My brilliant SLT: Ready for action.

Sport - 2014 Commonwealth Games - Opening Ceremony
One mission. Everyone plays their part. (Image via EMPICS Sport)

In the two years since joining Highbury Grove, in common with any new Headteacher, one of my main priorities has been to build the leadership team.  This is partly to do with getting effective people on board and partly about getting them in the right places in a structure that serves the needs of the school.  However, mostly, it’s about establishing a shared sense of purpose, sound team ethics and effective working practices.  I’ve been in the fortunate position of inheriting a team with some superb leaders already in post and I’ve also had the opportunity to appoint several of the key post-holders myself.  This term, with various overlaps and temporary arrangements being phased out, we’re about to start the year with a full squad for the first time.  It feels like my team now, not someone else’s. The change to a new structure has had its painful aspects but, after just two years, we’ve built a great team; we’re ready to roll!

A central feature of our structure is the Head of School role, one for each Key Stage, replacing the previous Deputy Head roles.  They will be working closely with subject leaders and teachers to ensure we deliver on teaching, curriculum and assessment to a high standard within their division of the school.  I’ve appointed all three post-holders myself, one being an internal candidate, which has been brilliant; a real privilege.  There were strong fields for each post.  We’ve also established a year leadership structure with an Assistant Head driving standards in their year groups focusing on the progress of each student. Everyone in the team also has significant whole-school responsibilities.  Finally, we were able to appoint a superb new Business Manager who starts this week. She’s got a huge portfolio and it was wonderful to appoint someone with the experience and gravitas needed to take in on.

Here is a rough overview of our team responsibilities:


Screen Shot 2016-08-31 at 12.00.06
Indicative SLT Roles. My PA is also a key member of team. Although she’s not listed here, she attends all the meetings and is involved in everything that goes on. 

As with any strong team, we have a good blend of experience, expertise and specialist interests.  We all have sizeable teaching loads, we’re all heavily engaged in duty rotas and the on-call response team and we share the leadership of teaching and learning.  I’m keen for us all to dive ever deeper into the details of the curriculum in our teaching subjects and line management areas; it’s no use just having one of two people who drive teaching and learning; it’s a core function for all of us and needs to be as subject specific as possible.

We’ve established some good principles and practices that help us to function as a team and each year we revisit and reaffirm the core team ethics.  We can flag from time to time but as far as possible, with goose-like team spirit, we aim to stick to a few simple things:

  • Rotate the chair for every meeting, taking turns to keep ourselves on task, making sure people have their say and planning appropriate agendas with not too many items.
  • Start and finish meetings sharply on time, respecting each other’s time and family lives;
  • Walk the talk in our teaching and in behaviour management, supporting each other whenever needed – something, no doubt, we could do better still.  (We support each other enormously with the challenges the ‘frontline’ brings from time to time, on a personal and professional level; it’s a vital part of how we operate)
  • Manage the balance of challenge and support intelligently and sensitively; no-one on the staff should ever be told off but difficult conversations need to be had when necessary.
  • Use meetings wisely so key decisions and information are shared based on solid ground work and grafting that is done elsewhere.
  • We don’t ask for documents and reports we don’t really need or ask people to do things we wouldn’t do ourselves.
  • We aim for excellence in all things: communications, events, documents, the conduct of meetings – and all the details of school life.

Every term, we have an Associate Member of SLT on board; someone from the staff who takes part in all the meetings including the Chair rotation.  This year we’ll have the Heads of Humanities, English and Learning Support taking a term each.  It gives them a chance to contribute in a new way, adds to the range of voices around the table and helps us all to stay focused and relentlessly professional in all we say and do.

We have plenty of challenges ahead. We need to balance a healthy sense of ownership of specific areas with a sense of collective responsibility for everything that we do.  I want us to put all the ideas expressed in these posts into action:

Putting the OfSTED Framework to good use.

Schools should be more teacher-centred.

Too much data, too many meetings. Let’s stop talking and do something.

And, of course, we need to deliver on all of the exciting curriculum intiatives that are underway.

With my team assembled and ready to go, I’m very excited for the term ahead.  We all share a sense of purpose; we’re committed to the Highbury Grove mission and it feels like we’re about to make a giant leap forward.






  1. Lots of great stuff here, Tom – thanks for sharing. Really like the Associate member of the SLT idea. Helps others’ understanding of senior leadership which supports them in their current role and may encourage their future aspirations too. I think it also makes heads/senior leaders consider more carefully how they’re modelling the role to the next generation.

    Have a good term!


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