Travelling to a Headspace session I was struck by the difference in the experience of travelling first class rather than standard.
First class I hear you say? Who can afford to travel first class? Well, not I. It has more to do with the lunacies of our rail system where it is actually cheaper to travel first class on 2 single tickets than to buy a Standard return. I am not complaining…I like first class. I like free wifi, I like the free breakfast, the comfy seats, the haven of peace and quiet and the cheery staff who call you Madam and give you free tea and snacks from the trolley.
I suppose the thing I like best though is finding that elusive sense of well-being that comes from being treated well.
Worklife Support specialises in well-being. It is what we do. Today I am heading to a Headspace session where we will talk about the day to day experiences and challenges our Headteachers are experiencing. I am not sure that the well-being word will be uppermost in their minds. Or at least not their own well-being. They may be concerned by the well-being of their pupils, their staff, their own families but not themselves.
The Headteachers I meet through the Headspace programme are truly an extraordinary group of people. Incredibly dedicated, hard-working, committed and driven by an innate moral purpose which is focused on providing the best possible education for their pupils. This comes at a cost though. Primary heads are exhausted, over stretched and over whelmed by demands being made on them. Too many of them are battling with a tussle between their core values and immense pressure to be compliant. They are being squeezed between Ofsted and a data driven Standards agenda and a staff body who are demoralised, angry and equally over stretched.
There is an almost palpable sense of fear out there. It seems that you are only as good as your last set of data. The football manager analogy doesn’t quote ring true either. Football managers whose teams lose a few matches and who are then unceremoniously sacked leave with generous pay-offs and then tend to bounce from club to club to club. For Heads one strike and you are out.
A leaked report from Kent CC states that if a school is put in a category the Headteacher will be put on “gardening leave” if they have been in post for 2 years or more. I suspect that such an approach is not unique to Kent. Headteachers are dedicated people but not superhuman. The stakes involved in taking on a primary Headship in particular are becoming dangerously high and the odds simply not good enough to risk it. Is there any wonder that there is a shortage of Headteachers? How many schools are there which do not have substantive heads in post? How many schools where no suitable candidates can be found to be short listed? How many Deputy Heads who look at their Heads and think, no thanks?
Without dedicated, confident and motivated leaders in place our schools cannot thrive. And if our schools don’t thrive the consequences will be felt by all of us.