Michael Tidd, Head of School at Medmerry Primary School in Selsey shares his thoughts on his first few weeks at a new school
I can’t really remember my first half term as a qualified teacher, but I’m fairly certain I enjoyed it. Inevitably I had been given a delightful class, and at the time scrutiny isn’t what it is now. I was observed once in the first half term as part of my probation, and that aside I was largely left to my own devices. It wasn’t that I wasn’t supported – I was lucky enough to work in a large friendly school with plenty of experienced colleagues doing the same job as me, so there was always someone to turn to when in doubt. And plenty of people who were already guiding the way.
Fast forward a few years and I find myself in a not dissimilar position. When you start your first term as a headteacher, no-one can handpick the students or staff to ensure you get an easy ride, but I’ve been fortunate once again in that respect. And one advantage of being part of a trust is having a bank of colleagues, doing a very similar role, close to hand. The geography’s not quite the same, but sending a quick email to ask about appraisal or moderation doesn’t seem that far removed from wandering down the corridor in those early months to ask about the marking policy or where the glue guns were kept.
There are differences, of course. Within my first classroom I’d turned out every cupboard and made the place my own before term even began. As a headteacher – even in a relatively small school – I still don’t think I’ve managed to see every nook and cranny of the building. Nor do I yet know every child’s name, although I think I’ve got the staff mastered at least.
Also, much like my NQT year, I look back at my training and marvel at what it didn’t teach me. As a new teacher I realised that nothing on your teacher training course prepares you for your first parents evening alone, or how to handle the big fall-out between half your class one break time. Now I look with the same bemusement at the NPQH training, which taught me nothing of the trials of site maintenance or quite what to do when a member of staff falls ill days before the residential. (It turns out that the answer to that last one is pretty simple: start packing your bag!)
Despite all the work on vision and moral purpose, what I found I really needed in the first few weeks was the ability to recall the contents of twenty conversations a day, the tolerance to work through twenty different keys to open a filing cabinet, and the memory to recall the many words of thanks needed for colleagues who help out in all sorts of situations. And none of that is to mention working out where the final light switch is when locking up the school building alone!
There’s also something quite unique about leading a school, because inevitably schools are themselves unique. Having 5 other headteachers within the trust is a great resource, but none of them lead a school quite like mine, and that’s just how it should be. None of their schools are in the same location, or have the same intake, or history, and so inevitably there are differences in how each of them work. Knowing that that is not only tolerated but encouraged within the trust is one of the things that persuaded me to join Schoolsworks.
Again, perhaps that’s not unlike our classrooms when we first start teaching. We learn from those around us doing the same role in similar circumstances, but we don’t become replicas of one another. We don’t follow identical paths, or work in exactly the same way, but we do continue to learn from one another.
My hope is that as part of Schoolsworks Academy Trust, I’ll be able to learn from the best practice of the other five schools, just as my colleagues at Medmerry will be able to share the benefits of their skills and expertise with teachers across the trust.
Michael Tidd, Head of School, Medmerry Primary School