John Prockter gives his insight into chatting with head teachers in a way that furthers your ministry and theirs

Often, when I write this column, I try to write about some of the more significant principles or offerings we can make to schools. I’m usually focused on the more scheduled landmark experiences, which take quite a lot of planning and will often suit a handful of schools at a time.

A little while ago, I wrote a piece about what a general week looks like for me. Like you, my weeks can be quite varied, and very few things repeat regularly. I think it might be more accurate to consider my programme as having more of a monthly or termly rhythm. These things include youth gatherings, prayer with area ministries and coaching relationships. Of course, some things have a weekly rhythm, but these tend to involve me being in direct contact with young people. 

One important part of my role really can only happen on an annual basis. It’s the part of the ministry that opens doors and gives me a deeper insight into what’s really happening in the life of a school. I’m talking, of course, about meetings with the senior leadership team and head teachers. If you’re not used to speaking to schools about the big picture in your ministry, there’s something you need to know right off the top. These meetings often take ages to put together, and they can be frustratingly brief, with long, drawn-out follow-ups. 

Put simply, speaking to senior leadership teams and head teachers is a difficult job, but someone needs to do it, and if that person is you, take a deep breath; you’re about to practise the power of patience.




Meeting with head teachers

I’ve worked with head teachers for 26 years, and I’m convinced there are only four types. There are analytical heads, driving heads, amiable heads, and expressive heads. Frustratingly, they all need slightly different approaches from us, and they communicate differently, too. For example:

  1. The analytical head knows what they must achieve to be a great school. This type of head is keen to find out how you can help, but it may well take a long time for them to decide you’re the good news you say you are. Decision-making is difficult for analytical people.
  2. The driver head knows what they want you to do for them before you even arrive. Unfortunately, they might want something you don’t offer. (They’ll probably convince you to give it to them too.) The good news is this type of head will get you working as soon as they can.
  3. The amiable head will love what you do and will be keen to have you involved. They will probably advocate and serve you well, too. You might just have to wait for them to be ready to get you going.
  4. The expressive head runs the school with a clear vision for what they want it to be, and they will inspire you to do whatever they need. They might not be able to hear your vision, but they’ll welcome your help, and if you can agree with them, you’ll do well.

How you relate to these different types of heads will largely depend on who you are and your style. Try to consider mirroring the head, speaking a language they can understand. For example, in the last couple of weeks I’ve spent time with an obvious driver, an amiable and an expressive. What I found helpful was that the expressive told me very clearly what they wanted, which helped my communication with the driver and the amiable head a great deal. Ultimately, I took the expressive head’s priorities and suggested them to the driver and the amiable head. Both those types of social styles will tend to wait for you to recommend something, so having a plan of what you’re going to say is helpful.

As an expressive myself, I tend to speak ‘vision’ very easily, but I struggle to be direct, which is what an amiable and a driver needs from me. 


What needs did I discover?

I’ve written about some of these things before, but I think it’s worth noting that head teachers spoke to me specifically about needing help in the following areas in the last four weeks.


Christian input

Regarding RE provision and Christian input, I’ve been encouraged that schools need specific help in teaching Christianity. In my area, there are many non-specialist RE teachers and specialists from other faiths. What this means for us is that when those teachers come to the Christianity syllabus, they’ll be delighted to speak to you.


Practical RE resources

In two of my local schools, there has been a lack of practical resources in the RE department. I discovered that for about £300, you and your church could equip an RE department with a whole base of practical religious artefacts. Of course, some will be from other faiths, but if your aim is to serve, this is a great way to help.


Places of worship visits

In all my conversations recently, I’m finding there is a great need for schools to get out and visit places of worship. The question is, how can you help? Can you arrange a church? Would you be willing to accompany them? Please note: Your church might not be the correct place to take a school. RE departments need historic visits to churches that display relevant educational artefacts.


Youth Work Lunch Time Clubs

Schools have done quite a good job at squeezing all the fun out of the working day, with many staggering lunch times or reducing them to twenty-five to thirty minutes. Regardless of the length, the persistent, bored kid’s problem remains.

In my recent conversations, I’ve found head teachers looking for ways to send young people to activities to remove as many from the corridors and playgrounds as possible. If you can help a school get 20 or so students into a club doing something constructive, you’ll be helping the school a great deal.



Many school workers focus a lot of time on mentoring using various programmes, and I’ve certainly spoken a great deal on the subject. Still, it’s worth saying again. In the last month, three schools, including one brand-new contact, have asked me for community mentors


In conclusion, I think it’s really worth taking note of things that head teachers are saying. In your area, they might be asking for entirely different things. Still, at the end of the day, the worth of your offering is directly linked to the school’s needs, and it’ll be the head who can communicate those needs to you most effectively. 

Do your best to figure out how to communicate well with your local head teachers, find out what they need, and, if possible, use that information to communicate even better with heads from other schools.