REFLECTIONS ON DEPUTY HEADSHIP #1
When I was 15 I spent the summer commuting into London with my father and worked in his office for much of the summer holiday. He was an accountant and managed a small team of junior assistants.
I was given various routine office jobs to complete and enjoyed using the mechanical adding machine.
My father had a room to himself. Sometimes I worked in there with him, but for most of the day I was in the other room, which wasn’t dissimilar from a small classroom. It was a strange experience, having to listen to banter about the boss from the young men and women who worked under him.
It was my first experience of treading a delicate line between solidarity with the workforce and loyalty to the management. I didn’t know it at the time, but it was an experience that I would often recall during more than 23 years of deputy headship.
The art of being a deputy is all about getting that balance right. Swing too far one way and colleagues feel unsupported, vulnerable and put-upon; swing too far the other and management is immediately undermined. I have heard enough about life in other schools to know that the former situation is all too common. And I know at first hand just how rapidly the latter type of unbalance can lead to a simmering sense of mutiny.
I stayed in one school for so long because everyone in the school – colleagues and children – made it (for most of the time) a magical place to be.
I ‘retired’ in July but remained officially employed by the local education authority up until the end of August. The bank has just received my final pay deposit. I am now self-employed.
The month of August was much like any August, and I suspect I shall always think of it as the school holiday month. (It is also my birthday month, and I have always blessed the stars that I have never been at school or at work on my birthday.) Family came from the west and from the north to spend days on the beach and to have other summer outings. My wife and I went to the West Country to revisit the places we had pitched our tent on that September camping honeymoon of 40 years ago.
And so I haven’t been feeling any different. Until today – when, driving past two local schools (neither of them being the one I used to work in) to collect our cat from the cattery, I saw the car parks half-filled with staff cars and a delivery van pulling away having just brought supplies to the school kitchen.
I am ‘back to work’ as well. But it feels good to have had a whole day already working at my own affairs – not having to be planning for the start of a new term, meeting with senior management colleagues, or preparing presentations for tomorrow’s Inset Day, knowing that tomorrow, and the day after that, and all days that follow are mine now to use to best advantage.
I shall be writing here on the blog about educational matters from time to time, adding further reflections on deputy headship, commenting on government policy (especially when it has an impact on reading and the enjoyment of books) and whilst I savour the freedom that release from full-time employment brings, oh how I shall miss the gleeful waves and greetings that used to meet me every day at ten past twelve when I entered the school hall to have my packed lunch.