With everything from uniform to the school budget, Ruth England admits being a head teacher is certainly a challenging job.
Ruth has just celebrated one year in her first job in charge at Shuttleworth College and has made sweeping changes at the Padiham school as she aims to build up a reputation of excellence.
Ruth (42) is originally from Sheffield and had been a teacher for 15 years, starting out teaching Spanish and French then progressing to Head of Languages and then Assistant Head and Deputy Head.
“Most of my career was in London but I moved to Bolton and settled there,” said Ruth.
She admitted she wanted to be a head teacher but was waiting for the right role and, in March 2013, saw the job at Shuttleworth College, built on the former Gawthorpe High School, advertised
“I had been thinking about a headship, I didn’t want to relocate and I wanted a comprehensive school - then I saw the Shuttleworth vacancy,” said Ruth.
I have high standards and expect the people around me to have the sameRuth England
“I went on a Sunday drive to Padiham and I had been used to working in the inner city in London so to have so much countryside around was, literally, a breath of fresh air.
“I applied, had an interview and got the job.”
She admits it has been a challenge, with the school then in special measures, but one she has relished.
“As soon as I came into the school, I knew this was the right decision for me. I had no preconceptions, everyone from staff to pupils began with a clean slate and I had a clear vision of what I wanted to achieve and my expectations.
“I said to the staff it was an opportunity to come on a journey and I have high standards and expect the people around me to have the same. I wanted to turn the school around.
“I was excited about the challenge, I knew it was a big job but I became familiar with the local area and the community and began last September in my new role.”
Ruth admits being a head teacher is different to what she anticipated in some ways.
“What surprised me most was, as a teacher you mostly deal with students and are classroom based. As a head, I now deal much more with adults whether its staff, organisations or the community but everything is done with the students in mind.
“I try to find the right balance - I make sure I still have contact with students and walk around school every day talking to them and going into classes as I don’t want to be isolated. I go and see all the performances, I pop into the extra-curricular clubs and I talk to the students to see how their day is going. I feel that’s important.”
She admits, working up to 70 hours a week, that there isn’t a lot of spare time.
“I do not teach any more but my diary is organised to within an inch of its life. I have to manage my time carefully and make sure I am keeping a grip of every single aspect of the school from correct uniform to the school’s budget.
“I sit in on disciplinary matters, I visit primary schools, I deal with parental queries, I go out into the communities, deal with Ofsted and government officials - it’s certainly varied. I usually leave my home at 6-45am and get home rarely before 7-15pm at night.
“It does also mean home life has to carefully planned with my husband John as to who has to walk the dog, when we go out shopping, clean the house, all the mundane chores - everything has to be scheduled.”
Ruth has made changes introducing 18 new staff for this new school year and adding a new Senior Leadership team last year to make sure she has the teachers who, she is confident, will take the school forward.
“I think I sat in on 30 interviews over the last year. I have met and appointed some fantastic people who I have been impressed with and it’s a privilege to work with them. I wanted to make sure we appointed people to feel proud of and who will make big strides at the school and I think we have got that now.
“I am sure I have upset a few people too but that’s what you have to do sometimes to turn things around. I have to make a decision and it has to be made immediately. I don’t have time to wait and see, it’s make a decision and stick to it and that’s also been a big learning curve for me.”
Ruth continued: “We do need to improve our Ofsted grading, and we had a strong interim report, but my sights are set firstly on improving the school and, if I do that, the rest will come.
“I want quality teachers who will give the students the best education in the classroom, quality leadership so that the teachers will get the support they need in the classroom to deliver the best education, we want a challenging curriculum and if we do all that then the Ofsted recognition will come.
“Every day is a new challenge - my job changes from hour to hour and day to day. My first year was hard as there were a lot of temporary staff and so I didn’t feel the children were getting the quality education they deserved.
“Now we have full complement of staff, a strong leadership team and we are developing areas such as the arts where we will put on our first school production, with ‘We Will Rock You’ this month.
“We are also a Lancashire Music Hub pilot school, where all our students will learn an instrument for free.
“We want to raise their aspirations. Our motto here is ‘Think big, chase dreams, succeed together’ and we are ensuring that this runs through everything we do in college.
“We need our young people to be working towards goals and ambitions which really challenge and push them; there is no easy ride at Shuttleworth.”
Ruth added: “I think a measure of the success so far for me was the other day a new Year Seven was leaving school.
“I asked him if he had enjoyed his day and he looked at me and said: “I really enjoyed my day at school. It’s true what they say, miss, time flies at Shuttleworth.”
“That made me smile. We want it so the students don’t want to go home.”