Name: Christine Carter
Region: Newport, Shropshire, West Midlands
Years Served in Education: 14
Years Served as a Headteacher: 1
My leadership journey started being a music teacher in 2004 to becoming Head of Department in 2005, Advanced Skills Teacher in 2008, School Leader of Learning in 2010, Deputy Headteacher in 2012, Vice Principal in 2014 and Headteacher in 2016. I have doubled up jobs along the way – looking back at it, I have no idea how I fit it all in!
Every single person I have worked with in my career. I have learnt something new and different from everyone!
Twitter Handle: @CMRaymontHall
Why did you become a Headteacher?
I became Headteacher because I wanted to make a difference. Of course, I was making a difference in my teaching and middle management roles but I wanted to do more than that. I am responsible for over one thousand students now and I love the challenge of being able to meet every single one of my their needs. There is also a lot of work contributing to the local area that I now have the opportunity to be more engaged in. This is great as I want to create even stronger links with the school and the local community. I have enjoyed meeting key figures in our area and working alongside them to ensure that by working together, our students become well-rounded individuals, ready for life in the 21st century.
Why did your school appeal to you?
I have worked in and with a number of fantastic schools up and down the country. The moment I stepped through the door at reception on the first day of the Burton Borough interview process, I knew it was the school for me. The staff and students are friendly, supportive and kind to one another – an excellent quality for any school – and they have continued to develop this even further. Students will smile and say good morning and open the door for you. Although these may seem small things, I firmly believe that being polite and getting the small things right leads to bigger and better things later on. External visitors have commented on how well behaved our students are and how seriously they take their learning which makes me incredibly proud of each and every one of them. In addition, the school is an Arts college and being a musician myself, it is an absolute privilege to be Headteacher of a school that has three bands that compete nationally and internationally. The quality of the musical talent at Burton Borough is exceptional and not like any other school band I have heard before. The musicals and plays that staff rehearse with the students are also of exceptional quality.
How do you advocate equality and diversity in your school?
Equality and diversity and both extremely important to me. Having grown up in a different country and being half Chinese, I have encountered instances of discrimination in areas that have been less diverse. Sometimes people look at me and think ‘You? Really?’ and are often surprised when I tell them the things that have happened.
This year, I created the new post of ‘Equalities Officer’ at my school and the member of my team who has been working on this has done a fantastic job. She has looked at school documents such as policies, carried out surveys for both staff and students and liaised with me on practices that may need to be adapted. In addition, I have been as proactive as possible in ensuring that the senior leadership team for September 2017 will be representative of the whole school staff cohort. We have also amended the uniform policy for September 2017 to include LGBT students, especially those who may be transitioning and for students who wear items of clothing such as headscarves and turbans for religious purposes.
There is much more work that needs to be done – I don’t think that you can ever say that everything is perfect. However, we have a great starting point and there will be training for both staff and students in the new academic year.
How do you talent spot/nurture aspiring leaders?
I am constantly talent spotting and I hope that colleagues will say that I am doing all that I can to nurture aspiring leaders! This helps to ensure staff feel valued and ultimately contributes to staff retention. Professional development, a constant learning cycle for staff and dialogue on where they see themselves in the future is also absolutely essential and gives me an idea when I am planning as to who may be suitable for certain roles. In addition, I will always support a member of staff who identifies an area that they would like to research and carry out more work in as the whole school ultimately benefits from this.
What are the values that shape you as a leader?
My values are simple – that every single student, no matter what their background, need or ability, is able to achieve their full potential at Burton Borough School. I believe that they should not just rely on rote but should be able to think for themselves and debate issues in an intellectual and considered manner.
What makes you get out of bed every morning?
Definitely the students but also the staff. I actually feel a bit sad when the holidays come as I won’t see them all!
For my first deputy headship, the best advice I received was that you have to be strategic. I think that this is the biggest difference for anyone moving up the ladder from an assistant headship or similar role. It is much less about the ‘doing’ and much more about the strategy and directing others through communicating your vision and delegating. The best thing to do is to sit with someone who is great at this and learn from them. Share the work that you are doing and get a second opinion on if you are being strategic enough!
Currently, I am reading books about research methods as I would like to embark on a PhD in education. I strongly feel that all teachers should be engaged in and participate in research as it will help their own practice and develop their pedagogy. For me, it goes hand in hand – you can’t have one and not the other. The research I hope to carry out will focus on social justice and how I can continue to develop my school.
One book that I have really enjoyed reading has been Black Box Thinking by Matthew Syed. It has taught me to let go, being aware of assumptions that I have made in the past and making me challenge those assumptions. A number of examples of how we must learn from our mistakes are given in the book (some mistakes with devastating consequences) and how in our organisations, we can enable all colleagues, no matter what their role to be able to speak out if necessary. I learnt so much from this book that I bought a copy for everyone, support and teaching staff, a copy at Christmas!
“Do not fear to be eccentric in opinion, for every opinion once eccentric,
is now accepted.”
This is something that I share with everyone I have the pleasure to work with, including my students. Many of the most brilliant people in history have had ideas that others thought were strange but in reality, that difference was what led to amazing inventions or contributions to science for example. We may all have ideas that are different from time to time and we should all feel comfortable in sharing them and have others feel comfortable sharing their points of view too. Students at Burton Borough were recently given the opportunity to come up with a new motto for the school. I was very excited when I found out they had chosen ‘Be the difference’!