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How head teachers can fast-track respect in UK schools

For fast-track head teachers, managing experienced educators can be a challenge. Here are six tips on gaining respect as a new head teacher.

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For those with ambition, fast-tracking provides an accelerated career development pathway to promoted posts. But, for (perhaps younger) head teachers who have climbed the ranks quickly, managing experienced educators who have been teaching for longer than they have can be a challenge.

What can you do to fast-track the recognition and respect you need from your peers and the wider community if you are in the early days of headship?

Set goals and deliver results

Every single interaction you have with your staff and other stakeholders will help form an opinion about you, so it is vital to set the right tone. The good news is that most people respond warmly to clarity and direction. So, being upfront about your expectations is a necessary step for any leader. This is particularly important for head teachers who want to instil a culture of change.

When it comes to priorities, the top two goals for most schools are improving results and reducing the attainment gap (The State of Technology in Education Report: 2018/19). As such, one of the best ways to get people on side is to start making improvements in these areas; and technology can help you to make some quick wins.

For example, greater use of edtech could help close the attainment gap for disadvantaged pupils with a recent report showing that, in one school, expected reading standards rose from 71% to 83% within just one year due to the introduction of digital progress tests.

Be positive

We all know that — despite the rewards — teaching can be difficult, and it can be hard to maintain a positive attitude when we are tired and stressed. But a little recognition goes a long way. So, one of the easiest ways to get colleagues on board is to make sure they know how valued they are.

Show teachers that you are committed to them and the school by offering opportunities for development. Furthermore, as well as rewarding individual efforts, look where you can highlight and share best practices across your school to create a culture where everyone is inspired to do their best. Such building of trust with staff is a crucial part of early-stage headship.

Make life easier for your teachers

Teachers believe that their workload is having a negative impact on learning, with 62% stating that it is contributing to high levels of stress in schools. Despite this, under 20% of schools are addressing the problem.

The government has admitted that teachers need help when it comes to lesson workloads and admin burdens. In a speech to the World Education Forum, education secretary Damian Hinds called on startups and Silicon Valley giants to solve the problems facing overworked and under-funded schools.

However, there are already options for head teachers that want to boost the use of edtech in their schools, and they aren’t as expensive as you might think. For example:

  • Real-time assessment tools can be used to reduce the marking burden while being one of the most cost-effective ways to boost pupil attainment
  • Apps, online forms and video conferencing (e.g. Skype) can reduce the time spent undertaking face-to-face meetings while keeping the lines of communication open
  • Lesson planning tools allow teachers to customise and share lesson content, quickly and easily.

By addressing the very real issues facing teachers when it comes to workload, and putting tools in place to reduce the load, you’ll earn respect while streamlining processes.

Encourage feedback

Currently, 40% of teachers are providing no input when it comes to developing educational strategies at their schools (The State of Technology in Education Report: 2018/19).

If your teachers have been teaching for longer than you have, use this experience to your advantage. Everyone likes to feel that their opinions matter.

By getting input early on, you can foster a high level of buy-in; both when it comes to you personally and in regard to any strategic decisions you might take. Of course, you can’t expect all staff to agree with every leadership decision. But, where change is required, encourage staff to identify what needs to be done. This will help your team to own that change and position you as a leader, rather than someone who simply doles out instructions.

Plug any skills gaps

It is essential that head teachers understand where any resistant people are coming from. It is much easier to overcome negativity when you appreciate the experiences that have influenced this attitude.

For example, while the majority of teachers are striving to innovate by using technology, their confidence in school training is declining. This year, under 36% of teachers believe their training is adequate; down 5% from 2017 and 14% from the year before (The State of Technology in Education Report: 2018/19). It’s no wonder that the introduction of educational technology is often met with resistance.

But, it is possible to improve teacher ICT training on a small budget. What’s more, in doing so, you’ll demonstrate that you are committed to creating a modern learning environment, and to your teachers’ future at your school. Through such an approach, it is possible to turn the most disenfranchised educators into key allies.

Embrace digitalisation

Today’s educational leaders understand the benefits of technology. But, all too often edtech is not being deployed as effectively as it should be. To establish your value as a head teacher, use the tools available to you to enhance teaching, leadership and learning. For example:

  • Implement new initiatives (e.g. flipped learning, personalised learning, collaborative learning, etc.)
  • Maximise online safety in your school
  • Facilitate classroom spaces that work as a catalyst for engagement, collaboration, personalisation, and feedback (e.g. a mobile stand that allows for the sharing of devices such as an ActivPanel and its adaptation to suit different classroom layouts)

Crucially, by making sure that any investment you make delivers benefits when it comes to future-proofing (e.g. regular free updates, less need to invest in new hardware, etc.), you’ll also generate cost savings over time and further demonstrate your value as a leader.

Fostering a culture of respect and recognition works both ways. To support positive change in your own school and find out more about what matters to teachers, download The State of Technology in Education Report: 2018/19.