-long development through enquiry. They will face challenges, like we all do, but they will also experience the 'highs' and satisfaction of school leadership and making a difference for so many. They will not be alone. They will have the support of the in-school team and colleagues in our cluster, learning community and across our authority. My advice to them would be keep learning, keep collaborating and keep smiling. All three will equip you to succeed and survive. Good luck!

One More Step (extract)

One more step along the world I go,
one more step along the world I go;
from the old things to the new
keep me traveling along with you:

And it's from the old I travel to the new;
keep me traveling along with you.

Round the corner of the world I turn,
more and more about the world I learn;
all the new things that I see
you'll be looking at along with me

As I travel through the bad and good,
keep me traveling the way I should;
where I see no way to go
you'll be telling me the way, I know

Give me courage when the world is rough,
keep me loving though the world is tough;
leap and sing in all I do,
keep me traveling along with you

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