I was completely wrong!

The Key

Anika Noor is a pupil at George Green’s School in the Isle of Dogs, London. She spent last week on a work experience placement at The Key, getting to grips with the world of school leadership. Anika’s favourite colour is black, she loves chocolate and she hopes one day to be a doctor, lawyer or work for the UN. In this post, she shares what she has learned about how her headteacher spends her busy working days. 


quote-startLike every other ignorant teenager out there, I never took the time of day to think about what my headteacher does. To me it was always getting paid a hefty sum for signing a couple of papers, shouting at a few kids and walking around the school leisurely holding a cup of coffee.

I could not have possibly been any more wrong.

After completing a week’s worth of enlightening (to say the least) work experience at The Key, I’ve learnt a valuable life lesson – I need to stop making assumptions based on the things I see.  I’ve come to realise that my headteacher is the person who makes my school run smoothly on a daily basis.

I am now aware of the pressure resting on a headteacher’s shoulder. (Dear headteachers, that’s another thing to thank The Key for!) There’s a whole range of issues they have to worry about – from all the big, life-threatening problems, like inspection,  to all the petty, insignificant ones that they could probably do without – banning erasers, risk assessing a pogo stick or even safe use of plasticine by multiple children are a few of the strange but still necessary things a headteacher must deal with.

On the 9th of July, I attended The Key’s conference at the Barbican centre. It was a pretty interesting sight to see: school leaders were banging their heads on tables and crying out ‘for Pete’s sake!’ in frustration after discussing Ofsted, which seemed to be the sworn enemy of all.

On a whim, I thought I’d have a nice, friendly chat over lunch with four headteachers who were all from different schools. We delved into conversation about their day-to-day lives in which they exposed to me that no two days were ever the same for them because there’s always something that changes- it’s just up to them to re-prioritise and make every piece of the puzzle fit.

Apparently there are 132 documents that need to be filled out for building safety and most headteachers spend over half their holidays finishing work- some even having to work on Christmas! ‘Busy’ is an understatement. My mind was completely and utterly blown away after all these revelations and for possibly the first time in my short and oblivious life, I felt a pang of sympathy towards all these selfless people working immensely hard for our schools.

“Are we putting you off? Don’t get me wrong though. I still love my job!” One of the lovely ladies said. “Working with children is the best thing ever.”

Well, thanks.

I might be one of the first teenagers to finally understand the hardships that probably weren’t mentioned in a headteacher’s job descriptions but still have to be dealt with.  Perchance I could be the start of a reformed teenage population who never have a hair out of place. Life would become so easy that maybe someday my headteacher really can sit in her pretty office, sipping on the freshly brewed coffee that her PA made, doing absolutely nothing but still get paid a hefty sum for it.

But whether that happens or not, at least there’s the reassurance that a teenager in the world now knows that she was completely wrong.quote-end


If you’re organising work experience for your pupils, our policy article will help you on your way (log-in required). Members of The Key for School Leaders can also read up on DBS checks for work experience providers here.

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