Some thoughts on turning around tough schools

Filling the pail

Near the end of December, 2000, I was sat in the staffroom listening to my head of department speak. After he had finished his introduction, he invited me up to the front where he produced a flak jacket which he insisted I wear before handing me a plank of wood with a large nail driven through it. I would need these at my new school, he explained.

I was moving to a school with a bad reputation in order to take up the post of second in science. I wanted to make a difference – I think we all do – but some colleagues had strongly counselled me against the move, suggesting that it was a bridge too far.

A term after I joined my new school, at the age of 25, I found myself head of science following the departure of the previous one. I had to manage a…

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