Education Quandary: 'I want to apply for the headship of a school, but I am worried that I might not be able to stand up to government interference'

Hilary's advice

In asking this question, you have nailed one of the biggest problems facing heads today – and shown that you are exactly the sort of person who should be running a school.

Targets, inspections, circulars and directives are the bane of heads' lives, but assiduous box-tickers make terrible leaders. To be a good head, you need vision, authority, warmth and compassion. You need to be out and about, to know your staff and pupils, and to have a clear and constant picture of what you are trying to achieve.

New heads are often unsure how much of the official jungle they can hack aside to find room to breathe, but they can learn from older colleagues. I prescribe reading Turning Heads: Reflections on Leadership, an inspirational new publication from the National College for School Leadership (free online at http://www. NCSLTurningHeads.pdf) to see how great school leaders do it.

There's no blueprint. These heads, all winners of Teaching Awards, could not be more different, but all passionately believe in their pupils and are determined to do their best for them. None gives a fig for anything except those things that support their vision. I was asked to write one of the chapters of this book and spent the day with a man who believed his job was entirely about the development and wellbeing of all around him. His school got fantastic exam results, but chasing these, he said, was like trying to chase happiness: "They're something that comes along when you are pursuing something else altogether."

Readers' advice

You should be asking: do I have the stamina for 100-hour weeks? Will my marriage survive? Will I be good at taking all the blame everyone will throw at me? Do I want to leave the classroom? Once you're a head, pupils will not be in your life in the same way.

Parry Edwards, Devon

It isn't interference from outside that will be your problem, but the pupils on the inside. Most schools suffer from discipline problems, and if a head isn't strong enough to squash bad behaviour a school will not achieve anything. Today's youngsters have no respect for authority. They don't see any reason to do what they are told, and have no interest in doing their school work. Their rudeness is beyond belief. Most people have no idea how bad things are. These are what will keep me from going for a leadership post.

Gary Rimbauer, Croydon

Thirty-eight years ago, I faced the same dilemma. Even then, although schools were much simpler and there wasn't the same pressure as today, being a head seemed beyond me. I felt too inexperienced to take it on. What changed my mind was an inspector who believed I had what was needed, and he was a very great help to me in my early years. I believe if you found such a mentor, it would help you overcome your hesitations.

Laura Coulstone, Edinburgh

Next Week's Quandary

My three-year-old goes to a pre-school where the staff often walk around carrying mugs of tea or coffee. It seems to me particularly dangerous outside in the playground, where children could knock into someone holding a hot drink. My little girl is happy there and I am reluctant to make a fuss. Should I say something?

Send your replies, or any quandaries you would like to have addressed, to h.wilce@btinternet. com. Please include your postal address. Readers whose replies are printed will receive a Collins Paperback English Dictionary 5th Edition. Previous quandaries are online at where they can be searched by topic.

A model of a Neanderthal man on display at the National Museum of Prehistory in Dordogne, France
Richard Dawkins dedicated his book 'The Greatest Show on Earth' to Josh Timonen
newsThat's Richard Dawkins on babies with Down Syndrome
Arts and Entertainment
Eye of the beholder? 'Concrete lasagne' Preston bus station
architectureWhich monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Dinosaurs Unleashed at the Eden Project
Arts and Entertainment
Life and Style
This month marks the 20th anniversary of the first online sale
techDespite a host of other online auction sites and fierce competition from Amazon, eBay is still the most popular e-commerce site in the UK
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Network Manager - Oldham area - Up to £30,000

£26000 - £30000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Working with an exciting ...

Teacher of special needs required for Burton on Trent

£100 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Exciting Opportunity, Rand...

Behaviour Support Assistant

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Behaviour Support Worker Th...

Youth Worker / Teaching Assistant - Nottingham

£50 - £60 per day: Randstad Education Nottingham: Randstad Education are looki...

Day In a Page

Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home