Two years ago, shortly after being appointed as Head at Craigclowan but while still actually working in Dorset at Castle Court, I recall sitting chatting about the challenges ahead with my then Head, Richard, in his study. Feeling brave (and slightly cheeky), I asked Richard what exactly it was that he did as a Head. Although the question perhaps surprised Richard, it seemed to me a perfectly reasonable question. After a prolonged and profound silence he began to laugh and informed me that I would find out in time…
Yesterday, in between whizzing from teaching Religious Studies to Form 5 to a meeting with two Senior Managers from the General Teaching Council of Scotland, I reflected briefly upon that question and what I have discovered about the role of a Head in a busy prep school over the last two years. I know now that a Head’s job is frankly a rather barmy one. In any one week I will deal with pupils, of course, but also with prospective pupils, parents and prospective parents, current staff, former staff, former pupils, governors past and present and other members of the extended Craigclowan family. There are also relations to be maintained with other schools, particularly, but not exclusively, senior independent schools and of course, all of the various agencies that we deal with routinely such as the General Teaching Council of Scotland (GTCS), the Scottish Council of Independent Schools (SCIS), the Independent Association of Prep Schools (IAPS), Her Majesty’s Inspectorate (HMI), Education Scotland and Perth and Kinross Council to name but a few. But even this doesn’t begin to answer the question, this is just the transactional stuff.
Of course, I spend a good deal of my time on the above, it’s true, and my diary looks like a piece of cake some days and a merciless assault course on other days (and that despite the careful ministrations of a very clever and kind PA – thank you Jen)! I’ve discovered that if you’re not careful you can spend too much time in your study and not enough time out and about. I struggle to escape sometimes, though I confess that, having an adventurous spirit and a love of the outdoors, I’m a bit allergic to being stuck behind a desk.
The truth is that the job of a Head is not a job at all. It’s a vocation. What drives me, and I suspect the majority of the Heads that I’ve had the pleasure to work with and meet over the years, is not the transactional stuff mentioned above. It’s the physical and mental wellbeing and the intellectual and spiritual growth of all the pupils in our care that gets us out of bed every morning. It’s what draws us to the touchline on a Wednesday, to the playground at break time, to the art room during activities and to the hall when there is a performance. The joy and energy which is gained from spending time in the company of our talented and interesting pupils and staff can’t be found from behind a desk. In fact, it’s hard to imagine it can be found in many other walks of life.
I know now that my job is to create the right environment; one in which our pupils and staff can thrive and enjoy teaching and learning. It’s what I aim for. Sometimes this seems like a simple aim. At other times it can appear to be a ridiculously ambitious one. Some days the world spins perfectly on its axis and everything seems to be swept along in this joyful endeavour. On others, it can feel very much like trying to push water uphill. The real reward, of course, is in seeing our young people leave to head to their senior school ready to take on the world with confidence. That’s when you really know you’ve done your job as a Head.