Name: Gwen Byrom
Region: East Midlands
Years Served in Education: 21
Years Served as a Headteacher: In my 7th Year
Leadership Journey: Teacher of Chemistry, Head of Junior Science, Housemistress, Senior Housemistress, Vice Principal Pastoral, Head
Twitter Handle: @lhsheadmistress
Why do you teach?
I came into teaching initially because I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with my life – all I knew is that I didn’t want to continue along my current career path! Luckily, my brief experience of volunteering in schools made me feel it was the most exciting and terrifying but rewarding thing I’d ever experienced.
Why did your role/ school appeal to you?
I love being a headteacher because you have the opportunity to take the long view, and to think strategically about your own school but also about where education is going. Seeing all the pieces of the jigsaw and seeing students and staff grow and develop is brilliant.
How do you talent spot/nurture aspiring leaders?
Sometimes you know as you appoint someone that they are destined for greater things. With other individuals it’s more of a slow burn, and multiple discussions are needed to convince someone that they are better than they give themselves credit for! If staff are ambitious it’s important for them to gain some whole-school experience, and this may be a project which I’ve been mulling over or it may be one which a member of staff themselves has devised and is keen to pursue. I think it’s also important to recognise that some excellent classroom practitioners are perfectly happy being just that- not everyone has aspirations to lead and celebrating excellence in the classroom without the need to move someone along and out into other leadership roles is very important.
How would you like to affect change in the system?
I run an independent school, and there is some excellent work done by organisations like the Springboard Foundation in supporting Looked After Children with life-changing places at boarding schools. I would like to see this sort of work broadened out to encompass day schools too, providing more opportunities for more students.
What have been the highs and lows of your role as Headteacher?
The high- seeing my very first set of Y7 students make it to Y13. The end of this year, when they leave, is going to be very emotional for all of us since I feel we have all been leaning about ourselves and our capabilities together.
The lows- the passing of a very much- loved member of staff.
What myths would you like to debunk about being a Headteacher?
That it’s a very lonely job- the buck stops with you, yes, but if you have a good team and good governors there is no reason to feel alone.
That as a leader you need to be thick-skinned with respect to your own emotions, but thin-skinned with respect to everyone else’s. For me it means that you need to remember that, as a leader, you get to where you are by having a degree of resilience, and an ability to take the knocks and keep smiling. Others may not be at the same place and will need your time and support to get there.
I’m reading the Bruce Dickinson (lead singer of Iron Maiden) autobiography, ‘What does this button do?’ He is a fascinating character and a real polymath- not only a singer but a commercial airline pilot and championship level fencer. I’m not sure how it will shape me as a leader but I may get a few good assemblies out of it!
The other thing I am reading is Oi, Cat! To my 2 ½ year old, which reminds me to keep my feet on the ground and come back to the family!
It’ll be ok in the end- and if it’s not ok, it’s not the end.