Saturday, March 05, 2016

Book Review: Staying A Head

Below is the review of ViV Grant’s book ‘Staying A Head’ about overcoming the stresses of school leadership. The book identifies key strategies that school leaders must adopt if they are to rise successfully above the challenges of their roles and maintain their ability to lead and inspire others. This review appeared first in the February 2016 edition of ‘Governing Matters’ the NGA's membership magazine.
Staying a Head by Viv Grant

To be appointed as a headteacher the successful candidate will have gone through an often rigorous, gruelling process. Once appointed the pressures can be so immense that many heads question how it is possible to remain in post. How often do governors hear a headteacher talk about how lonely it can be at the top? One of today’s many challenges facing school governing bodies is how to ensure that their headteacher is properly supported. An even bigger challenge is exactly what can be done to help create an environment that encourages headteachers stay being headteachers.

Viv Grant’s excellent book ‘Staying A Head’ is a hands-on guide that offers many practical tips, ideas and strategies that governors would be wise to become familiar with. A former headteacher herself Viv has a sound understating of the demands placed on the current generation of school leaders. She writes with compassion, realism and authenticity. The book is easy to engage with and outlines some sensible suggestions as to how school leaders need to have greater ‘self-knowledge’, external advice and support and how coaching can provide this.

There are two chapters that governors may be particularly interested in reading. Chapter two looks at how to overcome the loneliness of being at the top of an organisiation and has a section that focuses on how some types of support can increase a leader’s sense of isolation. A governing body that is charactersised by low trust/high accountability relationships with senior leaders can lead to headteachers deriving little ownership or satisfaction from their role. Chapter eight looks at how to bring the best out of others and offers some sound advice in regard to how to devise a performance management system that harnesses the principles of effective coaching.

Governing bodies have an important challenge role in holding school leaders to account for outcomes for children. They also have a duty of care to the staff in the school, a duty that is all too often ill-defined and at times perfunctory and tokenistic. Grant’s new book can help governors gain an insight to the stresses faced by the modern headteacher but more importantly what can be done to help reduce them.

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