Talking Heads Blog #15: Marion Budd

Leadership Biography

Name: Marion Budd

Phase: Secondary

Sector: State

Region: London

Years Served in Education: 25½

Years Served as a Headteacher: ½

Leadership Journey:

Degree … Sales Administration … PGCE … NQT and 2i/c English Department … Head of English and Media Department … MA … Assistant Headteacher (twice) … Deputy Headteacher (twice) … Associate Headteacher … MBA… Headteacher. All teaching in London except PGCE (Manchester).

Leadership Coach/Mentor/Inspiration:

Too many to mention really and I’m sure that I’m about to leave someone really important out … however here goes: #shoutouts to my mum Ann Budd for showing me from an early age what it means to be a teacher; Tamsyn Imison for always expecting me to progress; Helen Kidd and Mich Jonas for endless support, encouragement and laughs along the way; Helen Forster for showing me how the English department really should have been led; Gerry Canning for unwavering dedication, hard work and fun; Gillian Cant for endless energy, commitment and good humour; Margaret Lloyd for patience and the kind of listening that everyone really really needs; Keith Miller and Richard Brown for lessons in resilience, determination and change; Janet Wallace for telling me it was time to get on with it and Angela Doherty, Julie Lewis and Judith Finlay for 100% support and encouragement on the latest journey.

Twitter Handle: @_MsBudd

Blog: This is my first one…

Leadership Reflections

Why do you teach?

For the whole of my school life and the six years immediately thereafter, I committed to one certain truth … I may have had no idea what I wanted to do, but I was never going to teach. I’d seen first-hand what was involved as the child of a teacher and understood that whilst schools may finish at 3pm, teachers keep going as long as the work needs to be done. I was convinced I was heading for a different career without that drudgery! A spell as a trainer for a commercial organisation challenged this assumption and whilst my PGCE was probably the most stressful and difficult training I’ve ever done, it was also incredibly rewarding. Contrary to all my declarations, I’d got the teaching bug.

What do I like about teaching? I have laughed and cried with some young people, cajoled and encouraged others and have watched many more teach me how things should be done. It’s the never-quite-getting-it-right, always-more-you-could-do, how-much-can-you-squeeze-into-a-day, how-much-more-variety-could-you-have feelings which keep me most satisfied and I am truly grateful for a career which keeps me eternally busy and motivated to improve.

Why did you become a Headteacher?

I would be rich if I had a pound for every time I’ve declared that Headship is not for me (with absolutely no sense of déjà vu!) and it’s quite difficult for me to pin down precisely what made me change my mind. First and foremost, the faith and encouragement of others who told me I was well suited to the job has been so very important and has taught me that those little, positive remarks which may only take seconds to give have truly lasting impact. A year’s coaching training with Walking with Leaders gave me the vision of the kind of leader I could aspire to become. After a number of years in my second Deputy Headteacher’s role, scared of becoming stale, I enrolled in an MBA at the UCL Institute of Education. This helped me take the time to think clearly about my values and vision and made me brave enough to give Headteacher applications a go.

And I’m glad that I did. I’ve had half a year as a Headteacher so far and am all too familiar with the worry about the mistakes I know I’ve made, not to mention the ones I haven’t found out about yet. But I’ve also had the pride of witnessing young people achieve and grow in my school and they give me all the inspiration I need to continue my leadership journey. I love the variety of the role and have been made to feel quickly that I belong in our school community. Belonging is key for me and I wouldn’t be writing this blog if I didn’t feel that I had the welcome, backing and encouragement of staff, students and governors at my school. We’re in this together and I’m up for the ride!

How would you like to affect change in the system?

I’ve been responsible for Ofsted preparation in many leadership roles and have even been called the Queen of the SEF in my time so I feel reasonably qualified to make sure that my school is ‘Ofsted-ready’. Yet in my first months as Headteacher, I’m struggling to see the Ofsted-preparation-I-know-to-be-successful as being in the slightest bit relevant to my role. Yes, I’d love an ‘outstanding’ badge for our website and prospectus, but what’s really important to me? It’s how the children fare, not how my school is judged. I want to focus my gaze relentlessly on students and the progress they make, in the hope that this will in time be enough to satisfy inspectors when they come. Did we need Ofsted? Who knows – I don’t feel qualified to judge. Do we need them in the same way now? I don’t think so. I hope that I’ll be able to lead without using Ofsted as either carrot or stick … fingers crossed and watch this space!

How would you like to change the perception of Headteachers?

I have felt mightily inexperienced and overwhelmingly tentative in my first year of being a headteacher. This is surely not as it’s meant to be! Shouldn’t headteachers always have the answer and know immediately what to do? Most of the time, maybe – and the importance of re-assuring students and staff that they are in capable hands can’t be underestimated. But is there room for questioning and uncertainty? Is it possible to both inspire confidence whilst acknowledging uncertainty? I hope so. We’re launching Building Learning Power in my school next year and we’re trying to do so collaboratively, with a team of teachers across the school working together, learning from our mistakes together and planning our next steps together. I’m certain I want to be part of the team leading this journey within the school but am far from sure that just because I’m the headteacher, I have all the answers. I like the idea of Headteachers as learners as well as leaders and think that this can sometimes be forgotten.

What barriers have you had to overcome in your career/role?

Mainly these have all been of my own making, I think. My insecurities … could I dare to think about that job? Am I good enough? Could someone else do it better than me? These have all been far more significant than any barriers others may have put in my way.

What makes you get out of bed every morning?

The never-ending list of things to be done to help to make things better; the knowledge that something unexpected will happen which will bring a smile to my face; the pride and privilege of spending another day with our fantastic students and staff. What more could you ask for?

Leadership Advice

My leadership journey changed when the opportunity to learn about coaching gave me the time to reflect on my values. In doing so I came to recognise that my values didn’t match those of my organisation and that this could never end well. A search for a school which matched me was successful and I haven’t looked back, so my advice would be to ensure that your values strike a chord with those of your school.

Leadership Inspiration

It’s half term so I’ve had the luxury of time to read …

  • Zadie Smith: “N-W” – reminds me of the impact young people make;
  • Elvis Costello: “Unfaithful music and disappearing ink” – the importance of all the stories along the way to who you will become;
  • Lucy Crehan: “Cleverlands” – learning from others who’ve done it before (and done it well).

Leadership Mantra

From my favourite author Toni Morrison:

“As you enter positions of trust and power, dream a little before you think.”

Plus this one from Emerson:

“Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities have crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense.”

One thought on “Talking Heads Blog #15: Marion Budd

  1. Marion – a brilliant blog. Your leadership advice struck a chord with me as parallels my last 2 years of frustration, coaching, clarity around values & finding the right fit. Thanks fir sharing your journey – will inspire lots of other leaders to push out of their comfort zones & quieten the inner critic I hope. X


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