The challenges and rewards of headship

In the May issue of Independent Schools Magazine, some recently appointed heads talk about the most rewarding aspects of the post, and what have been the greatest challenges. HMC heads Steffan Griffiths, Norwich School, Simon Henderson, Bradfield College, Leo Winkley, St. Peter’s School, York and Sarah Kerr-Dineen, Forest School are featured.

Steffan Griffiths, Norwich School:

I feel fortunate to have been mentored at Magdalen College School by Andrew Halls then Tim Hands, two different but excellent headmasters who ensured that I got a broad grounding in the varied aspects of running a school. If you hold that teaching is a vocation, and I do so passionately, the chance to be active in the shaping of young lives is a rare privilege. Headship for me is an extension of that opportunity: you are able over time to influence a whole institution’s way of setting about the education of those in its care. I can think of nothing I would rather be doing.

Simon Henderson, Bradfield College: 

I became a Head because, in a rather self-congratulatory way, I wanted to make a difference to young people’s lives. I have always felt that having the opportunity to educate other people’s children is a rare privilege that brings with it a huge responsibility and it is a responsibility that I have always taken extremely seriously. I have always wanted young people to see themselves as being at the centre of an education done with them and for them, not done to them by their teachers and their parents. As a Head I have a degree of influence over this and it is a wonderful privilege.

Leo Winkley, St. Peter’s School, York:

Good heads take staff development really seriously. They want their deputies to grow towards headship; as well as the more mundane work, heads must make sure that they give their deputies real opportunities to lead, to make decisions, to do some of the fun stuff.

Sarah Kerr-Dineen, Forest School:

It felt like the logical progression of what I had sought to do since starting teaching, in that it would give me the opportunity to make a greater difference to a greater number of children. I had also reached the point where I wanted the buck to stop with me. All of which may sound implausibly idealistic. Yet my experience of headship so far has been more rewarding than I could have hoped and, oddly, has felt familiar. There are hard parts and low moments, things you wish you didn’t have to do, but that’s not peculiar to headship. There are times when it is lonely, but that’s what friends and family are for. You have to rely on achieving success for your pupils through the work of others, but that’s the way it is. Overall, though, it is exhilarating to be able to establish a vision of what the school seeks to achieve with and for its pupils and parents, and to work as part of a team to instil that into everything a school does – not just in a class, not just in a boarding house, not just in one part of the school’s operations. Exhilarating, and a privilege.

Click here to read the article © Independent Schools Magazine (see p5)