Priorities for September

Written by: HTU | Published:

What are your key priorities as you approach the end of the academic year, prepare for the summer break and start to think about September? Nick Bannister asks three headteachers for their ‘top five’ lists

The end of the summer term is fast approaching and for primary headteachers across the UK it will mean time for a much-needed summer break.

There will be little time for reflection until the gates have closed behind the last departing pupil, but three headteachers have found some time in their relentless schedules to think about the challenges and opportunities of primary headship and to suggest some approaches and strategies that other leaders might find useful as they begin preparations for the 2013/14 academic year.

Headteacher Update asked these heads to share five pieces of advice each, including in their contributions a suggestion of what the first key action of the new school year might be for their fellow headteachers. Here is what they had to say.

Dame Reena Keeble
Cannon Lane First School
Pinner, Middlesex


Get your head around the new curriculum. The most important priority for September is to prepare for the introduction of the new primary curriculum, which will be introduced in September 2014. You will need to ensure that all staff are completely au fait with what all the changes are and then start planning for it as soon as you can in the new academic year. There will be resourcing and training issues that you will need to consider.


Be ready for a new approach to assessment. It is still unclear what is going to come from the government but what we do need to prepare for is how we can measure progress without the APS (average points score) measure. Those changes will come in also in September 2014. That’s a real biggie for me.

Pay policies

Performance-related pay is coming (see pages 10 and 11) – be ready. By September you will need to have a policy in place on performance-related pay. We have been given some guidance as to what is coming so we should be prepared. At Cannon Lane we have devised an objective system to assess teachers’ performance. It needs to be fair and transparent and measure performance across a whole range of areas, not just one or two.

Your staff

Listen to your staff. There is a danger for us as heads that we sometimes become far too focused on what we do and forget to pay attention to what our staff are saying. As leaders we need to be open to their concerns, comments and suggestions.


Remember why you are there. As heads we should never lose sight of what the job is about. It is about children and it is about learning. Always remain focused on that.

Steve Davies
Coopers Lane Primary School
Lewisham, south London

Pupil Premium

Earmark Pupil Premium spend. Ensure you know how your Pupil Premium funding is going to be earmarked and spent, ensuring that you are transparent and clear about this. Recently, a number of headteacher friends and colleagues have advised that in their recent Ofsted inspections this was something the inspectors were rigorous about.

Family time

Reacquaint yourself with the family. Make sure you have a long and enjoyable vacation before the term begins. Use the summer to recharge batteries and find space for you again because there will be precious little space for you once the parents, governors, staff and of course the children get back hold of you in September. I try to have four solid weeks of cycling, holidaying and generally enjoying getting to know my wife and family again before I start to think about school, as they then become strangers again to me.

Avoid education

Save work for work. Over the summer read a book that has nothing to do with education. I can highly recommend this as a way of truly detaching yourself and it is something I always do now. I used to read all kinds of educational stuff in the summer but found that this did not help me to rest, rather it just prolonged the work.

I now go back to work in the last week of the holidays ready to get back at it and I am a lot more interesting at dinner parties because I can talk about Dan Brown’s latest epic or Peter Kay’s latest biography, rather than Bloom’s Taxonomy of deep-level questioning.

An early start

Get back to school early. Spend the last week of the holidays back in the school, getting your head around what the initial focus is going to be. My tasks will include planning the INSET day, redoing my own timetable and looking at the SATs data in more detail from last year’s cohorts so I am ready for the inevitable SEF rewrite.

I will rearrange my office with new photos and children’s work displays – activities that will help me to feel fresh and ready to start the new academic year. Sometimes I even change all the furniture around which always confuses my deputy head.

Gentle start

Treat your staff gently at the start of term. Make sure during the first week back that you take time to talk to all staff about their holidays, share funny stories and even look at the endless photos they may have taken (I draw the line at slides though!) and share what you did during the holiday.

They are returning to work and if we are lucky the sun may still be shining, and although you have spent the last two weeks thinking about returning to work they will not have. So it is a way of easing them back in gently to what is always a long and busy autumn term.

Peter Maunder
Oldway Primary School
Paignton, Devon

Teaching and learning

Focus on outstanding teaching and learning. The first key action of the new term for me will be to remind myself and my colleagues of why we continue to aim for high standards and to bring out the best in each and every child in our care.

To serve our local community through providing a first class education for young people is a privilege and honour. We do it to the best of our ability because we know our pupils and their needs and we want to help them become confident individuals and successful learners. Our key driver must not become a fear of Ofsted!

Most decisions about education these days are made by governments, and enforced by Ofsted. There is a perceived public duty to follow all their policies. However, a government stamp does not grant automatic ethical veracity. We must continue to secure outstanding teaching and learning for our pupils because we want to!


Choose your partners carefully. Schools are most effective when working in partnership to improve teaching and learning through joint practice development. The best teachers need to work together to update their knowledge, skills and approaches, in context, based on their practice and current research. Set up or join established networks, share resources and work with others to develop effective pedagogical practice. We all want to improve but it doesn’t need to be at the expense of the school down the road.


Look closely at your curriculum. Review your curriculum design carefully in light of the proposed changes. Explore the curriculum changes facing primary school leaders and decide how these can be incorporated into a wider review of the whole-school curriculum. Think about moral purpose and decide which of the proposed changes will best serve the needs of your pupils? Ask yourself if all the new proposals are worth teaching and stand by your decision.

New talent

Spot leadership talent and nurture it. The precise nature of schools and partnerships in any area is likely to vary dramatically. We remain accountable to our local community and the Department for Education via Ofsted, so how do we develop the leaders of the future our pupils deserve?

We know that leaders are most effective when they are knowledgeable and bring good humour, tact and persistence to their role; we know that passion and enthusiasm goes a long way. I have no doubt that effective middle leaders are indeed the “engines of school improvement”.

Our leaders will have a deep sense of moral purpose, excellent subject knowledge, highly developed pedagogic skills and the ability to work well in teams and build strong relationships across schools. Spot the leadership potential early and nurture it.

Keep smiling

Ask yourself: do I smile enough? Whether you are a new head or an old hand, the school community looks to you for leadership. It is a tough job these days, but a great one. Don’t play the martyr. Prioritise your work and make time for yourself. Keep smiling – at least your pupils will smile back!

• Nick Bannister is a freelance education writer.

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

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