There are lots of things that effective head teachers do. See which ones you recognise, and which you’d like to aim to do more of:
- Effective heads promote the profession
Being positive and 'bigging up' teaching: these heads are passionate about teaching and learning no matter what the politics. They make teachers feel they’re in a profession one to be proud of. They surround themselves with positive pedagogues.
- Effective heads love to talk...and listen
Heads enjoy having informal conversations with staff and listening to their stories, concerns, experiences and finding out more about what makes each person tick. They have their finger on the pulse of every staff member and will know their professional and personal needs.
- Effective heads consult their staff
Although the buck stops with the head, trust and collaboration are at the heart of the school where everyone is involved in open and direct conversations.
- Effective heads secure discretionary effort
Only heads that have positive relationships with their staff find that staff go the extra mile. To achieve this, they are vigilant of the generosity of their team and swiftly step in if they see someone doing too much and burning out.
- Effective heads 'eat the frog'
Schools are busy places and there is always a 'to-do' list as long as your arm so it’s easy to get overwhelmed and procrastinate. Canny heads plan with precision and get the major tasks and 'ugly' tasks completed first. They eat the frog and make a habit of it.
- Effective heads are out and about
They visit classrooms to appreciate the pressures their staff are under. They jump at the chance to support and teach too. High-vis heads build trust and send out a clear message to everyone that you care for and are 'on it'. They know the power of a simple "Good morning!" and "How are you?" combined with a genuine smile.
- Effective heads keep children safe
Heads put safeguarding at the heart of the school protecting children's health, wellbeing and human rights and enabling them to live free from harm, abuse and neglect.
- Effective heads are the top of a great marketing team for the school
They make time to give the tours to appraise all potential teaching talent so the right person is selling the benefits. These heads are always attracting the best staff for their children.
- Effective heads welcome challenge
Heads who consult their staff also invite challenge and aren't afraid to have difficult and tricky conversations. Controversial issues aren't avoided but discussed and debated professionally without ego or any empire building agendas. As Gill (2018) states, they know that "Conflict is crucial for great schools" and that successful difficult conversations "creates positive change, quickly and kindly."
- Effective heads prize development
Heads want their staff to do well and succeed and so are always looking for opportunities to feedback, feedforward and create conditions of growth and improvement. They promote a culture of reflection and a determination to be the best and 100% of staff are capable.
- Effective heads plan social time
Heads know that all work and no play makes their staff as dull as dishwater so they organise regular opportunities to get together and let off some steam beyond the school gates with a 'no work talk' rule!
- Effective heads show appreciation
Heads know that the little things matter and so they go out of their way to make someone's day. They cultivate random acts of kindness across the whole school community so that everyone feels valued and knows what it means to give thanks.
- Effective heads limit meetings
Heads know that teachers hate staff meetings so never meet when an email will do. They know that staff have a life, family and responsibilities outside of school. Whole staff meetings are held at sensible times, with no AOB and a clear cut-off point. Meetings aren't always held indoors or on-site either but they are always relevant, timely and productive.
- Effective heads are social butterflies
Times have changed and so has the role of any company’s (or school’s) figure head. Effective heads now have a digital presence as part of their great marketing campaign to attract the best teaching staff and funding for their school.
- Effective heads eat with their children
Heads that eat with their school population forge better relationships and get to see children and staff in a different context. Eating together facilitates rapport and is an opportunity to learn more about each other as well as keeping an eye on behaviour!
- Effective heads champion children
Great heads will always champion the rights of children and fight their battles so that their needs are met and they can enjoy school opportunities. They never give up on a child and they advance equality of opportunity.
- Effective heads are veracious
Heads always aim to do the right thing for the right reasons. They are open and honest and they do what they say they will do. They demonstrate utmost integrity and honesty by being transparent and accountable and realise that their relationship with parents and other stakeholders is based on trust.
- Effective heads are innovative
They are champions of progression and technology. Actively harnessing new ways to save admin time and achieve much more for less money when it comes to back-office functions like recruitment, for example, by proactively advertising for great staff all the year round via low-cost, high-impact systems like www.schoolrecruiter.com. They are never afraid to try something new and challenge the status quo.
- Effective heads are responsible
Heads take responsibility for what they do and work with their staff to put their school community at the heart of all their endeavours.
- Effective heads perform
Heads aim for the highest possible standards and get the best out of all the resources they have. They are professional, take pride in what they do and inspire others by delivering clear standards of leadership and management.
- Effective heads work in a team
Heads value the contributions others can make and cultivate working together as one team rather than in silos. They shape the future and make a difference by working collaboratively.
- Effective heads are SMART recruiters.
They embracing the latest methods and strategies like the clever candidate attraction tools to beat the other schools to recruiting the best teachers.
Recruiting for your school? Find out more at at www.eteach.com/recruit
- Effective heads follow the Nolan principles
Heads know what the Nolan Principles are and ensure their staff know too. They make sure everyone displays selflessness, integrity, objectivity, accountability, openness, honesty and leadership.
- Effective heads are good administrators
Heads aim to get things right, they are child focused, they are open and accountable, act fairly and seek continuous improvement.
- Effective heads are passionate
Heads inspire their community; their motivation and attitude is contagious and they are relentlessly positive and have high expectations. They facilitate, influence and empower.
- Effective heads promote CPD
Personal and professional growth is key to the success of the school so heads will ensure that CPD opportunities meets the needs of staff. They know one size does not fit all so strive to connect staff to what they need to increase their skills and knowledge.
- Effective heads connect with parents
Heads know that an authentic partnership with parents makes a happy school and so they make an ongoing commitment to keep parents in the picture and involving them in the life of the school.
- Effective heads know their pupils
Heads know all their pupils by name and they try hard to find out more about their backgrounds. They provide strength and stability as a caring adult that children respect not fear.
- Effective heads get rid of obstacles
- Effective heads don't try too hard
Heads are hugely ambitious but they are realistic so don't try to be superheroes and change things overnight. They play the long-game and stay in their posts for at least five years because they know it take times to understand a school’s context. They make a lasting impact.
About the author
John is an ex-primary school teacher and Ofsted inspector who has spent the last 20 years working in the education industry as a teacher, writer and editor. John’s specialist area is primary maths but he also loves teaching science and English. John has written a number of educational and children’s books, and contributed over 1,000 articles and features to various educational bodies. John is Eteach’s school leadership and Ofsted advice guru, sharing insights on best practice for motivating and enriching a school team, as well as sharing savvy career steps for headteachers and SLT.