Senior leaders need to look after themselves as well as teachers, union head says

Ways must be found to reduce the workload on teachers and leaders, a union leader will urge

Headteachers should not push themselves to work too hard, a union leader will warn today.

Strong, healthy leaders are needed if school standards are to continue to rise, and senior school staff should not feel it is selfish to take care of themselves, according to Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

In his speech to delegates at the union’s annual conference in Birmingham today, he will say: “Our own wellbeing feeds the wellbeing of the organisations we lead. If the leadership team is exhausted or failing then so will the school be. You need to look after your leadership team and most of all you need to look after yourselves,” he will say.

“That isn’t being selfish. We need strong, healthy, confident leaders if we are going to continue to raise standards in our schools and colleges.”

Mr Trobe also argues that as pressure on teachers increases, headteachers need to ensure that their staff have a decent work-life balance to help them to stay in the profession.

“Teachers have always worked long hours. It comes from the passion and moral purpose that drives them – that drives us – to make a difference to the lives of children,” he says.

“However, we know that the current high-stakes regime of increasingly tough targets and inspections is putting greater pressure on schools, and therefore on the individuals who work in them. In addition, the implementation of a new curriculum and new assessment models, preparing students for new types of exams, is sitting squarely on the shoulders of teachers.

“As expectations and demands increase, the pressure it creates for senior leaders understandably cascades down to other staff.

“The government has a role to play in making sure that teachers’ workload is sustainable, but so do we as senior leaders. One of the key things we can do to retain teachers in the profession is to ensure that they have a manageable work-life balance.”

In her speech to the conference today, education secretary Nicky Morgan is expected to say that more needs to be done to end the “demography of destiny” that means children in some parts of the country do not receive as good an education as those in other areas.

The government will focus more on areas of under-performance in coastal towns, she will say, urging school leaders to work with ministers to raise standards.

“I don’t need to tell you that too many of those struggling schools are concentrated in certain parts of the country – many in our coastal towns and rural areas,” Ms Morgan will say.

“Simply hoping for improvement isn’t enough, because these areas are not only underperforming, but they also lack the capacity and support that they need to improve.

“Quite simply that means – just by virtue of being born in one part of the country, a child is destined to receive a worse start in life. Delivering educational excellence everywhere means ending the scandalous demography of destiny which has no place in 21st-century Britain.”

To make this vision a reality, Ms Morgan will set out why the government is putting power and responsibility in the hands of those who are best placed to deliver it – outstanding school leaders.

The ASCL conference started yesterday with speeches from Ofsted chief inspector Sir Michael Wilshaw and from the union’s president Allan Foulds.

On the English Baccalaureate, Mr Foulds said: “I have to say that there is a big contradiction between the principle of a self-improving system, which entrusts leaders to lead, and the government’s target for the EBac, which seeks to over prescribe exactly what we should teach. Learning core subjects is vital for young people.”

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