366 days..the leap of leadership and jelly baby moments

On the first of March, I have been the principal of my new school for one year.

Moving from leadership in the voluntary grammar sector into the controlled sector has been a huge leap. I pride myself in the experience that I have acquired in leadership through a number of previous jobs but I don’t think anything could prepare you for the wealth of knowledge you need for the day-to-day running of a controlled primary school.

I am extremely passionate about leading teaching and learning. It is perhaps one of the luxuries my last job truly afforded me. I was a teaching Head of Preparatory. I loved my class. I love teaching but alas one year on I have not been a class teacher or really taught (apart from a random week I when I taught Year 5).

My leap from Teaching Head to Non-Teaching Head has been a roller coaster of a journey. I have developed (and I’m still developing!) my knowledge of all things financial. I have taken on a fundraiser role, where I constantly look for funding opportunities outside the Education Authority. I have become tighter and more thriftier with money. I probably could save the Department of Education millions if they understood how much extra these dudes on contracts really charge (£70 to remove a nail?). I have a wide range of systems – FMS and SIMs information stored in my mind. I can work the substitute teacher register with ease (yes..I’m lying about that, it is the worse time absorbing system ever!). I have become a human resource manager and developed admin skills that would rival a legal secretary. I have project managed a number of school enhancements and I now know what the word conduit is used by those who do not wish to think of clever idea to hide wires. I have read in churches, opened fairs and spoke at several community events. 

I could go on…But the biggest challenge for me this year was to keep my focus on relationships throughout the school.

As a leader, I like being on top of things but I have realised that I need to step back at times and slow down to focus on building good relationships within my school community. As frustrating as it can be, the other things sometimes have to wait. People are important.

On taking up the post I had to work hard to develop relationships with all stakeholders in the school community. I had to realise that in order to get my school on the right track, I had to start talking, start sharing and stop worrying about things that often are beyond my control.

In my school, I have made changes but 366 days on I have much to celebrate:

  • I have set out my values and vision for the school. All stakeholders are now aware of them and subscribe to them.
  • I have a talented, committed and hard-working teaching and non-teaching staff. The majority go above and beyond what is expected of them in order to help our pupils reach their potential.
  • I have a super secretary and caretaker who not only look after the school but they also look after me.
  • I have a Board of Governors who is supportive whilst being good critical friends. I feel trusted and enabled to do my job effectively.
  • I have parents who are starting to see that I am there to ensure that their child gets the best access to educational opportunities.
  • I have a growing school with young people who I really care about. I love how they bring me a slice of their birthday cake, how they see a trip to the office to share good work as a highlight and how my office is littered with drawings of me with bright yellow hair.
  • I have grown a network of colleagues who are the go to guys. Their experience and wisdom is worth its weight in gold.

Again this list could go on…but those relationships are really the greatest success I feel I have achieved this year.

For me leadership is a marathon type race. At certain points you hit your wall but looking at the positives and reflecting on the good things are like jelly baby moments that give you the energy to keep running through the pain the added extras.

The past 366 days have been a huge leap. I went through a range of emotions and ate lots of packets of jelly babies but I’m still running through the wall with plenty of people young and old to bounce ideas off.





Let’s give our pupils a voice..school campaign to stop the drill…

I’m not normally so clued into environmental issues butI would like to encourage all those schools with an Eco Club should support the Stop the Drill campaign at Woodburn, Carrickfergus. 
Woodburn is a beautiful forest with a huge reservoir that has spectacular views over Carrick and Belfast. It provides water for homes, schools and businesses in the greater Belfast and Carrickfergus area.   

Cutting a forest down, killing wildlife is not what I want to teach my kids. The water supply where I live and the school in which I am Principal could be polluted. 

I believe that oxygen and clean drinking water are fairly important to living so I am backing the stop the drill campaign and urge my fellow colleagues in schools to do the same. 

I believe children are the future… Teach them well.