Earlier this week I met with one of our most experienced and exceptional headteachers who is due to retire at the end of the session.
In a bespoke winding down arrangement we have agreed that she can take ten days unpaid leave during the year. She has spread these days over the course of the year to provide a number of extended weekends.
The impact on her health and well-being has been incredible and she feels so much more able to undertake her job – to the benefit of herself and the school.
In line with my recent reflection on the mental health and well-being of teachers I wondered if this might be something we could consider in a different kind of arrangement with other headteachers?
Three years ago I moved from being a headteacher to being an educational administrator at East Lothian Council. My holiday entitlement changed from 65 days a year, to 27 days plus public holidays. Yet despite the apparent loss in days the biggest difference has been that I can now take days off when I want – even during term time. As rule I try to avoid extended periods of absence during term time but I do try to take a number of single days throughout the year to create long weekends. The result of this is that I can avoid the kind of accumulation of fatigue that used to occur when I was a headteacher.
We currently have a problem recruiting headteachers – people look at the stress involved, the relatively low pay differential between a depute headteacher and headteacher and decide that the negatives outweigh the positives. So with that in mind I’d like to make a suggestion:
What if headteachers could trade in some of the current holiday entitlement for a number of single day holidays which which can be taken during term time? As a starting point in that negotiation I would suggest that the exchange rate would be two days for one day. So if a headteacher wanted to have five days leave throughout the year during term time they would have to forfeit ten days of their current holiday entitlement. To be honest I would have gone for something like this as I probably spent that number of days in school during holiday periods trying to catch up and prepare. From an employer’s perspective we could arrange for a proportion of these forfeited days to be taken at an agreed time and in so doing enable collegiate tasks to be undertaken – e.g. cluster working , particularly if other colleagues were working at the same time.
The issues which would have to be resolved would be:
Would schools fall to bits without the headteacher being there for a day? – No – certainly not in well managed schools
What would parents think? – I believe they would understand and see it as positive step as long as it was properly explained.
What would staff think? -There would probably be many teachers who would be upset by such an arrangement but perhaps we need to start to see there being some perks for taking on such a job.
So what would I be saying to headteachers?
Go on – take a day off!!!