School leaders hold ultimate responsibility for staff, student and school performance. In charge of setting the school strategy each academic year, they’re held accountable for attainment drops and dissatisfaction. It’s a pressured but important job that requires people management skills, strategic instincts and deep knowledge of the education sector. So, what’s it like being on the frontline of school leadership?
We interviewed a headteacher with more than 25 years of experience to learn their perspective on everything from the rewards of leadership to the pressures of stakeholder management. Here’s what they had to say about their day-to-day role, what they like best about the job, and how it’s changed.
A typical day as a school leader
“I’m the guy who fixes the tech; it’s quicker to do it myself than call out our IT guys. I’ve always been an IT coordinator as well as a teacher. I want to see greater IT as a provision in schools – from the tablets down to the infrastructure – so I’m a big fan of Bett conferences to keep myself sharp.”
Staying at the forefront of edtech developments is a valuable way to raise the quality of the teaching and learning experience. “A primary part of my job is continuing to drive forward a curriculum which is rich and engaging. I want the kids to come out every day saying ‘That’s the best day ever’, making them aspire to great things with an enthusiasm to learn. We need to teach them resilience as we’re shaping kids’ lives as well as the world.”
It’s not just fulfilling to see students making progress, but also to disprove the misconceptions of the education system and gain a sense of professional recognition. “My greatest source of satisfaction is when you get parents engaging and being appreciative of what we do as educators, along with external agencies like Ofsted. The media portrays teachers as lazy, so it’s pleasing to see staff being hungry to develop their careers.”
To help educators advance their classroom practice in this way, school leaders need to actively consult all educator voices at a strategic level. School leaders can then target areas where educators lack confidence or are struggling to innovate. While 80% of school leaders lead or contribute to their school strategy, according to The State of Technology in Education Report, 44% of teachers have no input. Improving this will also increase buy-in from educators and confidence in the school leader managing them.
The challenges of being a school leader
“I love being a headteacher, but the edtech element of education is the highest priority but the worst funded. We want to make sure we get devices into children’s hands, but it’s a challenge to always find the budget to keep our stock of tech fresh and usable.” It’s not just about having an adequate tech budget, as our research shows 27% of educators feel tech budgets are at the right level but can be invested in the wrong things. This can be improved by targeting investments at the real staff and student needs, so they serve day-to-day teaching and learning.
This is especially important when edtech only continues to grow. “Touchscreen has changed dramatically – expanding from small notebooks, laptop suites, and projectors, to interactive whiteboards – and everything’s streamlined with more prevalent internet connectivity. But schools’ investment and teachers’ skills haven’t advanced with tech development – it’s a generational issue as much as anything else. Edtech is more robust, but people don’t develop the necessary skills.”
Without providing full edtech training, educators risk being outpaced by students’ digital nativity. “I have to keep staff trained and buying into it, to maintain enough momentum. Children are more capable with technology, and are typically most used to touchscreen or interactive tech, which schools struggle to keep up with.” Entrusting IT administrators in the process fields their knowledge and insight on the most valuable edtech innovations.