I’ve been chomping at the bit to write this blog since the end of May, when me and @KimRoge1972 were appointed as Co-Headteachers at Clanfield Primary C of E School, but the last month has been somewhat of a blur! Since our interview in May, we’ve taken up our Headteacher posts in our new school and have just completed the baptism of fire which has been our first month in Headship.
I wanted to share with you the process that we went through and how we achieved our Co-Headship, in the hope of inspiring others, to allow you to see that it can be done, that the mold can be broken and the ceiling smashed! This process absolutely encompassed our #WomenEd mantra of #10%braver and undoubtedly our #BalanceforBetter and #BeBoldforChange pledges.
Firstly, the post for Headteacher at Clanfield C of E was not advertised as a Co-Headship, although there was a line in there about being open to flexible working. I think it’s important to know this because whilst many employers don’t advertise posts as flexible, open to job shares, or as part-time, it is still worth going for it if you think the school is right for you. There are opportunities to be had!
Clanfield was just right for both me and Kim. Kim had highlighted the post to me, as she had been searching for a partner to apply with (to the ‘right’ school) for a little time. I was ready for a change of scene from my Co-DHT role too. It’s worth pointing out that Kim and I have known each other through our #WomenEd community for a while, and had not worked together previously, however, our vision for a school which is values-based, with a holistic curriculum is passionately shared. Our values are aligned and to boot, we get on well too!!
Firstly, we decided to visit the school separately, so as not to influence each other. We both fell in love with the school. A school that has been through a challenging period of time, but with a wonderfully resilient staff and oooooodles of potential! During the visit, I raised, with the Interim Headteacher, the notion of applying as a Co-Headship and she was open to that idea, assuring me she would pass the information on to governors.
Kim and I then put together an application for a Co-Headship. We had no idea how this would be received. There is no rule book when it comes to co-applying for jobs, so this is by no means a definitive way to go, but it worked successfully for us and is worth sharing, we feel. We completed the application forms separately, because we wanted to panel to realise our respective strengths and recognise us as individuals. Importantly, the last paragraph in both of our applications was the same. We wrote this together and explained that we were applying as Co-Heads alongside each other.
After we were shortlisted (hoorah!) we put together a proposal for how we would work together and what we could offer between us. We also defined what Co-Headship was and how we felt it would benefit the school. We had also reached out to other Co-Heads to listen to their advice, but as I said, there is no rule book to applying, although their advice certainly shaped our application.
The list of both qualifications, professional qualities and varying primary and leadership experience that we could bring to the role was quite impressive. Between us, we are/have an ex-OFSTED inspector, NaSENDCo qualified SENDCo, over 20 years of school leadership experience (many as DHTs/Co-DHTS) school governors, curriculum designer, Support and Challenge partner, both maths and literacy leaders, Deputy Designated Safeguarding Lead, values-based education leader, acting Headteacher, expertise in EYFS through to KS2, assessment lead, and much more between us! We felt confident that we had a lot to offer and that what one of us lacked, the other had experience of in some shape or form.
Once we were happy with our proposal, we emailed it in advance of our interview to the school for the panel to read before hand. We didn’t know, until the day, how we would be interviewed and whether we would be given tasks together or interviewed completely separately. We imagined that interviewing Co-Heads was as new to the panel as it was to us! (Turns out, it was!) On the day of interview we arrived together and were given separate timetables for our interview activities and individual formal interviews, and then we had a specific interview together to discuss how our Co-Headship model would work in reality. This was a great opportunity to revisit our proposal and discuss, with confidence, how we would make our shared-job model work well specifically in Clanfield School. We focused on our strengths, relevant experiences and the pros of co-leadership, raising flexibility, retention and well-being within our discussion. As #WomenEd sisters – we are well informed on this topic!
That evening, after an eternity of waiting and thread a of anxious Whatsapp messages as long as your arm, we had the call and were offered the role of Co-Headteachers. The feedback from our governors was just fabulous! They commented on how aligned we were (how they could see that from interviewing us both separately, and together) and felt that we had an impressive range of qualities and experience between us and a certain energy and authority that we would bring to the school! The feedback will be treasured.
One month in, and we are both learning fast. It’s a great experience and I will no doubt be blogging on the pros of Co-Headship soon, but this blog is really to share our actual experience of the application process. To share that it can be done. As I’ve said before, you have to champion yourself! You have to be #10%braver. You have to go for it! Vanquish the fear of failure and imposter syndrome and the little voices that say it’s not worth the effort. It is! We did it. We proved it. And if we can, so can you.
Our take – away advice for applying for Co-Headship (based on our experience):
Ensure you share the same values and vision
Include a shared paragraph in your application to show that you are aligned and applying together
Share your application with your job-share to ensure you are fulfilling the JD/criteria between you and you are singing from the same hymn sheet
Write a detailed proposal of how you would work, why it would work and list your shared qualifications/professional qualities and experiences
Have conviction in the Co-leadership model and be prepared to talk with confidence about why it will work
Be authentic at interview – you aren’t trying to be one person, you are two unique and talented people that bring your own unique and worthy experiences to the table
Please do get in touch if you would like any advice @mrskatiesmithblog @mrskatiesmith @kimroge1972