Talking heads: what’s your best headteacher hack?

We asked three heads for their productivity tips (and how they keep their heads above water!)

At BGS we value self-regulation, instilling in our students the importance of self-reflection so they understand how they work, when they are most effective and develop strategies to both manage productivity and their emotional wellbeing during times of stress. We believe in balance. We discuss the vital roles of sleep, exercise, nutrition and planning.

I employ all of these strategies on a daily basis, I fit in a short run, get a good seven hours’ sleep, have porridge for breakfast and tackle the most complex tasks first thing in the morning, when I know I am at my most efficient.

Jo MacKenzie, headmistress, Bedford Girls’ School

It is hard to look too far from the technology that surrounds me. My phone and laptop are with me everywhere and in a role that requires being on the move often, the mobile office is crucial.

Within that I have found doing more than scratching the surface with software makes a big difference. Examples would be use of the categories in Outlook to be able to filter mails into useful and searchable blocks. Similarly, Wunderlist’s ‘assign to’ function allows me to open collaborative lists on a range of topics, and more prosaically send tasks for my PA, members of the senior team or my truculent teenage daughter. Google Docs’ ‘live comment’ and ‘suggest functions’ are life-changers.

Finally, and as an antidote to the above, never underestimate the value of a handwritten note on a high-quality personalised card, written with a proper pen – sometimes the old hacks are the best hacks!

Chris Seal, principal, Shrewsbury International School Bangkok

Parents love to discuss all school-related issues (good and bad) on WhatsApp and its use is increasingly becoming the scourge of many schools. We believe if you can’t beat them, join them! WhatsApp, like it or loathe it, is how parents communicate and is often their first point of call when they have a question about what is happening at school.

Rather than them asking other parents and spreading misinformation, we have set up our own school-controlled WhatsApp groups for each year group. They are not forums for parents to air their concerns, gossip or find out about the next birthday party, but they are a means to communicate important messages and reminders about school events and the type of uniform that should be worn that day.

If parents have a query about something, it will be answered quickly and promptly by our administrator of the groups, who knows the accurate answers – or they will post the relevant sections in the weekly information letter, which will have already been sent to all parents.

It provides parents with an excellent platform of communication (one they are familiar with and use regularly with ease) and it ensures that the correct message is sent. This reduces the chances of parents being misinformed and also the spreading of rumours.

Ben Evans, headmaster, Edge Grove School

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