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 ‘My  rst 100 days as a Head’
What is it like to become a Headteacher for the  rst time? Gareth Pearson, new Head of Christ College, Brecon, re ects on the challenges he has faced after starting in his new position this term.
  I’ve now reached my 100th day in of ce. How have
I found it? My  rst observation is that it feels very
different from Deputy Headship, perhaps best summarised as ‘less to do, but more to worry about’. Sticking to this theme, here are a few points which dominated my thinking during my  rst 100 days in the seat:
1. An upgrade please, more mental ‘bandwidth’ needed!
Deputies juggle lots of different tasks and priorities. It is often frenetic and at times gritty. You need to be a well-seasoned multi- tasker, good at managing people, many who are invariably grumpy about something. You are the fast response unit, here to sort things out, someone to vent at.
The  rst few weeks of headship were not like that and, if honest, it felt quite unsettling. ‘What should
I actually be doing?’ is a question I found myself worrying about in the  rst few days. But what replaced the manic existence of deputy headship was the slow but unrelenting gobbling up of what might be described as mental bandwidth.
You notice the increased breadth of problems that now fall under your remit to worry about. Although you no longer do much of the actual running of the school, you are
just as aware of all of the issues.
It still takes up about the same amount of bandwidth, but this has become less than half the story. Now you  nd yourself thinking
a lot more about pupil numbers,  nance, fundraising, the governors,
6 Independent Schools Magazine
the ever-changing educational market, marketing opportunities, international agents etc.
The mental bandwidth I now
need to cope with the breadth of challenges has increased massively, and I have found myself having to work hard to adjust my thinking.
I do less, but, boy, my thinking is
far broader, deeper and projected
far further into the future than it ever was before. To stick with the computing analogy: I feel like I need an upgrade!
2. Unlearning is just as important as learning
I knew I was going to have to learn new skills, as you do in any new role. And I have. Equally, however, I have been struck by what great preparation for Headship my 5 years as a deputy were. I feel well- prepared for this role, mainly thanks to my experiences as a deputy,
far less, if I’m honest, by most of my previous teaching experience. Deputy headship is an essential apprenticeship in my view.
I hope I was a good deputy head.
I strived to be hard-working
and proactive. I got stuff done. However, I soon realised that the way I approached my job as a deputy might make me an irritating Head to work for, so there were many work habits I needed to unlearn, and quickly!
Typically, when a problem lands in my inbox, my Deputy Head instincts kick in. I look to own the problem andto ndawaytogetitsorted.I am currently working hard to retrain away from this approach, which would merely rob or undermine
the person best placed to  x the
problem. Now, when a problem comes in, I try to think differently: who is best placed to lead on this? Who else needs to know about this? What resources might they need to get the job done?
A person far wiser than me once said: ‘As a Head, only ever do what only you should do’. By following this advice, I make sure that I focus on the right work for the right reasons at the right time.
3. Balancing attention, time and thinking
I have an ever-evolving pie-chart
in my head with each segment re ecting how much of my time and thinking is being spent on
core aspects of my role. I have
split it into  ve main categories; the school (what works, what does not), marketing (number of pupils, spotting new opportunities and changes in the market), parents and pupils (are they happy?), the future (where should the school go next?) and key projects (for Christ College, the opening of a sister school in Malaysia).
This pie-chart shifts dramatically day to day. At the moment, the actual running of the school averages out around a  fth of my thinking. I am still  nding this unsettling and unnerving. I want to try and  nd a way to focus on all of it at once, like a  oodlight perhaps, rather than a lighthouse spinning around focusing hard on one thing then sweeping on to the next. De nitely a work in progress!
4. Seeing through people’s
Relationships between people occupy a lot of my thinking –
reading body language, trying
to gain a sense of the feeling amongst pupils, the staff, parents and governors. I have always been fascinated by people and I am acutely aware of the complexity of human emotions, the politics and group dynamics that further muddy the water. The higher up the ladder you go, the less it is likely people tell you what they really think.
They may hint or gently intimate, but rarely tell you straight. I have tuned my emotional antenna to full volume to try and get a sense of where people truly are.
5. Exploring new
Finally, I am painfully aware that people are waiting, patiently so
far, to work out which direction
I plan to turn the ship. I think about this almost constantly, at least that is how it feels. Clearly, this will need to be done with a lot of consultation but ultimately, I will be the one to pull the tiller one way or the other, and depending on the  nal destination, the success of
my Headship will be judged upon these decisions. Am I daunted by this? Yes, a little, but I really enjoy this big picture thinking. Where does the school need to be  ve, ten years from now? What might the educational landscape look like? What will the needs of the workforce be? One of the best things about Headship is the ability to break free from the day to day minutiae and look much further over the horizon in order to plan the best possible course which will enable our pupils to thrive.
Am I enjoying it? Thoroughly!

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