I am off to fresh woods and pastures new.

I am in my eighteenth and final year as a secondary school headteacher. In September, for the first time in over three decades, I will not be a member of school staff.

So, many people get to my position and attempt to articulate what they have learnt about leading schools. Why should I be any different? This is the fifth in a series of brief posts over the last few weeks of the school year, in which I explain a number of things I have learnt about headship.

As I hand over to Matt Smith, my successor, it seems that so much of the “stuff” I have done as headteacher has been a bit unnecessary/pointless.

There was “stuff” that I insisted as headteacher that we did which was unnecessary/pointless, but I did not have the courage (when I realised something was unnecessary/pointless [like Key Stage 3 sub-levels]) or the insight (when I did not realise something was unnecessary/pointless [like putting seven dictionaries in every teaching room thinking that would improve students’ literacy skills]) to stop doing unnecessary/pointless “stuff”.  

There was other “stuff” that was important and not unnecessary/pointless, but looking back I took way too long to do the important “stuff”; I could have cut corners and been no less effective.

I wish I had been clearer-minded from the outset. I could have saved myself and my colleagues a lot of time. This Venn diagram policy-implementation tool which I invented a few years ago is an aid to help prevent school leaders implementing policies which fill the life of a full-time classroom teacher with unnecessary/pointless “stuff”…

Before any policy decision is made, ask three simple questions:

1. Is this new policy primarily concerned with improving students’ progress?

2. Have we got compelling evidence of the effectiveness of this new policy?

3. Will this new policy add to the workload of full-time classroom teachers?

If your answers are YES; YES; NO, in that order, you should then consult with colleagues about implementing the policy, just to check it is not unnecessary/pointless. If the answer to question 3. is YES, then identify what you stop doing as a school if you want to pursue the implementation of the new policy.

I am sitting down with Matt tomorrow and he is bringing a list of my documents he would like electronically before I finish. It will probably be no more than 0.001% of the documents I have in my home folder; the other 99.999% will probably have been unnecessary/pointless…

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