I am off to fresh woods and pastures new.
I am in my eighteenth and final year as a secondary school head teacher. Tomorrow I begin my last half-term, having already completed 197 since my career began in 1988. In September, for the first time in over three decades, I will not be a member of school staff.
So, many people get to my position and attempt to articulate what they have learnt about leading schools. Why should I be any different? In a series of brief posts over the next seven weeks, I will explain a number of things I have learnt about headship.
Having the courage to be different from the rest is one of the things I have developed over 18 years as a head teacher. In many areas of school life we have gone against certain accepted norms. For instance, we have minimised the number of data drops per year, made appraisal supportive rather than penal, and over a decade ago we closed school early for students once a fortnight to gain time for staff training.
That advice to have the courage to be different from the rest comes, however, with a certain caveat. I have been able to be different to the rest because I have always worked in a certain type of school. I can take schools that have a significant capacity for improvement to the point where students are at least getting the results they should have achieved all along. Consequently, those schools have never been judged anything but Good or Outstanding by OFSTED.
I have never felt the relentless, grinding burden of being pressured by intense external accountability. And at Huntington, graded Outstanding by OFSTED in 2017, we are an oversubscribed Local Authority school, with very good examination outcomes in terms of progress and attainment at both GCSE and A Level, supported by a settled, expert governing body and trusting parents.
The pressures of leading such a school are very different from the often crushing strain of being in charge of an OFSTED category academy, in a socio-economically deprived area, with falling rolls, poor academic results, a challenging MAT board and diffident (at best) parents.
Working at relatively high-performing schools has meant I have been able to enjoy extraordinary levels of decision-making autonomy, something for which I have been hugely grateful. In some ways I have earnt the choice to be different from the rest, in other ways I have inherited that choice from my predecessors. Whichever way you look at it, my courage to be different has always been conditional.