2021 Spring Term 1


  • A better world
    After the year we've just had and for the sake of our children, we need to paint a picture of a better world and that should be part of our leadership legacy says Geoff Barton. More
  • Spending review
    There were no surprises or rabbits out of hats in the Chancellor's spending review. Nevertheless, confirmation of funding already promised was a huge relief for the education sector. Here, ASCL Specialists Julia Harnden and Louise Hatswell explain what it means for you. More
  • Flying the flag
    ASCL's LGBT Leaders' Network is launching at a positive moment for equality, diversity and inclusion campaigners but there is much work still to do, says Rich Atterton. More
  • Well schools
    Research has revealed that wellbeing is the most important factor for parents choosing a school for their children. Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, highlights a new movement that is helping schools put wellbeing at the heart of education. More
  • Dual role model
    Many men and women view the challenge of being both a parent and a full-time school or college leader too daunting to consider. Anna Paul, mother of two girls, aged 4 years-old and 18 months, and the deputy head of an independent senior school, says it is not only possible to combine both responsibilities but it can also be deeply rewarding. More
  • Setting the standard
    The Headteachers' Standards 2020 are rooted in what a 'good head' knows, understands and does in leading and managing a school, says Chair of the Review Group, Malcolm Trobe CBE. More
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Many men and women view the challenge of being both a parent and a full-time school or college leader too daunting to consider. Anna Paul, mother of two girls, aged 4 years-old and 18 months, and the deputy head of an independent senior school, says it is not only possible to combine both responsibilities but it can also be deeply rewarding.

Dual role model

When I had my first child, a friend asked me every time I saw her about my ‘work/life balance’, a question I found very frustrating.

To this day, I am often asked questions along the lines of, “How do you do it all?” while some people simply state, “You must be so tired.” As a result, I have decided that now is the time to encourage much more open and direct dialogue about parenting and senior leadership in schools.

It is my firm belief that it is possible to combine involved and present parenting with a demanding yet fulfilling role as a senior leader. Too many people, both men and women, back away from these roles when contemplating the challenge of doing both. I want to offer some positive affirmation, based on my own experience, that this is not only possible but can be deeply rewarding, too.

Let’s start with that phrase, ‘work/life balance’. I think it’s quite negative and that seeing work and life as diametrically opposed will not enable you to succeed or be happy. You need to see your professional and personal lives as connected, although, of course, a certain degree of separation is important, too.

It is unlikely, for example, that you will be able to avoid working at home in a senior role – or, come to that, in a classroom or middle leader role as well – particularly if you aim to leave school on time when you can and do dinner, bath and bedtime with your children.

Sometimes, I have to deploy the wonder that is television to enable me to get my work done at home. But that is OK; in fact, it’s more than OK.

Accepting compromises

I think accepting compromises such as using television, not making homemade fish fingers and not producing fresh food such as banana bread for every single snack is completely fine. It does not make you a bad parent. In my view, it makes you a more balanced one.

I believe it is important that people hear the message that you do not need to be Superman or Superwoman to do this. You need to be organised, motivated and strategic about how you use your time. Remember that organisational skills can be worked on, even if you feel that this does not come naturally to you.

Sleep, childcare and time to yourself is the magic combination, in my opinion.

My message on sleep is twofold. Firstly, if you are combining a phase of sleep deprivation with working, you have my every sympathy. In my experience, there is no way round these phases if you have children, and it is tough.

Secondly, be aware that you are not alone and that it will just be a phase. A time will come when you do sleep for more prolonged periods and you will feel better.

The quality of your childcare will also play a key role in determining your happiness at work. My simple advice is to invest in the best you can afford.

It is a financial investment that is, on the whole, eye-wateringly expensive but also pays so many dividends in terms of enabling you to feel comfortable and happy while away from your children.

Try to factor in some childcare for the holidays so that you can have a bit of time to yourself on occasion. This helps to retain a sense of being a whole person, I find.

I think it is important that we are honest about the emotional challenges that come with working and being a parent. Do not be under any illusions and, if you are experiencing hard times, rest assured that – once again – you are not the only one.

The emotions generated by these experiences can be very stressful, but you can learn to manage them and develop the confidence to know that your children can be happy when they are apart from you.

Richer life experience

My personal view is that children have a richer life experience as a result of being looked after by multiple people. The joy of our job is that we get to spend the holidays with our children, so we do get quality time with them fairly frequently. Giving them broader experiences with other people in term time is an addition to their lives, not a subtraction.

One of the most powerful benefits of working and parenthood is that you will be a brilliant role model for your students, regardless of the gender of students that you teach. It is incredibly important that young people see that working and having children is both doable and enjoyable.

You will, of course, be a brilliant role model for your own children, too. You will show them that they can make the same choices and succeed.

What a great gift for them. One of my older daughter’s favourite role-play games currently is working from home, having seen me work remotely during lockdown, and I am proud of that.

On that note, I would urge anyone who is combining senior leadership with parenting to be proud of themselves and to encourage others to follow their path. Parenting should open doors to richer life experiences, rather than closing them.

The teaching profession has the opportunity to be a leading light in ensuring that this is true.

I, for one, am proud to be part of that story.

Flexible working practice

As part of our work on equality, diversity and inclusion, ASCL is also shining a light on school and college leaders who are working either part-time or flexibly in their leadership roles. We hope that by sharing case studies this will encourage more school and college leaders, governing bodies and trust boards to explore creative approaches to succession planning and recruitment into leadership roles. See the case studies online at www.ascl.org.uk/flexible-working

Anna Paul
Senior Deputy Head at The Godolphin and Latymer School in London