Should what a leader stands for matter more than what the leader does ?
I wrote this tweet a few weeks ago. So often in headship we go through difficult times and I am a deeply committed and morally driven person. I always try to do the right thing. I have to do what I feel is right, even when doing the right thing is the hardest thing to do. Even when I want to run.
We invoked redundancy procedures at my school this week. I will not go in to any details because it is too raw and too now… but I do need to explore my feelings about this. I have kept a detailed dairy of the week. Much I cannot publish but some of it gives a sense of just how hard the role of headteacher can be.
Woke up feeling really uneasy. It felt like a bad hangover minus the night before. My Assembly on glass half full/ half empty is rushed and I am irritable throughout (ironic really) but I didn’t have the time nor heart to change it. It has Sponge Bob Square Pants ‘Monday Song’ in it about loving Monday’s… I Don’t like Monday’s… Never have I hated Monday more.
Some wonderful people who I know that I may have to tell awful news to the next day are nice to me in the corridor. It takes every ouch of composure to meet their gaze and, ‘Morning’ them back.
An evening Governors meeting where the decision has to be finalised goes like a flash. No one wants to do this – but the finances are clear. This years budget is impossible to balance without taking the hardest steps. I feel so angry that with everything else the government is getting away with this. The greatest lie being the way the grant used to attract schools to become Academies has been cut by hundred’s of thousands. The increase in National Insurance being so huge that it would cost a teacher just to meet it this year… I am angry but I have other things I have to do. I did not create this mess but I have to make sure we come through it.
I come in early…
On my desk are the letters, a massive pile of them. I read the letters and hate myself a little more. I sign each letter. This feels like the point of no return. I put Spotify on random and bloody Leonard Cohen comes on… ‘So Long Marianne’ with the lines:
“Then why do I feel alone… I am standing on a ledge, and your fine spider web is shackling my ankles to a stone…”
“I’m cold as a new razor blade…”
Nothing like LC to help you wallow in your own self pity. I feel sick. This is not about me and I have to do what I have been asked to do. All this because of money… In it together – How dare you!
The minutes drag – never has time gone so slowly in a school. Usually I get in and before I know it, it is home time… Not today. My eyes hurt and my head hurts.
I do the deed. I try to commutate with everyone. The momentum is unstoppable.
I tell all the teachers what has happened… again I hold my emotions together but inside I am burning up. If only there was a song about hating Tuesday?
Later that awful day a teacher pats me on the back as we pass… I almost cry.
I go home and hug my daughter for what seems like an eternity. She hugs me back and asks no questions. She just hugs me back…
People are angry with me. Parents are angry with me. Teachers are angry with me. I explain the situation to them and they understand… but they are still angry. The problem is this is about people (kind, thoughtful and caring people) and sending out too much information is difficult. I write a letter to parents before more come in to speak to me… but it does not (cannot at this stage) have enough information in it. The rest of the day is a blur…
The next two days are the worst… Keeping to normality in this is impossible.
In all of this though I have had wonderful people keeping in contact and offering help and support. People who know me and know that I don’t want to hurt anyone – but I am a committed and responsible school leader…I have never shirked my responsibility. Caring emails, parents at the gates, strangers offering telephone support (Thank you @vicgoddard – he really is a wonderful person!)… @lifeisnotaline gave me some great advice and I suddenly realised I was not alone. I did a twitter poll and out of 368 replies, 29% of schools were invoking redundancies at their school, (That’s over 100. On a national scale that is unbelievable! Shocking. Many people DM’d me to say – not this year but dreading next year). I had heard some real horror stories – 20 staff, teachers and heads leaving… And all this on top of a teacher recruitment crisis, the testing lunacy and FORCED academies, (I agree with choice but forced? Forced… No one wants to be forced to do anything. Forced marriages, forced labour, forced laughter… None of these inspire you to go off and create an ethos of real and genuine success. I imagine that it’s very unlikely that Piers said to Boris, “You know what, old chap, I am going to use some force right now to make you do what I want and you are bloody well going to just take it”)
This is a terrible thing I have to do…
We are all capable of terrible things, our smug faces as we impeach, jail, condemn, laugh at, troll, shame and drag the tattered remains of the sinners through the stained sheets of their wrongs… But, sometimes we have to stand tall and face the music knowing that people will trust that if there is a better way, you would take it. Even when NOBODY deserves this. No one has done anything wrong. That is why this is so hard.
It seems that when we look back at this era we can say that we did not improve the education system but we did create an education legacy of…
Reduce! Reduce! Reduce!
April 24, 2016 at 5:24 pm
I really don’t think the ‘general public’ have any idea how much money has been cut from budgets. Thank you for writing such an honest blog, it helps us all.
April 24, 2016 at 5:28 pm
Thank you… It is just so hard for others to understand. We are not used to this in schools.
April 24, 2016 at 5:29 pm
I’m so sorry that you and your school are going through this. It’s happening in mine, too. I am not the Head, but I have felt very sorry for our Head as well as the staff who are being made redundant (mostly support staff, but I am a PPA teacher and I have lost hours), as I know it is not the fault of anyone in the school. And the worst thing is that the government continues to lie about schools’ funding being protected…
April 24, 2016 at 5:33 pm
Absolutely… This lie is totally wrong. I can show them the DIRECT CUTS in really simple figures. We have not lost pupils but we have lost Tens of thousands and the increased costs are another knife blow…
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April 24, 2016 at 5:44 pm
Thank you for writing what I’ve been feeling all week. 11 redundancies at my school. All wonderful people and yet they have a right to be angry. Where does that anger get channelled? It has to be at us because we are the ones delivering such terrible news. I’ve felt like an emotional punchbag this week. Most I’ve cried in my 18 months of headship – thank god for the blind on my door window!! Stay strong. We have to remain brave and hold true in these difficult times. Thinking of you over the rest of this term.
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April 24, 2016 at 5:45 pm
I will spare so time to think of you and your staff going through this too. Thank you.