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  • Writer's pictureKeven Bartle

Happy Christmas to School Leaders

In my most recent post on this site, I made reference to Ruth Perry being consumed with anxieties early on Christmas morning last year. That image has remained with me since I first heard about it over a month ago as one of the most poignant insights from her inquest.

And so, at just past 5.30pm on Christmas Eve, that image has led me to take a moment away from my family to simply wish all headteachers and school leaders (at whatever level) a very happy and peaceful Christmas. Whatever else may be true about your school right now, the one thing I know is that you deserve - and have earned - the right to put everything behind you for the duration of the Christmas holidays.

From personal experience, I know how deeply you hold onto the challenges that are being faced by members of your community. Whether it is kids in unsafe home environments, staff struggling with mental health issues, or the reputation of the institution you lead, school leaders hang on to the darker aspects of schools rather than the joys of the role. Too often, we hold ourselves responsible for the former whilst giving everyone else credit for the latter. I hope that you can spend some moments reflecting on those children and adults whose lives you have enhanced over the last twelve months.

But perhaps more importantly than this, I hope most of all that you can let it all go, the positives just as much as the negatives. Whilst headteachers and school leaders have responsibilities that go beyond term-time in their contractual arrangements, it is still necessary to flick the off switch especially in regards to things that you cannot control at times where you cannot make a difference. As hard as this can sometimes be to accept, leading a school is just a job. And, as a very wise headteacher in my second year of teaching told me, "we work so that we can live, not the other way around".

With all that in mind, my most important Christmas wish for all of you who spend most of the year worrying about others is that you can, for a couple of nights at the very least, let it all go and permit others to take care of your needs. Should that not be possible, make sure that you find someone to talk to about how you are feeling, whether that be a loved one or a professional at the end of a helpline. You won't be ruining someone else's Christmas by doing so. If it is a friend or family member, the chances are that they will be relieved that you have finally managed to unburden yourself. If it is a professional, you are the reason why they opted to make themselves available to help at this time of the year.

So, to all you amazing school leaders, have a fantastic break. Take care of yourselves over the whole of the winter holidays. And then, when you return to your desks in the New Year, make putting the long-term sustainability of your wellbeing at the centre of your plans for 2024. Giving your all ought not to diminish you, but should instead enrich your lives. Get in contact if, looking at other pages on this website, you think Mind Your Head coule help you with that.

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