Key differences between middle management and senior leadership​ – A different rhythm to the year

I’m writing this in the summer term which feels very different to two years ago. Two years ago, even though I had additional responsibilities to my middle management role my timetable had significantly reduced as my exam classes were on study leave – there was time to review schemes of work or update our resources, get to the jobs that had been on the list all year! As a middle leader the rhythm of the year is quite distinctive – the autumn term is full on with getting to know new classes, UCAS (if you’re involved with Sixth Form), events for new parents and the list goes on – you drag yourself towards Christmas desperately hoping for some time to sleep and that you won’t get a cold. The spring term will be focused on mocks and exam preparation, setting up revision materials and getting your students to maintain their drive and motivation. The summer term feels like a reward for all the hours and hours spent in and out of school over the past two terms. There is a predictable pattern to the year. This all changes in senior leadership – there aren’t the predictable patterns, no longer can you say ‘I’ll have a bit of time here’ or ‘that will be my lighter term’ because it doesn’t exist. In senior leadership you need to become accustomed to being busy throughout the whole year. If you opt for the academic route you’ll be running external and internal exams whilst also frantically finishing the timetable and setting up reports (as well as writing your own), preparing for next year’s calendar as well as (possibly) completing work scrutinies, continuing to oversee revision classes, learning walks…the list goes on. If you’re a pastoral leader, students (and parents) don’t understand that your summer term is supposed to be quieter – they will still demand your attention and you may be responsible for organising next year’s tutor groups or houses and maintaining behavioural standards – your time won’t be your own. I used to have time to examine during the summer term but decided to discontinue this when stepping into senior leadership, I wouldn’t have the chance (or head space) in the summer term to focus on marking as well as my new responsibilities and it was important to carve out time in the summer holiday for a complete rest – the new academic year now starts in August, as soon as results come out; from then on I am back to work.

Knowing this – it is vitally important that time is kept precious during the whole year. It might be that you keep certain holidays as sacred or certain times in the week. I have always had Tuesday nights as time to attend choir which has given me the chance to have an evening a week to maintain a hobby and retain some sanity! Different people will take breaks when it suits them, the key is to find what works for you but to remember that the pace of the year won’t let up so you need to pace yourself.

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