I am off to fresh woods and pastures new.

I am in my eighteenth and final year as a secondary school headteacher. 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? This is the seventh (and final) in a series of brief posts over the last few weeks of the school year, in which I explain a number of things I have learnt about headship.

As I finish, the ideal notion of headship, it seems to me, is to be a guardian of a set of values. It is certainly how I have envisaged my role at Huntington these past 14 years, where the values of Respect, Honesty and Kindness have underpinned everything we have done.

The trouble is, a new headteacher usually assumes that they have to come into a school and make their mark. Schools are notoriously vulnerable in the wake of regime change. A new headteacher can lead to a significant modification of the values and educational philosophy of a school. And perfectly good systems are suddenly abandoned for the new boss’ favoured alternatives, without a shred of evidence that in their new setting their old favourites will work. So, out goes setting, in comes mixed ability; goodbye SIMS, hello BromCom; exit Year Groups, enter Houses. And the rest of the staff just have to suck it up and watch whilst what worked stops working…

Schools which have lasted centuries have always been based upon a set of educational values, enshrined in a Founding Charter. Imagine creating a MAT whose Founding Charter was so firmly established that what the founding members believe about how students should be educated shapes the direction of the school decades, even centuries, into the future. A new headteacher appointed to lead a school within such a MAT would be employed to be the guardian of the MAT’s/school’s educational philosophy and values-system, rather than someone given liberty to take the school in a quite different direction. Headteachers like me would come and go, but what matters – the education of children – would survive us all.

I was given this card on Thursday by a colleague. It meant more to me than they could have ever anticipated…

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