Image of Will Mackintosh
Will Mackintosh
Secondary Headteacher, Ark John Keats Academy, Enfield.
Ambassador cohort
2011

Supporting headteachers should be a priority for the next government

Secondary headteacher Will Mackintosh says it’s essential for the government to commit to transforming the way that heads and potential heads are supported, as set out in the Teach First Manifesto.

A few months into my role as a secondary headteacher and I’m finding the role endlessly fascinating, challenging and with so many unexpected surprises. I love my job and am still learning so much every day.  

But I know many people who have the potential to be exceptional headteachers who have yet to – or never will – make the move into headship for a variety of reasons. That’s why it’s essential that the next government commits to widening support not just for existing headteachers, but also for those who have the potential to become one. 

The government needs to commit to improving the way we train and support headteachers

If we’re serious about making education fair in this country, the government needs to commit to improving the way we train and support headteachers, and this development must continue once heads are in post. We need to attract, develop and retain exceptional headteachers for schools across the UK. If we don’t address this, it will have a profoundly negative impact on our pupils.

Heads must wear many hats

Previous leadership in schools doesn’t prepare you for the many hats you must wear as a head. You’re a friend, confidante, colleague, counsellor, accountant and so much more. This is why it’s crucial that continual professional development and support for headteachers is part of the next government’s approach to great education. 

Evidence shows how headteachers are spending less and less on professional development and coaching and in 2017, one in ten secondary schools spent nothing at all on CPD. There are many courses to prepare you for headship. From my own experience, Teach First’s Headship NPQ was incredibly useful for my development before becoming a head – I met colleagues from schools across Europe and learnt about the many different approaches and challenges I‘d encounter.

Supporting headteachers

But now we need to ensure that all headteachers have on-going access to:  

  • Support networks to ask questions, test solutions, network and share best practice (the Heads Forward Network, a group of school leaders that all trained through Teach First, is a brilliant example) 
  • A leadership coach, based on their needs, who is there for the long-term, and can support them through the individual challenges of headship 

Headship is a role that carries a huge responsibility and has an enormous – and proven – impact on pupils. Today, new headteachers are taking on some of the most educationally-challenging schools in the country; schools that need to make the most progress and overcome the biggest hurdles to provide their pupils with a great education. 

By improving the support for headteachers throughout their career, we’ll see an impact on the quality of education for all pupils and embed a sustainable and long-term approach to developing and improving leadership in schools. Only then will every child have the tools they need to unlock and fulfil their potential. 

Will Mackintosh, a 2011 Teach First ambassador and secondary headteacher at Ark John Keats Academy in Enfield, North London tweets at @mackintosh_will 

You can share the Teach First Manifesto for Change with your local candidates in three easy steps, if you agree we need to do more to encourage teachers to go where the need is greatest. 

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