According to the Department for Education (DfE), the number of headteachers under the age of 35 has grown by three quarters since 2010. Schools leaders are younger than ever before, many joining schools as part of the Fast Track programme, a training and development scheme for aspiring headteachers, now in its 5th year.
Moving out of the classroom and becoming a headteacher is an incredibly rewarding experience not to mention a high-profile career move. Yet the accountability and responsibility of crafting your school strategy can be daunting for younger teachers, especially for those with less years’ teaching experience in the classroom. It can be challenging to manage staff with a longer service record in your school, or make meaningful changes if colleagues are skeptical of your experience. Here’s some profile-raising tips for young headteachers:
1. Communicate your vision
Communication skills are essential for dealing with parents, staff and pupils. As headteacher, undoubtedly you have an idea of how your school’s educational environment could improve. Remember to communicate this vision to all facets of the institution, outlining how it will improve the teaching environment, boost staff wellbeing, or enhance student learning.
Being a headteacher is an ideal platform for putting your educational vision into practice. Provided you can articulate this vision, you can translate it into tangible strategies and pedagogical outcomes that will raise your personal profile.
2. Make a difference, creatively
The role of head offers the opportunity to make a difference on a scale unlike any of your previous jobs. Schools are, however, traditional educational environments that are resistant to change. Even when schools embrace new technologies, investments can often fail if they lack a robust rollout strategy, or sufficient staff training.
As a young headteacher, your presence may be a breath of fresh air if processes and systems are particularly dated, or systems archaic. Consider new ways to empower your teaching staff; perhaps provide them with tools to inject creativity into their teaching, whether its deploying interactive front-of-class tech like ActivPanels for more collaborative learning, or promoting flipped learning practices to motivate students and boost school results.
Your staff will appreciate the flexibility and creativity this fresh approach gives them, reminding them why they love teaching in the first place. Ensure they feel supported, and underline that creativity in learning enhances traditional ways of teaching, not replaces it.
“I’ve always believed strongly in enrichment and creativity and apply this to everything I do. When I had the chance to rewrite Hurley’s curriculum I was able to thread creativity throughout it. I used a lot of enquiry-based approaches where children decide what the learning focus is.”
Diane Compton, headteacher, Michael Drayton Junior School, aged 30
3. Volunteer for jobs you like least
Whilst you may not know the intricacies of your school’s systems and processes, as a young headteacher it can be valuable to get under the skin of the school as quickly as possible. Your presence will, afterall, impact all staff, children, parents and even members of the broader community.
To break down any potential barriers between you and your staff, consider jumping in to the everyday jobs as well as high-level strategic tasks. Getting your hands dirty with things you may not choose to do demonstrates that you’re a team player as well as a school leader, and can command more respect than being firmly authoritative.
4. Collaborate with your staff
When you make the transition from teacher to deputy head and then to headteacher, you will probably find yourself increasingly removed from the operational jobs in your school. Your teachers, meanwhile, are on the frontline. They know how each class operate on an intricate level, they have visibility on which pupils are performing and which subjects are getting better results, and why.
Teachers’ insights are invaluable to you, as a young headteacher. Work together with staff on your overall school strategy, put the right staff in the right roles and support and challenge them to do the best job they can. Trust your senior leaders to manage much of the day-to-day running of the school.
“Teaching is a complicated job and, in my experience, a person’s age pales into significance against their ability to adapt, think creatively and collaborate with those around them.”
The Primary Head, headteacher of a UK primary school, aged 32
Empowering and placing more trust in your staff will boost school morale and improve your relationships with experienced staff leaders. Read more about creating your school strategy in our complete guide to meeting strategic goals and challenges.