Shortage of Headteachers – why be a Head?

There has been much in the press recently about a national shortage of head teachers. Apparently many posts are going unfilled and there is a significant shortage of people seeking to make the move from deputy head to Head.
In many respects this is understandable. Being a Head is not for everyone just as many teachers do not want to make the move from being a classroom teacher into senior management. Each teacher has to make their own decisions about their own career path.
However, I thought that it would make for an interesting post if I could try to explain what I love about my role. I recently spoke at a Friday forum with our sixth formers and they asked whether I loved having ‘all that power’. This is certainly not what motivates me so what do I find about the job that makes it so rewarding?
Above all else I love the variety of what I do. Each and every day is very different and it is the challenge of dealing with such a wide range of issues which makes the role so very interesting. Much of what I have to do is very positive, whether this be meeting boys with distinctions or having lunch with groups of sixth formers, there is plenty which is positive.
Of course, I do have less positive things to deal with as well but I have always enjoyed problem-solving and the challenges that these present and the ability to resolve a difficulty also make the role interesting. I enjoy the challenge of having to make a decision – there is no one else for me to pass a decision on to and thus in the end I have to come down one way or another. Such decisions will not always be popular but this is not a central part of the job. All I can do is to make a well-informed, rational decision and clearly communicate the reasons for it.
A big part of the role of the Head is communication and this is why I blog, tweet and spend time on developing our communications strategy. I do believe that communication is important for any organisation and being open and approachable is a key part of the role. This is not about me promoting my own self-importance but merely using every opportunity I can to engage with all those in the school community to communicate shared goals and plans. I sense that schools have moved away from wanting heads to promote themselves, modern schools are much more collaborative in their approach to management but I believe firmly that I should be approachable to all and that a central part of leadership and communication is listening.
There are, of course, many challenging parts to the role. For me the biggest challenge is time. The role does take up a huge amount of my time and I am lucky in that I have a very understanding family. However, there is a sense of satisfaction to be had in juggling so much at any one time and one learns to prioritise. It is important that you look after yourself if you are to manage others successfully – key to this for me is my weekly run, some very important time for myself. So too though is the opportunity to switch off – hence the time I spend watching my son’s football team or watching Arsenal is every bit as important as the time I spend behind my computer working on school matters. It is important too to take time off during school holidays which is why it is always so frustrating that organisations like the school inspectors send out requests to update information right at the end of term!
To me the best part of the role is to take a project from idea to completion. There are a number of things that I have worked on in recent years which started out just as a good idea but we are now doing as a School and which have been well-received. There is a great deal of satisfaction in this whole process and this is very rewarding.
Finally but most importantly as a Head you have a fantastic opportunity to work with such an impressive group of people. Whether these be your staff or the students or indeed the parents you are surrounded by impressive minds and people who are seeking to achieve great things. As Head you can merely try to harness this enthusiasm and to encourage it. Schools are vibrant places and the chance to do your best to serve the needs of your students is a special one and one in my view to be enjoyed.
I know that the responsibility is large and that the accountability could be daunting but in the end the chance to work with others to create the best possible opportunities and outcomes for our students is a real privilege and long may I continue to enjoy it!