The headteacher column with Steve Woodhouse

Headteacher Steve Woodhouse.
Headteacher Steve Woodhouse.

I’ve spent quite a bit of my time teaching over the past few weeks; it’s been refreshing to be back in the classroom with the children.

The headteacher’s role seems to have changed a great deal over the past few years and time spent with the youngsters is more and more precious.

Nobody knows their own class quite like the regular teacher.

Nobody knows their own class quite like the regular teacher.

My recent teaching time has been brought about by an unprecedented amount of illness.

Last week I had six teachers absent across the federation and that’s a significant number in my small schools.

My depleted staff have been fantastic though and have move around the schools to ‘fill the gaps’.

I’m lucky to have this flexibility which is partly brought about by being in the federation.

Covering someone else’s class brings with it both opportunities and challenges.

Nobody knows their own class quite like the regular teacher; it takes many weeks to create the warm, trusting relationships that blossom in the latter terms.

Teachers know which children excel in certain areas, they know how to question them, and they know how to get the very best from them.

They also know a great deal about their emotions and the aspects of school which they may find more challenging. Teaching is so much more than just the academic side.

Two of my schools are in what we call the ‘Ofsted Window’.

It means we are expecting a call from the government’s inspectors, or ‘dark destroyers’ as I like to call them. I must admit I felt somewhat uneasy last week, given that I had so many members of my team missing.

Don’t get me wrong, I still feel that I can teach effectively, but I wouldn’t have taught to the same high standard of my regular staff.

They all know their children so well; they know exactly what they need to be taught next.

An Ofsted inspector would have seen a very different school with key people absent, just like a sports team would perhaps perform differently with key players out injured.

I started to consider the difficulty many schools are having recruiting high quality teachers.

Many primary schools have supply teachers covering classes on a regular basis.

Even though many of them are well-trained professionals, it must still have an impact on consistency.

How can you build up a relationship when the adult in the class is different from one week to the next?

The same can be said for cover-supervisors in secondary schools: are they really a suitable replacement for qualified teachers?

The absences across the Federation have given some of my teachers the opportunity to move from school to school and work with age groups they perhaps haven’t yet had a chance to teach.

My three schools are very different and working with a variety of children supports the teachers’ professional development.

They share good practice and teach one another.

In the end, the dark destroyers didn’t call and I have had a very enjoyable time teaching more regularly.

I am very privileged to do the job that I do and being with the children always reminds me of that.