Posts by Kristian Still

Making the leap (part 2)

Managing the lead-in period

Chapter 3 presented more experiential problems and gave me cause to reflect. I think I would have liked more references to the six case studies from Jill’s PhD, though recognise that is a personal reflection. The examples, when presented, for me at least, were reassuring. I think that the lesson here is that I would have liked greater reassurance.

The metaphor explore schools as ships made sense to me.

The lead-in period (decisions made or possibly not made), appears to be a vulnerable period or transition. I’m hearing the same message from the experiences and new heads. Even experienced headteacher-bloggers reflect and support the challenge of transition period. Even the US president elect, Donald Trump, is in a similar position with Obama’s Russian relations.

The idea of sabbaticals, I think is very powerful and sensible (p90). I would like to read more about such experiences. What I took from the chapter was awareness of my own naivety. Appointment discussions would benefit from negotiations on how the new school could benefit and your current school to be compensated for your time and expertise – something I will consider for the future after reading page 93.

As for the skills needed in making the move; governance, boarding, early years, marketing and admissions, capital buildings projects, safeguarding and child protection, most certainly. I would add HR as the final area.

I think most senior leaders are aware that there are no off-the-record conversations. I do feel it was right for Jill to highlight that, as head, “you are constantly being watched and evaluated” and that sometimes what you say will be “misinterpreted, repeated inaccurately or distort what you say.” To that end, I have taken up the positive that headteachers are responsible for both what is said and what is understood

P100 – as for wanting to make a difference, stamp your vision on the school. I would take heed of Jill’s advice and be aware of the dangers of summit fever. Andy Hargreaves also warns of fast change.

P103 – the feelings of being “yesterday’s man” was very interesting. As yet I’ve not read about when best to notify your current school and colleagues of your success, as potentially to limit the impact of being yesterday’s man.

P111 – Don’t forget you will walk on the bridge as you build it.

In conclusion, I felt a little uneasy offering feedback. Sometimes my reflection read as criticism. Far from it. In reality it has been a very reassuring to read. It has made me think about the need for experienced leaders to reveal or signpost transition pitfalls. Is there room for another two studies, teacher to ML and ML to SLT?

Making the leap (part 1)

Are you considering making the leap? Maybe you’re applying for headship roles, or have already secured one and are wondering how best to manage the transition.

The blurb for Dr Jill Berry’s leadership transition book “Making the Leap – Moving from Deputy to Head.

Edging towards the final pages, I can attest that the first Amazon review could have so easily have been my own words.

I loved reading this book. Having met Jill and seen her speak, watched the work that she does promoting people-centred leadership on social media and hearing of the great consultancy work that she has done with senior leaders, I was desperate to get my hands on a copy. Whenever you anticipate the work of someone you admire and respect there’s always a little trepidation, you don’t want to be disappointed. Right from the first page I was inspired, reading Making the Leap is like a conversation with Jill. It is thoughtful, reassuring and always makes you consider your own position in our own bubbles and our impact on the larger world of education. Kelly Leonard

I needed little encouragement to ordered a copy of Jill’s book for my winter break reading. I recorded and tentatively shared my reflections with Jill. I thought that I’d summarise my textual highlights, intertwined with personal reflections of my first term as headteacher, thankfully Jill tolerated me was encouraging.


Chapter 1 offered a gentle opening with plenty of reasons to share the book with other senior leaders and colleagues seeking or having recently secured a headteacher role. I can see this book becoming the gift headteachers give their aspiring deputies.

It has been a hugely challenging first two terms in my new role for various reasons. In reflection, the metaphor on p13, “building a bridge as you walk on it,” really has felt like that at times. On the positive side, I’ve got plenty of bridge building materials – going into the second term I may be more restrained and shall survey the other side of the ravine.

Jill’s DM to the first chapter feedback was typically unselfish.

Think about all the learning that has come from the unexpected challenges you’ve faced. And the opportunities to build your resilience. Reflect on anything you wish you’d done differently, what you’ve learnt from that and how that has helped you to hone your leadership skills? Jill Berry

I took great solace in reading the final page.

Aspiring heads need to have sufficient self-belief to recognise that much of being a head they will learn from the experience of being a head. p13

After one term, I had to admit to Jill that I had learnt a lot, and regrettably, perhaps more than I would have hoped.

References to Jill’s personal experiences left me “a little disappointed.” Disappointed in that [Jill] you had a lot of support in your current school and new school. References to Jill’s PhD summary was interesting. One can’t help but think that the move into headship is so very variable, if not unique.

Lots to take heart from up to p19-31. There is a growing sense in my thinking that the DHT to HT move has the most potential energy for both good and bad. Making the leap, onto the a leadership team, not too far behind, though less volatile and somewhat protected.

