September 2013

The know zone

  • Checks and balances
    Inadequacies have emerged in the procedure for issuing enhanced criminal records certificates. It should give schools pause for thought, says Richard Bird. More
  • ‘Fair’ but not ‘fit’
    In a complex world, schools should be funded according to their present and future needs, not by the requirement to appear ‘simple and transparent’, says Sam Ellis. More
  • Inspectors under scrutiny
    Amid criticism of inconsistency in Ofsted judgements, Jan Webber examines the claims that some inspectors are not fit for purpose and suggests what could be done to restore confidence in the system. More
  • Fighting for better pay and conditions
    ASCL exists to reflect and promote the views of its members, which is why ASCL Council is so important. ASCL Council is made up of 148 elected representatives and is the association’s policymaking body, meeting four times a year. Council members represent ASCL at meetings with government officials and other organisations. It is from Council that national officers, including the president, are elected. In each edition of Leader this year, we will spotlight the work of a particular committee of Council. This month, it is the turn of the Pay and Conditions Committee. More
  • How is ASCL policy made?
    Council, ASCL’s policy-making body, meets four times a year and each of the 148 elected Council members serves on one of its main committees: Education, Pay and Conditions, Funding, Professional, and Public and Parliamentary, where future policy is discussed in detail. More
  • Could you be an ASCL Council member?
    Council membership is often described as the best in-service training that members can have. More
  • ASCL PD events
    "Curriculum Planning: Balancing the Vision Against the Funding" and "Conversion to a Multi-Academy Trust – the Options" More
  • Are you new to SLT?
    If so, then you will doubtless have richly earned your promotion and hardly be new to the concept of effective leadership. More
  • Presenting with impact
    What makes a great presentation? We all know when we have heard one. More
  • Stimulating physics
    The Stimulating Physics Network (SPN) is managed by the Institute of Physics (IOP), in partnership with the national network of Science Learning Centres. More
  • Adding value
    Understanding performance More
  • Direct action?
    ASCL members in some areas of the country are raising issues with recruitment on to the School Direct programme for teacher training, although in other areas it seems to be successful. Here members share their experience of how School Direct is working in their schools. More
  • Leaders' surgery
    The antidote to common leadership conundrums... More
  • Best supporting ‘actor’
    There is bound to be uncertainty when a school leader moves on... not least for the replacement who is given the strange title of ‘acting head’. But what does the job actually entail? More
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There is bound to be uncertainty when a school leader moves on... not least for the replacement who is given the strange title of ‘acting head’. But what does the job actually entail?

Best supporting ‘actor’

When a headteacher leaves a school – unexpectedly or otherwise – and with it proving harder and harder in some parts of the country to recruit heads capable of meeting the exacting standards required, perhaps the question for the leadership team member, approached by the chair of the governing body, to answer, is:

“To act or not to act...?”

What does it mean to be ‘an acting head’?

Do you have to ‘act’ in the way that the former head did in order to provide a sense of continuity?

Do you have to take on a different persona in order to now ‘act’ a different role?

Does it mean that you have to change your way of doing things or just behave differently? (Contrary to the reason why you were, perhaps, asked to take the role on in the first place.)

Does it indicate that you are, as I read in one piece of feedback from a parent, merely ‘temporary’? (It did in my case.)

Does it mean devising endless new ways of reacting positively when the third of your very high-performing heads of department arrives in the same week to tell you that they are in the happy position of being pregnant?

Does it mean having to take the lead role in the staff Christmas music video? (Again, in my case, yes.)

In my experience, acting heads are told that they have full executive power over the school. This is quite, well, empowering and not a little scary, especially to someone who has only just made the decision to apply for – let alone start – their National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH).

To what extent should I start that massive restructure of the whole school that, as a deputy, I have been trying to push through for the last two years? Shall I launch a consultation to change the name of the school now that we are an academy? Does the school uniform need a massive overhaul? Is the admissions policy still fit for purpose?

Does the MFL/science/technology department really need all of that administrative support? Perhaps, most importantly of all, do I move offices?

Or shall I just concentrate on making the school a happy place to work and learn and provide a bit of stability after that fairly bruising Ofsted visit?

All in all, I would recommend the ‘acting’ role should it come your way. It gave me access to areas of school life that are restricted if you are, as I was, a deputy head, such as finance and budgeting. It meant that I met a wider group of professionals doing the same thing and it enabled me to walk the walk that I had wondered whether or not I could do.

It confirmed that this is what I wanted to do and made me a much stronger candidate for headship. It also helped generate a couple of extra layers of skin that I think may well be needed in the future.

The author has just started a new role as a headteacher in the East of England.

  • The author has just started a new role as a headteacher in the East of England

Want the last word?

Last Word always welcomes contributions from members. If you’d like to share your humorous observations of school life, email Permjit Mann at ASCL offers a modest honorarium.