It’s crucial to get to know your SLT, as you need to establish good communication up and down the school structure in order to be effective at your job. You’ll want to make sure your team’s voice heard in meetings and when issues come up, but you will also need to relay the senior management vision and enrol your team.
Teacher Andrew Lewington says: “Try to see things from your team’s view and fight their corner (I have had a few heated discussions with SLT) but at the same time you sometimes have to win a team member to an idea that may not be popular.”
It’s also OK to observe for a while and ‘test the waters’ before you dive right in. As Teacher Katie Wilson says: “If you’re starting in a new school, watch, listen and learn. Don’t assume that something that worked in a previous context will work in a new one. Try to quickly work out who will be open to new ideas and how to approach those who might not be.”
When it comes to communicating new ideas or processes from the SLT to your team, it’s a good idea to start with the ‘why’. There’s a chance you’ll need to rally your team around new ideas they may not agree with. Be clear about why the SLT has made a decision, what they hope to achieve by it, and how this will help students. This will empower your team to offer their own perspective in a constructive way that focuses on the end goal. As Teacher Sarah Bourke says: “Communication is everything. Make sure all the team know what’s going on, the reasons for decisions and have contributed to decisions.”
If you need to, practice articulating this new idea before you have your team meeting with other HoDs, and give feedback on each others’ communication styles and approach.
Finally, set boundaries with senior leaders from the start and make sure your department’s wellbeing and effectiveness takes priority. “Don’t take on more than you can manage. If it is not essential to the running of the department then don’t do it. It’s not a development opportunity, it’s just SLT passing the buck (read getting another box ticked for them),” cautions Tony Crowther on Facebook.
Teacher Sue McEvoy echoes this: “Be true to yourself don’t be bullied by SLT. Seek support from the middle leadership team if necessary.”