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The person behind the role

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What are the values that drive us in education? What keeps us motivated? How do we perform our roles effectively while staying true to our authentic selves and achieving that elusive work-life balance? We brought together two experienced educational figures to consider these questions and reflect on ‘the person behind the role’.

NAHT advice curator and former head of advice, Guy Dudley has supported school leaders across the country for many years, offering counsel and valuable advice to help them stay in control.

Head teacher, author and education adviser at Discovery Education, Andrew Hammond has served in schools for many years.

Tell us about your professional journey to date and the values that drive you.

Andrew: After college, I spent three years working in the legal profession – spending days in court or with clients and only looking forward to my Friday nights, when I changed my suit for a Scout leader’s uniform. I’m not Bear Grylls, so full-time scouting was not available to me. I went into teaching instead. That was 24 years ago, and since then, I’ve been a class teacher, head of English and drama, director of studies, housemaster, deputy head and head teacher. I’ve worked in independent and maintained sector schools, serving in two-state primary headships and one prep school headship. I am now head of Hall School Wimbledon, a non-selective independent school in south-west London for children aged seven to 18. I’ve authored books and delivered continuing professional development (CPD) training throughout my career. I also serve as an education advisor and Pathway series editor for Discovery Education.

Guy: My professional journey: never planned, but always enjoyed! Much of what I learned in my first job in 1982 at Midland Bank has stayed with me. After a spell at university, graduating in personnel management, I joined the charity sector in 1997 at Sight Savers International as their personnel manager and ‘cut my HR teeth’ over four very happy years, which included overseas trips to third world countries, working in the most challenging working environments imaginable. I returned in 2001 to the relative comfort of working for a Department for Education quango, the Learning & Skills Council, and spent the next six years leading the HR function, first in Sussex and then throughout south-east England. In 2007, I was invited to join the YMCA and a hospice, for a year, as an HR ‘trouble-shooter’ – this was a genuinely humbling but hugely rewarding experience. In 2008, I was invited to join the International Aids Alliance as their head of international HR – my last gig in the charity sector. Finally, in 2013, after a snow-bound interview, I arrived at the HQ of NAHT as a specialist adviser – a year later, I found myself heading up and reshaping the team of specialist advisers, all of whom are still with NAHT today. In 2020, NAHT and Discovery Education entered into a partnership, and I joined to help design and launch Pathway, Discovery Education’s innovative online professional CPD platform, as NAHT’s advice curator, a post I continue to occupy today. For 40 years, I’ve been driven by a sense of duty to serve and take great pride in my work, helping people be the best they can be. I’ve been lucky too, but as someone once said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get”.

Tell us about the hour in your week when you feel most motivated.

Andrew: Teaching. As a school leader, I enjoy meeting with parents, supporting staff, leading assemblies and dropping into after-school clubs to see children discovering talents they never knew they had. But if I had to name a specific hour, it’s when I teach philosophy to our juniors. Does a bird know it’s a bird? Where does the sky begin? If you could take a pill that made you always happy, would you? Such questions provide space for the children to share their original thoughts – and our discussions top the poll of my most treasured moments in the week.

Guy: That’s easy for me: it’s the last hour of the week, not because I have a fun-packed weekend to look forward to (well, occasionally I do) but because it’s the hour that I reflect on what I’ve achieved that week. There’s no mystery to what motivates me: it simply comes from getting the work done and feeling a real sense of accomplishment.

How do you square the role you are doing with your true authentic self?

Andrew: Since my Scout leader days, I have always enjoyed leading a team with shared values and plenty of adventure. I like everyone to feel proud to wear their jersey. It was the same when I played rugby at school and university. I crave the synergy, and the camaraderie, of people working together. I cherish childhood too. It’s a cliché, but I enjoy making a difference in children’s lives. So my passion and job combine to lead teams of people who, like me, enjoy seeing children flourish.

Guy: I’m a fixer! Helping and supporting people is what gives me enormous satisfaction. I’ve been very fortunate to have been employed in ‘fixer-type’ jobs, ensuring that those I serve can develop the competence, confidence and credibility to do their job well.

Tell us about some recent happy highlights.

Andrew: Designing and creating the NAHT Discovery Education Pathway programme is a highlight because of its focus on teachers’ well-being and motivation. We teachers always say, ‘It’s about the children’, but we owe it to them and our families to look after ourselves, so I’m pleased to have helped create a holistic programme that supports the ‘whole teacher’. Closer to home, happy highlights always involve seeing students develop and grow: watching the quiet child perform on stage, the lonely child make a new friend, or the anxious child burst into laughter. No other job brings such fulfilment, no matter how difficult it may seem.

Guy: Leading the NAHT advice team through the first six months of the pandemic has got to be up there – guiding and supporting members through what was pretty frightening and unchartered territory for all of us; being involved in the Discovery Education-NAHT partnership and the launch of the NAHT Discovery Education Pathway Advice Hub is another. But most of all, it must be entering my tenth year of continuous service with NAHT, supporting our members, against so many odds, do a truly remarkable job!

How do you switch off?

Andrew: Test Match Special on the radio while pottering in the garden. OK, so it’s not very rock and roll, but after a week of leading a school, it’s all I need and all I have the capacity for. My wife and I are blessed with a large family, so catching up with our fast-growing children is also a source of pleasure and pride.

Guy: Taking Rosie, our middle-aged rescue springer spaniel, for a walk. Drinking a Bloody Mary (for medicinal purposes, you understand; tomato juice is particularly high in Vitamin C!) and pottering in the garden is my way of connecting with nature while, at the same time, pretending to be busy!

Please share some ways of working that you have found useful.

Andrew: Granted, I may be getting old, but I’m finding solace in predictable routines and rituals. Headship brings so many unexpected, anxious moments, but I know that tomorrow morning will still find me sitting on my rowing machine and then stirring my porridge bowl, listening to Radio 4. Little routines that I can control bring me comfort. I am also more willing now to accept that I will never be perfect. The job of a head teacher comes with a factory-fitted guilt trip that we’re not working hard enough, not making fast enough progress, and just not as good as every other head teacher. I’ve stepped off that particular treadmill.

Guy: OK, so here are my top six (and no, before you ask, I haven’t googled any of these – they’re from the heart!)

  1. Be friendly – it gets you a long way on your professional journey, and people will remember you for it
  2. Treat people with respect, no matter who they are or their status – you may bump into them later on in your career
  3. Take the time to think things through thoroughly – if you do, everything you do is more likely to be informed, fair and sustainable
  4. Accept that you’re a ‘work in progress’ – my working life (40 years so far) has been a marathon, punctuated by regular sprints – train for both!
  5. Look after and be kind to yourself – learning that ‘good enough is good enough’ was a tough lesson for me to learn, but it has served me well on my journey
  6. Finally, I love my food, so my tips for those who do too are to eat a high-in-protein breakfast, snack healthily during the day and try not to eat after 8pm!

Guy and Andrew work together on Discovery Education Pathway, a new programme supporting teachers and school leaders’ personal and professional development.

Created in partnership with NAHT, Pathway offers a fresh new approach to CPD supporting the continuous professional empowerment of teachers and leaders.

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