Joint headteachers at Alnwick school hope to show benefits of co-leadership model
Two heads are better than one, as the old saying goes, is something the new co-heads of an Alnwick school are hoping rings true.
James Wilson and Alan Rogers were appointed to the roles at Duchess’s Community High School on the retirement of previous headteacher Maurice Hall at Christmas.
This week, with the full reopening of schools, has finally been their first opportunity to welcome back all 1,450 pupils – albeit via a remote assembly as a Covid security measure.
“The biggest travesty up to now had been that we hadn’t been able to meet them face-to-face,” admitted Mr Rogers.
"We can’t get them all in the assembly hall and say ‘hi’. With 250 children in a year group we can’t bring them in en masse like that so it’s still frustrating in that respect.”
Mr Wilson has been at the school 18 months and was previously deputy head for quality of education. He previously taught at inner city schools in the West Midlands.
A former pupil at James Calvert Spence College in Amble, he actually played rugby for the Alnwick school.
"Every Wednesday night I would leave Amble to come here and play rugby, never thinking that at one point I’d be headteacher alongside Alan,” he admitted.
Mr Rogers, also a keen sportsman, has been at the school for 10 years, arriving as head of PE and later becoming deputy head for behaviour and culture in the pastoral area.
They are enthusiastic about the co-heads concept and encouraged by their first few weeks in the job, despite the obvious challenges of a return to full schooling.
“We’re very much aligned to each other,” said Mr Wilson. “When I arrived in 2019 we had a chat about leadership and what it would look like with the school having two full-time deputies which was a new thing.
"The longer we spent together the more we realised that we’re very similar in our beliefs and moral purpose. Everything we do is for the children and the community and therefore, when Maurice announced his retirement – which came as a bit of a shock to us both – one of the first things we talked about was co-headship.
“It’s a growing model for school leadership in secondary schools and we spoke to Sir David Carter, who was the schools commissioner at one point at the DfE (Department for Education), and he was a great advocate of the system in that it gives support to the headteacher but also leadership bandwith so you can spread yourself further than you can normally. When the job was then advertised we applied as a co-headship.”
Mr Rogers said: “Fair play to the governing body because we had to propose it to them and they went away and did their research and then advocated that someone should be able to apply under these circumstances.”
Interviews were partly done separately so the governing body could assess their individual merits but there were also joint tasks which they felt demonstrated the benefits of co-headship.
"That’s the strength of the model,” said Mr Rogers. “There are two of us and we work so well together.”