Lessons from The Best Job in the World

Vic Goddard wrote The Best Job in the World as a celebration of being a headteacher. The whole book is a great read. However, my intention here is to summarise some of the key lessons an aspiring headteacher might glean from the book so I’ve left out most of the parts about his involvement in the television show, Educating Essex, even though these are still really interesting in terms of narrative.

One of the key lessons for headteachers from Dame Sally Coates’ Headstrong was to be authentic. Goddard’s authenticity certainly shines through from the first chapter and from every single page afterwards.

Lesson 1:

It’s hugely humbling and should be seen as a great honour for a parent to say they are willing for you to educate their child and support in bringing them up. Never treat this lightly.

Lesson 2:

Develop a roll your sleeves up attitude and give due respect and recognition for other people’s hard work.

Lesson 3:

Celebrate students’ successes. Goddard writes about putting pictures up around the school of any student who has represented the school with their house colours.

Lesson 4:

Workload, isolation, self-image and being the one who is ultimately responsible for the quality of the students’ education are all concerns people have about becoming headteacher, but the benefits outweigh these concerns.

Lesson 5:

Government accountability is important and needs to be balanced with the primary function of the headteacher which is to do what’s right for the young people you serve.

Lesson 6:

Embrace self-doubt in a way which makes you more thorough and build a team around you to complement your skills set so that gaps don’t become faults.

Lesson 7:

Get your relationship with your governors right, including how you share information with them, verbally and on paper.

Lesson 8:

Develop and nurture Goddard’s five P’s:

  • Personality – be authentic.
  • Passion – find what drives you to start something and carry it all the way through to completion and find a way to share this and communicate it with others so that they feel the same way
  • Purpose – define your goals and aims and how you will share these with others in a way which will make them want to buy in to the same thing.
  • Perseverance – keep persevering through good times and bad and find ways to build perseverance in others.
  • Pride – Build towards being humbly proud of your students and your team. Aim for students and the community being proud of their school.

Lesson 9: The Gordon Ramsay Model of School Improvement

Work on:

  • Curriculum – both the model and the delivery
  • Staffing – getting people in, moving people on and moving people up through coaching, CPD and promotion
  • Needs of the students and the community – build student leaders, but also engage with parents (both those who’ve chosen your school and those who haven’t) and local businesses
  • Environment – everything from toilets to classrooms to sports pitches
  • Ethos – get your expectations of behaviour right first with an effective centralised system of sanctions and rewards so that teachers can teach and raise expectations around achievement. Build pride through ensuring uniform is right and successes are celebrated. Build a sense of community through student leadership, vertical tutor groups and a house system with competitions. Support students to achieve, no matter what their backgrounds or barriers to learning.

Lesson 10: Vision

The Passmores’ vision is in six parts, each with a separate related image:

  1. An air traffic control tower symbolising no room for error.
  2. A railway track symbolising a journey to a destination.
  3. Many hands on top of each other symbolising working together determinedly.
  4. Scrabble tiles spelling success and determination.
  5. An image representing exclusions being a final resort and failure on the part of school and the young person involved.
  6. An image of a satsuma peel shaped like a person carrying themselves, showing when things go wrong you have to pick yourself up and try again.

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