Insights from a school leader #1







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Today’s blog comes to us from an experienced and effective school leader, Maria - who gives us an insight into what it truly means to lead a school. She states: ‘Leadership is about leading change, sharing a vision and bringing people along with you. Managing is more about making sure that the day-to-day things happen.’ Here, she gives us advice on what a school leader’s work entails, and advises on how to approach a school when looking to secure a teaching role.

 Maria’s Path Towards Leadership

‘I always had a huge interest in leadership and management, and how organisations ticked. When I qualified from college, I was heavily involved in DEIS and gained great experience and insight into DEIS schools. I was often involved in the development and organisation of clubs, initiatives and programmes in the school. I got great leadership and management experience from this. A principal position then came up in a local school, so I decided I was ready and that I would apply for it. I was successful in the interview and the rest is history.

The Responsibilities Associated with the Job

As with any leadership role; with great power comes great responsibility! I was now the go-to person when it came to keeping everything running smoothly. I soon learned that the school is more than just a building and its occupants. The building itself had structural issues that needed to be dealt with and then there were also the day-to-day operational aspects of my leadership role that need to be managed effectively and fairly.  I had to learn how to delegate duties to staff, oversee GDPR compliance in the school and to continually improve health and safety. Then there was the paperwork, and plenty of it! There were forms to be filled in to apply for grants, lots of circulars to read to keep abreast of any policy changes or new guidelines, all the while, making sure that these policies and procedures were reflected in the school.

 Insights into Recruitment in Education

As a school leader, I have a responsibility to make sure that any new addition to the school staff is a good fit for the team as a whole. There are many things to consider and first impressions count. The applications I receive sometimes contain errors that let the application down and may not truly reflect the teacher it represents. Errors in grammar and spelling are especially difficult to ignore. The candidate should also make sure to tailor their application to the school and not to have a generic application for all positions applied for. It is also welcomed when an applicant or interviewee can talk about initiatives or programmes that they were involved in, along with their interests and experiences, as this further reflects how you might fit into the school and what you have to offer.

 The Panel System in Ireland

When applying for a panel, it is imperative that you take the following points into account. (It is also important to know that being on the panel doesn’t mean that you will be guaranteed permanency.)

1.       You need to be eligible. Get onto the INTO to ensure that you are eligible to apply.

2.       Make sure that you have fully completed your probation.

3.       Contact a school if you know they have a vacancy and send on your CV.

 The Qualities Maria Admires in a Great Teacher

As a school leader, I see the following attributes as being key to the role; to be a clear and effective communicator, to be innovative, to have gained the necessary experience and to have great attention to detail. A good work ethic is also of utmost importance in this rewarding but challenging role.

Returning to School Post Covid 19

Leadership can be challenging in the best of times, but the onset of Covid-19 and the challenges it has presented us with, has led to many changes. There is a lot to consider when faced with the reopening of our schools. There is now the increased responsibility of maintaining a safe school environment, while helping children to settle back into school life after months of remote teaching and learning. This adjustment will take time and effort for us all. As a school leader, I will steer my school with the help of my team and we will look forward to better days ahead.’

Many thanks to Maria for sharing her experience in leadership in education. It’s been a humbling experience for me when reaching out to school leaders to learn from them and ask them to share with us the inner workings of their school management teams. Continued success to you and your school community Maria!

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