Julie wearing a pink jumper eating afternoon tea.

A guest blog written by Julie Cassiano. Follow Julie on X (Twitter) @julie_cass1.

Firstly, a huge congratulations on securing your first headship. I could not be happier for you. You must be feeling excited, nervous, eager, apprehensive and every other emotion there is. Do not worry, this is normal. I hope this blog supports your transition into headship.

Confident not arrogant

You may start to self-doubt your capability, allowing your mind to play tricks on you… please stop! Remember it is not your job to assess YOU, thankfully those who appointed you and submitted a reference selected YOU, so, newsflash, you are the right candidate! It is important from day one your behaviours demonstrate to others (all stakeholders) you are confident to LEAD but without arrogance.

Why is this important?
Believe it or not your stakeholders want you to be successful! Any employee who has worked for a leader who struggles to lead will know this makes the job far less doable and enjoyable. They will want you to show up as a leader who can continue their school’s journey from whatever their starting point. So, what does confident and able to lead mean? It certainly does not mean you turn into Sharpea from High School Musical (just watched with my daughter) – bossing everyone around and throwing tantrums when deadlines are not met – oh no, no! It’s about:

  • Calm and patient – take time to reflect before acting
  • Active listening
  • Accepting feedback
  • Bringing people together to evaluate and problem solve
  • Creating independent leaders

Confidence is having the strength and wisdom to know it isn’t about you, it’s about empowering those you lead.


I was fortunate enough to have two coaches during my first term, yes, two! I had an informal coach, someone who knew me well and had seen my career develop over the years. The second was formal with planned slots & agenda. Both offered different expertise. I truly believe I needed both for differing leadership challenges.


Know the job is never complete. You have made it to headship so time management should not be an issue, but prioritise time for you and your loved ones. This is as important as blocking out time for meetings. I would like to thank my ten year old for assisting me with this. She demands Mum time which I appreciate. During the holidays, aim to switch off or drastically reduce the number of hours you work. It really does make you more effective. I understand that work life balance looks different for everyone (flexi-working) – for some, working some of the holidays shortens the working day on return. For others, they need to shut off for the whole holiday to be effective on return. Just make sure you do switch off.

I cannot discuss Ofsted without first paying tribute to our colleague Ruth Perry. The education community was shaken by this story. I still feel immensely sorry for what happened. Condolences to her loved ones.

As Ofsted or some form of independent inspection will always be a part of school accountability and it is one of the most talked about aspects of headship, I will share some advice and tips I took onboard. Please note, I am not stating that those who have not had a positive experience approached it incorrectly – I am simply sharing what I found worked for me in my context.

Every headteacher will face different Ofsted situations. For instance, some may be leading a school which has recently had a ‘good’ judgement whereas others may take on a school which requires improvement, awaiting a revisit. Another common scenario is leading a school where the last inspection was very positive but your recent evaluations cannot evidence this. Therefore, there is no one size fits all approach but some of the following worked for me.

Avoid absorbing other people’s perceptions. They are other school’s experiences and anxieties that do not need to become yours. Do not judge your school based on information from another inspection and second-hand information.

Consider preparing for Ofsted the same way you prepare to attain a qualification. Action plan how you will evidence your continued success against the framework. RAG rate as you go along – your SEF. Evidence cannot be data alone. It must be something concrete that can be seen/heard/experienced during the inspection. Utilise your staff’s knowledge as they are your experts. Encourage and welcome their feedback. Bring them with you. If they are involved, they will deliver.

Ensure Ofsted runs alongside your school’s SDP/Values or mission statement. Your Ofsted evidence should complement school improvement never dominate it. Never say or do something because you assume it is what Ofsted want to see. Everything must be about your children and their needs. No one is motivated by ‘Ofsted is approaching so…’. Ofsted’s framework and The National Curriculum is loose enough for you to be able to do this. This limits workload.

A typical FEAR I want to address. What if I get that unfair inspector who will not listen to reason? Personally, I am only ever concerned with my own personal experiences. I have not met that inspector. This is not to say they do not exist…I am saying I will only fear what I have experienced. As leaders what do we do if something is a threat…plan for it! Action plan for all possible threats. I hear you scream – oh no but planning for it will add to my workload. This is where networking comes in.


There are pros and cons to social media. We have already touched on one of the difficulties. Some members will need to use it to air out their leadership difficulties as they are asking for support. When entering the role, reading these can make less experienced Headteachers feel anxious. Remember all contexts are very different. Only assess situations based on what is happening in your setting. In my opinion, the pros to social media well outdo the cons. There is no problem or policy that has not already been solved or created. You must not reinvent the wheel. Spend your first year attending as many webinars as possible conversing with a range of other headteachers in a range of differing settings discussing common challenges and solutions which you can edit. I have found that headteachers are the most approachable people who are always willing to share their expertise. It honestly is the key to success. Personally, I use Education Roundtables @EdRoundtables, Heads Up for Headteachers @HeadsUp4HTs, @Headteacherchat and @PaulGarvey4 (these are all X – aka Twitter – handles). The former two help smaller accounts by retweeting your Qs/challenges if you tag them into your tweet.

Final point

Go thrive and share your success on social media. Do not be shy to tell the world your school is flourishing. I do not believe bragging is a negative thing. It is my favourite read on social media. Others cannot shine if they do not know what is possible. No sports person is ever shy to share their achievements so why should we be.