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The ramblings of a Head

The dream job? New to headship? A collection of thoughts…

By Marie Smailes, Head of School, Rustington Primary School

I’m actually a Head! I was appointed this time last year as the Head of Rustington Primary; a large school with supportive parents, an established reputation and a history of both good attainment and progress so I must have done something right at interview! But… is it what I expected?

I’ve had lots of experience as a Deputy Head in a range of different situations and as part of a team which took a school from RI to Good. So what could an actual headship throw at me that I didn’t know already?

I’m now two terms in and understand, with clarity, what!

Good teachers are really good actors – they stand in front of children with energy and passion. They articulate concepts and model reality in every dimension to engage and stimulate learning. Being a Head is something quite different. You’re a persona; the entity that everyone looks to for direction, who has to maintain a calmness and a sense of authority and who can…

  • Listen and calm an angry parent, who might be extremely vocal and upset, whilst maintaining confidentiality and safety…
  • Help to re-evaluate risk assessments for children to find a balance between inclusion, learning and safety for other children whilst minimising any aggression towards staff…
  • Take a late night text (I’ve learnt to not look at them now until first thing in the morning) from a teacher saying that they are ill/have family issues/need time off for interview etc…
  • Answer dozens of emails throughout the day and evening…
  • Take a phone call from a neighbour because parents have blocked their drive or parked on the zig-zag yellow lines causing traffic chaos…
  • Cope with the worry (and sometimes personal criticism) of balancing children’s needs and budget
  • Manage feedback from parents which comes through social media rather than having someone contact you and initiate a conversation. I’ve always thought of myself as someone very capable of resolving problems and being empathetic towards others but the wall of social media destroys relationships. People still think that a closed group means you can vent and the information won’t be public knowledge in school!
  • Support the wave of mental health issues that are a daily battle for many staff as well as an increasing number of children with little resources apart from an amazing team, both in school and at head office, who manage to produce a ‘rabbit out of a hat’ every time.

And then there’s the teaching and learning; arguably the main reason children come to school. This has to be central to everything the school does – any school is only as good as the teaching and learning that is happening at any given moment. But it is not just academic success for children, we need to ensure they are well rounded confident individuals who experience success and grow into positive, valuable members of society. As I see it my job is only about making the world a better place now and for future generations – no pressure then!

A Bit of Perspective

They say writing it down helps – you feel the weight lifted. So would I change my role? Do I regret being a Head? Absolutely not – for me, it’s the best job in the world. Those moments when you walk around your school and see the children happy and loving learning, teachers buzzing about their lessons and feeling they are having a real impact on children’s learning, parents coming up to you on the playground to thank you for something the school has done to help their child, or a neighbour emails in and says how well behaved and polite the children are when they leave school at the end of the day. Why would anyone not want to have this job? Anyway, I’d better stop rambling and get back to planning my summer holiday!