Name: Keziah Featherstone
Region: South West
Years Served in Education: 22yrs
Years Served as a Headteacher: 3yrs
English teacher to LA Advanced Skills Teacher to Head of Department to Assistant Headteacher for Post-16 and Teaching & Learning to Deputy Headteacher and Vice Principal to Associate Headteacher to Head.
Those fantastic leaders I have worked with – and also the rubbish ones who made me want to do it better.
Twitter Handle: @BLC_Head
Blog: Keziah’s blog
Why did you become a Headteacher?
I became a headteacher by default. I put it off as long as I could because I have always felt on the outside of structures and was more comfortable there. I did not want to be part of the system. Then it dawned on me that I could create my own system, one that worked better for kids, staff and families. I also really wanted to make a difference to children’s lives and as a head you have that opportunity – which is a huge responsibility.
Why did your role/ school appeal to you?
How many genuinely all-through schools are there out there? Not just being the executive headteacher of separate primaries and secondaries, but to lead one institution that provides a seemless education for children aged three to sixteen. That plus it is in a very challenging area (or so I am told) – the kids deserve the best and a lot of people would not want to take it on, but it is for these kids that education matters most.
How do you create a culture of wellbeing?
We are being rigorous in cutting out as much directed time from the budget as possible. We’re chopping away all that is superfluous and outdated – whether it is a meeting, some paperwork or another expectation. And we’ve introduced Personalised CPD so staff have time to pursue a direction for their own development. We’ve introduced Wellbeing activities for staff to join – everything from craft to sport to marking parties. We are working hard at encouraging marking lean, shared planning and pretty much anything else we can think of. We say thank you. I hand make birthday cards and give them out with a Freddo chocolate. We celebrate staff heroes of the week. I acknowledge very publically that it is tough, when I make mistakes, and I let them take the piss out of me little.
How would you like to change the perception of Headteachers?
I do not lie awake every night plotting how to make teachers’ lives more difficult and demanding. There is a culture of blaming senior leaders and heads in particular for every wrong in the system. There are some blinking awful heads and I’ve worked for some – almost left the profession because of them – but we’re mostly decent hard working people who like kids, education and making things better.
What are the values that your shape you as a leader?
Fairness, integrity, celebration of inclusion and diversity, walking the talk and keeping it fun.
What have been the highs and lows of your role as Headteacher?
The lows are things like a student death, a staff death, making the decision to permanently exclude, a terrible incident that happens to someone at work you care about, getting bloody awful results despite chucking everything you had at it. The highs are when it pays off – the eureka moments for kids and staff, when someone achieves something amazing, when an external body acknowledges what we’re doing and when the outcomes are what we deserve. It’s like being a classroom teacher but bigger.
It is a long long career and you don’t need to rush it.
Mary Myatt’s Hopeful Schools. It is life affirming and Mary is ace.
“Roll up your sleeves and smash down those barriers”.