The first 100 days

The last session of the Principal Designate event series for free schools opening in September 2021 finished on a high note. Sir David Carter, Executive Director of System Leadership at Ambition Institute, co-presented alongside free school headteachers – Donna Luck of Red Kite Academy and Georgette Ayling of Bohunt Horsham. For our final event, we heard top tips from our presenters, as well as their own reflections of opening a new school.  

The first 100 days within an open school is a hectic and intense period for Principle Designates, but a fantastic opportunity to showcase the vision and embed the culture of a new school.

Sir David Carter offered advice to principle designates for their first 100 days after opening:

  • Model the culture you want to instil; being a visible leader for your staff, pupils and parents.
  • Get to know the staff, pupils and community you serve; a stakeholder engagement map can help you monitor: who needs to be communicated, when to communicate with them, methods of engagement and the information they need to know.
  • Set the expectations you have for your school early on; assemblies present a fantastic opportunity to communicate your ethos to both pupils and staff.
  • Build a roadmap to help track how your school is progressing over the course of each 100 days. At the end of 100 days, reflect on your road map - celebrate the successful developments you’ve made and outline what more you want to achieve.

Later during the session, we heard from Donna and Georgette, who reflected on their experience of opening free schools. Some of their top tips were:

  • Walk the school – To ensure that your new school is going to support the pupils and staff within it, spend some time walking through all of its corners; explore as if you were a Reception pupil, a Year Six pupil, a teacher and reception staff.
  • Be strict when managing your time – There will be many people wanting to speak with you as your new school opens and develops. The temptation is to share your time with others; however, you will have many other significant priorities which require attention and focus. Start and finish meetings on time - avoid stretching yourself too thin.
  • Bring people with you throughout the journey – Your staff will look to you for professional development. Being open and engaging will help you start to train your future leaders. Not only will this support the development of a strong senior leadership team for your school; it will help you to delegate effectively when needed.
  • Exposure and repetition – Echoing Sir David’s advice; being a visible leader is important to help embed the culture and vision you want for your school. You need to model the culture you’re seeking to set. Establishing good habits for your school will encourage others to do the same.
  • Keep your ‘thank yous’ with you – Times can get tough. At the end of a long and tiring day, it can be tempting to lose yourself in your to-do list. Keeping positive feedback close to you is a crucial way to remind yourself on what you have already achieved. Don’t lose sight on the remarkable accomplishment and honour it is, to serve a community by leading a new free school.

We’d like to thank all of our co-presenters who worked with New Schools Network to deliver the Principal Designate Programme. We are wishing the best to the free schools opening in 2021 and their principal designates who are embarking on their next adventure. New Schools Network are able to continue to provide support to open free schools through our Delivery Services and online resources. Find out more on our website here.