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Sometimes the Most Important Thing you can do as a School Leader is Remember How Not to be One

However you manage it, I think it’s vital for all of us to have moments when our work at school is not at the forefront of our minds

  • Sometimes the Most Important Thing you can do as a School Leader is Remember How Not to be One

Hearing the catastrophic information about government targets for recruitment into initial teacher education – missed for the fifth year in a row across almost all subjects – has got me thinking, once again, about the issue of workload and how to get a better work/life balance.

Of course there are many things that we, as school leaders, can do to help with workload and, possibly more importantly, should not do when in the grip of ‘Ofsted fear’.

But it is especially important, I think, that all of us – including me and other senior leaders – have an off switch; a time when being the teacher stops and being the dad/partner/friend/son/brother starts.

If I am honest, this is something that I am having a personal struggle with at the moment; Ofsted is due, we have a growing number of vulnerable students who are struggling to get up to speed with the new exam expectations, and I can feel the anxiety building in me.

It’s hard to switch off when you know there is still so much to do to support your staff and the young people in our care.

Time to escape

However, finding that ‘down time’ is vital. Creating space to have some light-hearted banter about the latest Crystal Palace versus Brighton football match with @LiamHCollins or @JohnTomsett is needed – for me, at least.

As I write this I am very thankful for the latest series of I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. Don’t sit there shaking your head at me! It’s a time when I sit with my family, at home, happily making sweeping generalisations about people we have never met – and, crucially, not looking at my iPad or phone.

It really doesn’t matter what causes you to stop and spend some time doing something that is purely about escapism and entertainment. You may well be much more cultured than I am and decide to go to a classical music concert – but however you manage it, I think it’s vital for all of us to have these moments when our work at school is not at the forefront of our minds.

I spent a long time talking recently with a colleague about how they could find a better balance whilst being a head of a ‘core’ subject – which is probably the busiest job in education at the moment. We created a checklist of things to try, which I’ll share with you now:

  1. Turn off emails from a certain time

  2. Be efficient with the time you have. Make the most of PPA/non-contact time to do the work that otherwise would need to be done at home. The ultimate goal is not have to complete any work at home

  3. Stop thinking that everything has to be done now. Use your line manager, if necessary, to help prioritise the work you have to do and to set yourself reasonable expectations for completion

  4. Get out of your workwear when you get home; the mindset shift that is caused by having a shower and changing clothes can be significant

  5. Stop the journey to martyrdom and say ‘no’. If you are asked to pick up yet another task, and you are flat out already, say so. You’ll be surprised at how accepting people are and, in fact, how much easier it is for them than having to chase you later. Once your line manager knows that if you say ‘yes’ the task is done well and on time, they’ll accept your ‘no’ much more easily

  6. Use the Pareto Principle for your benefit. Find the 20% of your day when you are at your most efficient and plan to complete 80% of what needs to be done then. The flip of this is to not attempt to complete the high intensity/importance tasks when your energy levels are low

  7. There is no one way to get a balance that works for everyone; you need to find the way that works for you. I hope that 2018 is the year that happens.

Follow Vic Goddard on Twitter at @vicgoddard.

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