Having had a look at what a good teacher does it is only fair to turn a critical eye on what a good Head of School should be doing. (This could get ugly, but try and be kind.) Several attempts at defining the role of a School Head have typically resulted in impossibly complex answers. This is understandable given the multi-faceted nature of the job. However, I believe a Head’s role typically falls neatly into three areas:
- Micro: Self leadership
- Meso: School leadership
- Macro: Societal leadership
A school head shows little promise in leading a school if they cannot lead themselves. Outward expressions of leadership are borne of inner character. A person who exercises integrity in the small things can be expected to exercise integrity in the big things. Leadership centres on who a person is as much as what a person does. (Note to self: stop nicking the paper clips!)
The essential role of a head is to give leadership. For this to happen, a head must know what makes for effective teaching and learning and must be uncompromising in their quest for excellence in these areas. There is also a pastoral element to headship that will require the head to understand what contributes to the well-being of staff and students. School leadership involves good governance, the setting of appropriate goals and the selection of suitable strategies to meet those goals. It also involves the management of people and resources to meet those goals. There is a growing complexity to contemporary school leadership. Extra skills are now required particularly in areas such as OH&S matters, compliance and the law. The level of bureaucracy, accountability and reporting has also increased over recent years. This is why I’m currently applying for the job of a lighthouse keeper on the Lofoten Islands!
Society looks to its heads of schools to give leadership not only on educational matters but on a broader range of issues. Effective school heads have an influence on both sides of the school gate. They contribute to educational debate and take their place in society as mentors and role-models. So – what does this mean? It means you’ve to shape up, Tim, and recognise that your obligations remain, even when you drive out of the School.
It needs to be recognised that no head will have all the skills described above. Certainly not me! A school needs to be realistic about what they can expect of their head. Any shortfall in a head’s ability can often be compensated by the abilities found in other members of the school executive. God bless them! They make me look a lot better than I am.