You are here: Home > Headteacher’s Blog > I Blame the Manager…

I blame the manager…

A couple of weeks ago, I was invited to attend a professional football match in East London as a guest of one of the club’s owners. During the afternoon, I was introduced to a number of the key personnel working at this historic club. What struck me more than anything was just how much goes on behind what we see on the pitch. I couldn’t help but draw comparisons with how things work at school.

Everybody involved with the club lives and dies by what happens on the pitch. The result gets published nationally and from these, league tables are produced. Clubs that are doing well get promoted and everyone is happy; clubs with a poor string of results invite scrutiny from everyone, with the focus on the manager – regardless of factors like the quality of the players and the resources availability to them. Within schools, our results are the public face as to how we are performing. They too get published and put in league tables for public scrutiny.

The manager thinks strategically; shapes the style of play, makes decisions on the formation and makes tactical changes during games. They are responsible for coaching the players – and they pick the team. They decide which players may need to be brought in to strengthen the squad. The comparison within school is very obvious, although buying and selling teachers isn’t quite so straightforward these days. That said, I’m currently on loan, part time, at a school in West London.

The performance of footballers is scrutinised. Their performance on the pitch is there for the manager to observe every week – and these days there is a wealth of data to back this up. After the game, I met with the club’s fitness coach who had downloaded the individual players’ stats from their satellite trackers worn throughout the game. The manager knows how far each player has run; how many sprints; the areas of the pitch they have covered and the number of times they have touched the ball.

Likewise, the performance of teachers is monitored and they are held to account. This might happen through observation of lessons, an evaluation of performance against the Teachers Standards and scrutiny of their class data. I’m considering introducing satellite trackers for staff. Data on classroom circulations, visits to the staff room and distance covered in PE lessons could provide valuable information that could be used to raise standards.

The performance of the players comes down to so many factors and no stone is left unturned. The club’s dietician takes control of each player’s food and water intake, ensuring it is conducive to elite performance on the pitch. I was pleased to see boxes of pizzas in the dressing room after the game – important for getting calories into the players to aid recovery. At school, we promote healthy eating and encourage children to stay hydrated. Some of you will know that take-away pizzas have been a feature of parent consultation evenings.

I also met up with the club’s kit man, who takes charge of making sure the team’s kit is clean, ready, and in the right place at the right time. The kit man is a talisman for the team and has a long association with the club. At school, I see Mrs Cook in this role, but with nearly 500 children, lost property is much more of an issue.

However, the thing that resonated most was the sense of community you find within the football club. In attendance were several thousand people, all willing their club to do well. They celebrate their club’s achievements and get frustrated when things don’t work out, but whatever happens, the club is a big part of their identity. In the same way, the community at Highgate Primary is the thing that makes the school what it is – its support is invaluable.

There’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes in a primary school, but with everyone pulling in the same direction, it’s remarkable what can be achieved. I just hope our children deliver in SATS weeks so we can continue our journey up the league table.

William