Appointing a new headteacher without haste


What was the issue addressed?
Recruitment of a new head teacher – this is on-going. This was prompted by the unexpected retirement of an experienced and successful head. The challenge is in making sure the process wasn’t rushed so we could make sure we recruited the right person. Additionally, the school is apparently seen as a challenging school and there is a fear we will not attract the right calibre of person to the role. It is very important to all of us governors that the school continues to provide an excellent education for our children in a particularly multicultural context. The school is well thought of and looks after the wellbeing of children and parents well.

What happened?
The governing body agreed to plan for a gap rather than rush recruitment. This involved giving the current deputy a chance to step up for an interim period. This deputy is unfortunately unable to apply for the role as they have not had the relevant training (this was a little difficult to understand initially). We used the expertise of the consortium and LA to support us in making the right decision.

What lessons were learnt?
Although we haven’t yet made an appointment, we believe the right pathway has been taken. You cannot rush the appointment of a headteacher.

Appointing a new headteacher is probably the most important task the governing body has to undertake. Although such appointments are fairly infrequent, governing bodies need to give the process careful consideration.

Once the current headteacher has stated their intention to leave the school and a letter of resignation has been received, the governing body will need to meet to discuss the next steps. The process for the appointment of headteacher takes time, and the governing body must look at the needs of the school moving forward. The skills of the headteacher are particularly important in securing the success and improvement of the school. The best headteachers are the driving force in taking a school forward and ensuring a strong commitment to high standards in all aspects of the work of the school. Bearing this in mind, the governing body will want to attract the right candidates to interview. It is wise to review the Individual School Range (ISR) for the headteacher, taking into consideration, the size and circumstances of the school. Information on this can be found in The School Teachers Pay and Conditions (Wales) Document.

Throughout the appointment process, the governing body will receive advice from the Local Authority / Regional Consortium as happened in this case. Governors have to take account of the advice offered, and it is advisable that there is a consensus over the suitability of an appointment, both within the governing body and between the governing body and the Local Authority, although ultimately, the decision rests with the full governing body.

Whilst it is important for the governing body to appoint the right candidate, so there is a substantive headteacher in place, there may be no rush to get someone in post by the following term, due to several reasons e.g., a review of the staffing structure which is currently underway, consideration of school organisation proposals, specific advice from the Local Authority / Diocesan Authority. There may be a suitable person that can be appointed as acting headteacher in the interim, (this could be someone within the school, or external). In this case, the governing body appointed the current deputy headteacher to act up. This is a good way for that person to gain experience in a headteacher’s role for their future development. Acting headteachers do not need to have the National Professional Qualification for Headship (NPQH) but it is a requirement for substantive headteachers.

Governors Cymru Services has a comprehensive guide on the process for appointing a headteacher (and deputy headteacher).

If your school had to unexpectedly appoint a new headteacher, what would you do?
What is your school doing to ensure deputy headteachers are developing their skills and receiving appropriate training?

Have your say…
Have you had experiences similar to these?
What do you think about the situation described?

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Sam MacNamara – 07943 887275 / Jane Morris – 07957 969708