Not now – we’ve got a head ache: Everyday policy for everyday work
Surveys of headteachers suggest that they enjoy high levels of job satisfaction, although this declines the longer they have been in post. Such reports are simultaneous with reports of overwork and high levels of stress. We must assume that both satisfaction and stress can exist at the same time
(see Chapter 4). Diana Pounder and Richard Merrill argue that this apparent paradox is because the emotional and philosophical commitment to the role and the rewards that these bring are always weighed up against experiences of, and judgements about, its ‘do-ability’ (Pounder and Merrill, 2001). Richard Sennett (1998, p. 82) suggests that ‘people are more concerned about losses than gains when they take risks in their careers’. Moreover, the assessment of risks is less a process of rational calculation of the odds: it is ‘something other than a sunny reckoning of the possibilities’. According to Sennett: ‘The psychology of risk taking focuses quite reasonably on what might be lost.’ This perspective suggests that there is little point simply ‘talking up’ the
position of headteacher in order to get more people to apply and/or to stay in post, while ‘talking down’ the job may well act as a powerful disincentive to potential applicants. It reinforces the notion that attention must be paid to the actual material conditions of headteacher’s work. The job must not only be less arduous, time-consuming and risky, but also be seen to be so. Reducing the negative operational aspects of the headteacher role and work will not only sustain those in post, but also reassure those who are thinking about promotion that the risk of application is one worth taking. Policy-makers are not unaware of this, and across the world, a range of strategies to address the practices of school leadership/management are beginning to be put in place. This chapter canvasses some of the different kinds of solutions that are on
offer to make the work of headship more achievable. It reviews and summarizes arguments made in previous chapters and connects to possible ‘supply problem’ solutions. The strategies offered to address headteachers’ everyday work can be divided
into two: (1) those that focus on the personal competencies used by individual heads to cope; and (2) those measures taken by others to alleviate or moderate the causes of their overwork and stress.