Apprentice in waiting!

Barbara Slider, Head Teacher at Shiremoor Primary School

Despite the current, changeable challenges, I do love my job. Although, it isn’t exactly the job that I thought I was signing up for just over three years ago! Even in recent years, the expectations of Headship are far greater and more removed from the day to day management of the school. I am a strategic leader required to think forwards without being bogged down in small matters that, whilst they require attention, would shift my focus too far, and to be able to do my job, I need a strong Deputy who is fully capable of dealing with the day to day matters arising.


I am so lucky that I have such a Deputy. And does she want to be a Head? Yes, she does. She could be leading a school already. So why isn’t she?

I like to think that because she enjoys working with me so much, is well reimbursed for her efforts and enjoys a wide variety of opportunities, that there isn’t an offer good enough to entice her. In the meantime, I am providing her with an opportunity to learn her craft. That was an opportunity that I had too and it was invaluable in making me see that I could do… when I was ready, and that I had already had experience of dealing with the daily issues arising for Heads. (Not that we can ever predict what will happen next!) She is a living apprentice Headteacher.

Having worked alongside me, as the wind beneath my wings, for several years, she is fully conversant with the joys of my job because she shares them with me. She sees the huge improvements that we have made to the use of space in school. She takes pride in the teaching and learning standards that we have achieved. She enjoys the enhanced parental voice we have cultivated. She values the extended provisions we now offer. She appreciates the positive changes we have made to staff working practices. She revels in the successful direction that we have taken our Teaching School.

But….when she takes that next step, she knows that there will be no going back.

Whilst being the Head is so satisfying, she achieves the same satisfaction whilst also retaining her pleasure in spending time with children, staff and parents in a way that I can’t do as often anymore. Very occasionally, she can even teach! And I do miss the children.

She also recognises that we don’t yet know what our future holds for the Headship role. Previously, one of the barriers to Deputy Heads’ moving into Headship was the concern about a deficit in their knowledge of finance (Only a true concern if your school office isn’t running as efficiently as it should!). Now a barrier to applying for Headship will undoubtedly be the very real prospect that this role may mean being a CEO of multiple schools and what skillset this will require.

So how can I support her in readiness to step into the headship arena? Continue to inspire her by showing passion for the role and that the job satisfaction I derive from it is energising and sustaining despite the challenges we face. Equip her with the skills to handle the responsibilities of the role and to make the most of the opportunities she will receive for personal development by guiding her and coaching her in her decision making. Finally, supporting her to realise that in taking a leap of faith into headship she will have the scope and authority to influence a generation of young people by creating her own learning culture which inspires and excites learning and development.

I urge more Heads to give a true apprenticeship to the Heads of tomorrow so that the step seems less daunting when it happens!

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