This much I know about…the madness of treating colleagues punitively

I have been a teacher for 26 years, a Headteacher for 11 years and, at the age of 50, this much I know about the madness of treating colleagues punitively.


Writing sharply takes time. There is no evidence-base supporting what follows, but someone clearly took a lot of time to write this piece for the Leeds NUT bulletin. And, as Gabriel Garcia Marquez once wrote, in fiction one single fact that is true gives legitimacy to the entire work:


Being humane is a leader’s strength, not a weakness. At Huntington we try to live by our core values: RESPECT; HONESTY; KINDNESS. I don’t always look after my colleagues as well as I might, but it’s not for want of trying; indeed, recent feedback has made me double my efforts to be kind. I take staff well-being seriously for two reasons – firstly, because I treat colleagues how I would want to be treated myself and secondly because, as I articulated some years ago, our students’ futures depend upon my colleagues being healthy, happy and trusted:

Headteachers need to trust their colleagues more than ever. Seneca said, “The first step towards making people trustworthy is to trust them.” In the climate of fear which this government has so brilliantly cultivated it is too easy to threaten staff in response to being threatened oneself. Headteachers have to do the opposite. At our school we deliver over 2,000 lessons each week; I cannot teach them all, so what I have to do is develop my colleagues in a safe school environment which allows them to thrive professionally and personally.

As Crosby, Stills and Nash once sang, Love the ones you’re with…

About johntomsett

Headteacher in York. All views are my own.
This entry was posted in School Leadership. Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to This much I know about…the madness of treating colleagues punitively

  1. Thanks, really helpful and timely thoughts

  2. pocottage says:

    Spot on, as always…

  3. Marie Horton says:

    Valuable advice for all leaders in all organisations. Being valued and thanked matters.

  4. Pingback: This much I know about…the madness of treating colleagues punitively | johntomsett | Good to Outstanding – Education Curation, Thoughts and opinions

  5. Tim Punter says:

    Great article, although I think Stephen Stills for song reference, rather than Crosby and Nash for the original.

  6. Deb Hepplestone says:

    Fully agree John and therefore as a profession are we encouraging the right people into school leadership? Is driven ambition valued over wisdom and empathy? Are we encouraging an ‘Apprentice’ style of leadership across the UK schools system? I fear so.

  7. Pingback: Rebloggable: 12th December 2014 | Teaching at the edge of chaos

  8. Mabel the librarian says:

    The flyer describes a head I worked for. He was new and stamped ( literally) his blind authority all over the lovely school I had worked in for 16 years. ALL teaching staff left. An unquestioning governing body took his word and jargon laden prophesies of doom to heart and accepted that ….’ It’s what happens when a new head comes.’ This man cheated his way through SATs and proceeded to assemble a squad of yes men. I learnt that parents don’t really care about staff if the head doesn’t! All staff found suitable employment elsewhere. Some support staff were driven away ………….when I saw one at xmas she looked like she had been on hunger strike!
    Even thinking about him makes me ill. That flyer isn’t shocking where he’s concerned….it doesn’t go far enough!

  9. Liz says:

    Five years ago I worked in a school which fitted the NUT newsletter description perfectly, predictably anyone who could find other employment did so, as rapidly as possible. I work in a supportive school now but the legacy of fear lives on in all of us who were victims.

  10. Andrew Wyntoun says:

    Disappointing to see Heads and other leaders not recognising the role the DfE and Ofsted regime has in creating poor culture. Letting them off the hook… sounds like a political play to me.

    Not really honest.

    The pressure on the system is huge. Too much. Ofsted pretending they are trying to help while causing the pressure is deeply hypocritical and should be exposed rather than covered up.

    • johntomsett says:

      I think it is honest. I think the pressure OFSTED and DfE put on HTs is huge, but I also think it is possible to choose to react to that pressure in certain ways. That’s all I am saying. I have reacted badly to that pressure in the past and then I learnt from it and now choose to act as I do, and it has taken a long time and we have had our ups and downs, but what we have done at Huntington has worked. But to say it has been easy to resist the pressure OFSTED and the DfE exert wd not be true.

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