Applying for headship

A chapter of sound and sensible advice.

P43 Vision – In the new system era, groups of school or MATs, influencing vision is not really available, change is more challenging and movement restrictive. The larger the size of the cluster the more umph required to make any change.

P48-60 I found very useful. No doubt almost ever new headteacher has had to manage the relationship with the incumbent and with “senior staff” as outlined in your book. However, I did report that in the changing landscape of education, I am aware of more than a handful of new headteachers taking on “vacant” roles. A situation that was not presented in the PhD research group or Jill’s own experience. Sadly, I think it is not an uncommon as it once was.

P70-71 DORSET CC application actually shared a desired response structure to job roles. STAR – state the situation, the tasks and actions undertaken and then the results. In my Headteacher practice / governor preparation sessions – my structured STAR responses assured the governor panel. For what it is worth.

Lastly – on preparations. There are plenty of services to showcase the schools exam / accountability. I think that’s important to know the school. Is the school on the up, plateauing or a downward trend?

P74 with regards to presentation, finishing short of time permits you to call time for questions, or gives the opportunity to extend an answer. Being cut off for over running is a cardinal sin and equates to poor personal organisation.

It would be interesting to know how many interviews headteacher undertook in order to secure an appointment.

I then took a break from the book over Christmas, picking it up again after the festivities.

Part 2 to follow.

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Positive intent and negtive consequences

If I am successful as a school leader, what would be different about the school in which I lead? If I have been succeedful at influencing others, what would be different about them?

In taking time to really consider the above question from the previous post, I wanted to spend more time exploring the disconnect positive intent and negtive consequences. I will offer two scenarios to illustrate what I mean. Helping to process a task or making additional resource available to successfully complete that task, is then interpreted as “a lack of trust” or feeling undermined. Leading and steering meetings with the intent of demostrating strong leadership is then interpreted as marginalised or devalued.

Here is what I concluded. My leadership would benefit if I resisted the temptation to provide immediate responses / suggestions. Experience often encourages a swift reponse, at the expense the other participant(s). This is not only unhealthy but limiting. It is my aim to be more curious about the perspective of others and to develop a few deleving questions.

  1. Interesting, tell me more about that…
  2. What’s do the next steps look like?

In order to show more trust I have reverted back to using RACI, helping me to keep clear boundaries. I have added three questions to further define professional responsibility.

  • ‘What do you need to do to move forward?’ (Their responsibility.)
  • ‘What do you need from me to move forward?’ (Shared ownership and responsibility.)
  • ‘What do I need to do to move forward?’ (My responsibilty.)

Ending the conversation with “Have you got everything you need from this conversation / meeting.” Remembering that at the end of the conversation, I remain responsible for 200% of the communication. What is said and what is understood.

And yet, I will need to find ways to challenge situations or intentions that a) are worthwhile, though distract or sit outside the school improvement plan and b) seem to be incomplete. Rather than referencing my own experiences (which may well leave others ____________) I have been contemplating whether a similar curiousity could be utilised.

  • “I can not put my finger on it right now. I’m wondering about… ?”
  • “Can we get another opinion of that…”

Of course, a final option is to offer clear, evidenced, time-efficient, “stop-go” feedback. Stopping or affirming the next steps, slow is not always an affordable luxury.

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How do you know?

Two terms into my current role as headteacher I have been given plenty to reflect upon.

If I am successful as a school leader, what would be different about the school in which I lead? If I have been succeedful at influencing others, what would be different about them?

These are the questions I will be assigning my thinking time and thoughts to.

How will I know?

As important as what I know, is how I know it. I wonder how more seasoned head teachers “take the temperature?”

I have access to a Trustee Board. The lead Trustee meets with all the staff termly and I must ask for a summative review of those conversations.

Our Trustee recently surveyed parents’ views.  I need to take stock and possibly respond the the sumative feedback. In addition, the parents at our school are becoming more confident in airing their views (a positive indicator).

Our Regional Principal offers his viewpoint from termly visits.

I visited another local campus recently and that offer an important comparison.

Weekly – I have meetings with individual senior staff, as a senior team, and with our administration staff. I walk the school, visit classrooms and talk with staff and students almost daily. We are a small site.

We now have a Trust-wide structured Personal Professional Review cycle.I have seen a signficant number of our staff teacher and held professional conversations. I have also meet weekly with our NQTs.

As a school we have started to collect data / information on a range of key indicators; attainment, progress, attendance, behaviour referrals and rewards. Tracking these markers over time will offer insight.

Lastly, I am maintaining the School Improvement Plan termly.

Information is not in short supply. Thinking time remains a precious resource.

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