Harrogate school head turns his own leadership journey into 'incredibly honest' new book

A Harrogate school head is being praised for his incredibly honest new book which opens up on the "daunting nature of the role" for newcomers in the light of his own leadership journey.
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Called New School Leader: What Now?, Harrogate Grammar School Headteacher Neil Renton wrote the captivating book with the express aim of helping and inspiring newly-appointed headteachers with pragmatic advice based on real experience.

Already receiving wonderful reviews at Amazon and Waterstones, Mr Renton’s jargon-free book has been acclaimed by Geoff Barton, General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL).

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"From its first sentence,” said Mr Barton, “the book presents the most authentic and powerfully-articulated account of the shift that happens inside us as we take on the mantle of head or principal."

Praised for new book - Mr Neil Renton was was appointed Headteacher of Harrogate Grammar School in 2019. (Picture contributed)Praised for new book - Mr Neil Renton was was appointed Headteacher of Harrogate Grammar School in 2019. (Picture contributed)
Praised for new book - Mr Neil Renton was was appointed Headteacher of Harrogate Grammar School in 2019. (Picture contributed)

Subtitled “simple lessons to navigate doubt, embrace challenge and lead well every day”, Neil’s uplifting new book is based on lessons learned in the real world of education as an experienced senior leader.

Neil started his teaching career in Colchester after graduating from the London School of Economics and the Institute of Education.

He moved to Ilkley Grammar School in 2004 as Head of Department before progressing to Assistant Headteacher at Heckmondwike Grammar School in 2009.

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In 2013, he joined Harrogate Grammar School as Deputy Headteacher where he then progressed to Associate Headteacher, completing his National Professional Qualification for Headship.

In 2019 he was appointed as the ninth Headteacher at Harrogate Grammar School.

Divided into four distinct sections, Part 1 of New School Leader: What Now? is entitled "Navigating Doubt”.

Neil said: “ Very few newly-appointed heads will not wonder at an early stage what on earth they have let themselves in for.

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"It really is a role where you never know what is round the next corner.

"The book is an attempt to create the book that I looked for but couldn’t find when I became a headteacher.”

In Mr Renton’s case, his arrival at Harrogate Grammar School in late 2018 coincided with a pandemic, and coping with an Ofsted inspection.

The book has also been acclaimed by the Harrogate Advertiser columnist Dennis Richards, who was Headteacher of St. Aidan’s CE High School in Harrogate from 1989-2012.

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“Neil has captured perfectly the sheer bewilderment of the early stages of headship, finding yourself in meetings about budgets, buildings and bad behaviour,” said Mr Richards.

"Most of us were deputies first.

"The top job is completely different.”

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