Diary of a Headmaster’s Summer Holiday

What does a Headmaster do over the duration of the summer holiday? Now, this is not going to be a kiss-and-tell diary entry but it will perhaps give an indication of the sorts of things which are done which are important both on a personal and on a school level.

1. Holiday – This is probably the most important part. After a long school year and all of the pressures it brings it is vital to get away. I prefer to do this almost immediately the term ends so that there is a clear end to the School year just past and also a chance for a rest before tackling the various work that needs to be done for the next school year. Whilst I do have my smartphone with me, I do try to switch off completely, I do not answer emails and would only deal with urgent and serious school matters that arose. Fortunately this year I was able to have a fantastic fortnight in Rhodes and was able to leave the High School behind!
2. Family time – Inevitably the workload of my role impacts on the family. During the summer I try to ensure that we have some quality time together. This is so important in recharging my batteries and giving me a proper work/life balance. The time to be able to say yes to the numerous requests to play football or to do a domestic task is one that I value at this time of the year. I guess that I need to do more to protect such time at other times of the year too. We also use this time to catch up with friends and return some of the meals that we have enjoyed at other times in the year.
3. Rest – Those readers who are not teachers will see the long holiday that we get as excessive. I do though very much value the opportunity to just switch off and take a rest. The last few weeks of term with all of the many school functions, the reports etc mean many seven day weeks spent ensuring that all is completed on time. Thus, the chance for a few lie-ins, some time just doing nothing and the chance to switch off is very valuable. It is the only time of the year when I can do justice to the weekend newspapers.
4. Reading – Over the past year the High School has had a Year of Reading. I have tried hard to read more but during the summer I have more opportunity to do so. At this point half way through my holiday I have read six books and hope to fit in at least a couple more before we return. Next on the list is “Suite Francaise” by Irene Nemirovsky which my wife has just finished and has highly recommended. I also try to catch up on a good deal of educational reading, various articles and magazines which tend to stack up during the year but can be read when less busy and these are often the source of some good ideas or spark innovative ideas for the future. It is also a chance to read the many articles that I come across through my network on Twitter – such a rich resource for new ideas and sharing good practice.
5. Getting organised – I am a compulsive list maker! Thus, I spend time using the Task List in Microsoft Outlook to record all of the various tasks that need doing when I return to School. I do not like having to carry around in my head a mental list of things to do and thus always try to record everything into the task list so that I can be sure that I won’t forget to get something done. I also use the summer to clear my inbox. Currently there are no emails at all in there, despite the fact that since we broke up for the holiday I have still received over 600 emails! Each half-term I try to clear it down to zero so that the new term starts in an organised fashion. Those that need action when we return in September I put onto the task list. So there are currently 200 tasks to be done but at least I know what they all are and can now spend some time reducing this number. I also like to ensure that I have a clear idea of the major reports/speeches I have to write in the year ahead so that I can diarise time to complete them.
6. Work – Inevitably I spend time working during the holiday. Speech Day is the second day of term so I have to prepare my Speech for that. This tends to be done towards the end of the holiday once the exam results are in. This summer I also need to update our inspection self-evaluation in the light of the exam results, update the development plan and produce an action plan for the coming year from this plan. There is the staff meeting in September to prepare for, various letters to respond to, and I try to make a start on my report to the Governors of the previous academic year. I estimate the net total of this work to be about four weeks work.
7. Visits to School – I try to keep these to a minimum. At the time of writing this post I have been in just once. This was primarily to take over the emergency phone which one member of the Management team mans whenever a school trip is away. Currently we have boys in Bala, North Wales and the rugby teams are touring South America. So far, no calls to field and I hope that this continues given that I would only be called in an emergency. I find it easier to work from home during holiday time as this way there are less distractions.
8. Exam results time – I do though return to school for much of the week leading up to the A Level and GCSE results. In this way I can catch up on any correspondence which has come in during the holiday but also we prepare for giving the results out. There are various analyses to be done on the results themselves and I like to go through with the Head of Careers just how boys have done in relation to their university offers. The results days themselves are the highlight of this period being able to share in the joy of so many boys who through their own efforts, the support of their parents and the hard work of the staff have secured excellent results. There are some media things to do too to promote the School but above all it is a chance to congratulate the boys on their achievements. I also use this time to catch up on progress made on the summer holiday maintenance work in school. Clearly just because the teachers are away does not mean that those left in school are not incredibly busy and it is good to catch up with what has been happening.
So, in conclusion, the holiday is very much a chance to catch up. Firstly, on revitalising myself but then on getting ready for the new term. I guess though that the Confucius saying “Choose a job you love and you will never have to work a day in your life”, applies here. I genuinely enjoy the preparations for the new school year and look forward to welcoming everyone back in September. That I can do so having spent some quality time with the family though is equally important as it is they that sustain me through the stresses that this role inevitably brings.