Teach First Achievement Partner Nicholas Harrison
Nicholas Harrison
Achievement Partner at Teach First

Supporting new headteachers isn’t a luxury - it’s invaluable

Teach First's additional support offer for new headteachers is led by Achievement Partners like Nic, who bring strong expertise to those who need it most.

Being a headteacher is one of the most important jobs in the world. But it’s also one of the most challenging – you'd need look no further than the last 18 months to see that in action. For new headteachers, finding time to develop is hard and it can be difficult to access both the support and training you need, but also the capacity to engage with it.

We’re excited to be delivering the Additional Support Offer for headteachers alongside the NPQ for Headship (NPQH) from November. This is a package of personalised one-to-one support for headteachers in their first two years of headship. Alongside the knowledge developed in the NPQH, new headteachers will be supported to consider how they implement that in their new schools, given the ‘headspace’ to step back from the busy, decision-heavy frontline.

This offer builds on what we learnt during a recent pilot, Headship First, for new headteachers. As an Achievement Partner (leadership coach) on this programme, I have worked with school leaders to provide an independent sounding board and guide to their issues and concerns. Through this experience, I’ve learned that the benefits of investing in leadership development and support are invaluable.

What we've learned about supporting headteachers

As Achievement Partners, we offer practical advice informed by our own lived experience as school leaders. We provide a programme of regular check-ins, where nothing is left off the table. With no links to their organisation, we understand the demands placed on headteachers – and it is this independent, understanding relationship which sits at the heart of our support. Through this, we’ve learned that:

  • headteachers tend to prioritise everyone apart from themselves, and very often leave their own development to the very end. Managing a whole school is a fundamental part of the role - but to be at their very best, a headteacher needs to check in with themselves too
  • headteachers' time is limited. Coaches need to use this small window of opportunity to focus on a head’s most pressing needs (whether strategic, operational, personal or sector driven). Our headteachers have fed back that investing and prioritising time in being coached has paid dividends back over time; taking time to step back, reflect and rebuild provides a model of self-improvement that has a positive impact on their role
  • headteachers need support that is adaptive – what is important today may not be as important tomorrow, as the ebb and flow of leading a school can change at any given moment. It is also helpful to have an objective role like mine who can help you focus back on your core priorities and goals
  • our connections across schools in our networks and clusters enables us to connect colleagues together, providing bespoke support, opportunity and training opportunities. Working in partnership with business and industry leaders provides further opportunity to adapt leadership models and practices to the needs of individuals.

Why is Teach First in a good position to support headteachers?

The work being undertaken with school leaders on our programmes provides them with both practical support and research-informed practice. This is backed by our vast range of expertise in both organisational and team and individual leadership.

Our Headship First programme in particular centred on developing and supporting new headteachers, which has given us a wealth of experience to draw from moving forward. As an Achievement Partner, I’ve been able to provide valuable coaching to those who lead in sometimes isolating circumstances, connect leaders together, share good practice across schools, and help leaders to work with international organisations such as Deloitte (who bring an additional perspective on organisational change and leadership).

Our other leadership programmes have helped put Teach First in an excellent position to support headteachers. The Leading Together programme continues to offer support and development opportunities to school leaders and their teams working in the most challenging schools, leading to stronger and more sustainable leadership teams. Combined with our suite of NPQ programmes and other leadership development opportunities, our vast range of experience at all levels contributes to our wider support culture and strategy. To this day, our network of developing and connecting leaders is growing.

Providing unique support to headteachers

Headship can be a huge challenge, with little opportunity to enjoy the successes and impact of a school improvement strategy. The challenges headteachers face are unique, and thus unique support is needed to meet these issues head on.

With this in mind, the most valuable support Teach First can provide headteachers on our programmes come in the form of Achievement Partners. They provide an independent, fresh perspective to allow headteachers to reflect, review and challenge their perspectives. Implementing this role into our support offering has proven to be successful approach to supporting leadership teams.

Another unique support offering from Teach First is access to our headteacher-oriented networks. Our leadership programmes have a continuously developing community of school leaders, who share shared challenges, visions and aspirations.

The value of this collaboration can be seen across our programmes. There are no easy solutions to the ongoing problems headteachers face regarding limited time and resources - but with access to a community, school leaders are better able to prioritise their needs, access support and connect back to the power of reflection – something heavily advocated in early career development but that fades as priorities increase.

Carrying Teach First’s support model into future programmes

Supporting new headteachers has never been more important, especially as schools emerge from the pandemic and enter uncharted territory.

Our NPQH Additional Support Offer will be led by Achievement Partners and will build on this support we’ve developed through Headship First. Having access to a colleague who brings with them a suite of expertise, opportunities, connections, proven strategies, and who does not underestimate what it’s like to be in a highly challenging leadership role is an invaluable benefit.

Whether, remote or in person, being supported is instrumental to achieve the challenges and achievements of being a school leader. 

Become a headteacher on our NPQH programme

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