Creating Chaos (and Restoring Calm!)

I’ve been on a number of leadership courses during my time as headteacher. Every single one, without fail, has emphasised the important role that a headteacher plays in setting the culture and climate of a school.  I see it as vitally important that I maintain a sense of calm and purpose, no matter how frantically I am paddling underneath the surface.  This is particularly important when faced with an unexpected set of issues.  Especially when those issues are entirely of my own making!


When I looked at the diary for this week, I didn’t think that the biggest decisions I would make were in my new capacity as our Duke of Edinburgh Co-ordinator.  The DofE award is something I am really proud that we have introduced as a school and we have had a team of fantastic volunteers supporting this programme.  This year, a well-deserved external promotion, meant that our co-ordinator role was left vacant. Faced with the potential loss of the DofE programme I have agreed to lead the programme with the support of a number of colleagues who are also prepared to spend wet and windy weekends under canvas with a group of teenagers! 


When I led assembly with year 9 students last week, they were told their first initiative test was to find me for a letter about the parent information evening.  I had copied 30 letters, but by the end of break time that day I had handed out 85!  We only had places for 30, so I was beginning to get worried.  At the parent information evening this week, around 50 families turned up, all very keen for their children to be involved.  I thought we had a fool-proof system of enrolment the following morning, however, the families interested in DofE  demonstrated their cunning and resilience - reception have never taken so many cash envelopes before the online signing-in system opened.  With places running out we opened the online booking early, and sold out all spaces faster than Glastonbury!  At this point I was feeling very pleased with myself, however, this was to be short lived.  When I walked into reception after a morning meeting I was faced with a list of disgruntled families who had followed my instructions and found themselves without a place.  The messages were becoming increasingly emotional and increasingly concerned and I knew we had to act swiftly to restore calm.


Fortunately, my DofE team are amazing. A hastily organised meeting led to the decision that we didn’t want to turn away so many enthusiastic students – we have now enrolled 46 onto the programme and will be running our weekly club in the main hall rather than a classroom.  A flurry of apologetic phone calls broke the good news to disappointed families and helped to rapidly restore faith in the school amongst a number of unhappy parents.  We could have held our ground on the number of places, but I knew I had made mistakes in managing enrolment, and I knew I wanted to ensure that keen and dedicated families could access an opportunity they were enthusiastic about.  I am lucky to have such a supportive team of volunteers helping to run DofE and such a fantastic front office team prepared to take difficult messages and help with phone calls home.  I now need to work out how our limited budget can fund some more tents!

Mark Lewisblog