Disruption and difficult revelations due to new headteacher appointment

Reflection – Primary School

What was the issue addressed?
Following the retirement of the Head Teacher, the popular Deputy was expected by staff, governors and parents to become the new Head. A much better candidate was successful and appointed. This caused some resentment among a small number of staff loyal to the Deputy, as well as disappointment and disillusionment in the Deputy. This led to senior members of staff going off on long term sickness.

Linked to this change, the SLT had believed that they were performing to a high standard and setting example for other schools in the county. They believed that their practices were effective and successful. The change of Head revealed that this was not the case. Discrepancies between teacher assessments and test results showed that teaching standards had slipped and pupils were making less progress than believed. The Governing Body did not understand data sufficiently to effectively challenge staff assumptions.

What happened?
The situation is still on-going but has created problems in trying to get new Head settled and school performing as it should. It is being addressed through installing interim SLT and HR sickness policy.

Series of reviews and mini-inspection being undertaken to identify current baselines and plans in place to address shortfalls. Training being undertaken.

What lessons were learnt?
Neither of the above have as yet been resolved but are work in progress and may take 12 months before we see improvement.

Appointing a headteacher is probably the most important task of the governing body. Getting the right person to lead the school is crucial for the school’s success. The process, therefore, needs careful consideration and expert advice from the beginning to the end of each stage of the selection process to assist the governing body. This will be available from officers at the Local Authority / Regional Consortium, and Diocesan Authority as applicable.

The Local Authority will have information and guidelines about the headteacher appointment process. Governors Cymru Services also has a useful governor guide to assist you.

In this case study, it is understandable that the deputy headteacher would be disappointed that they were not appointed, this is only natural. Ultimately, the governing body would have appointed the best person for the job based on detailed selection criteria and a thorough appointment and interviewing process.

Unfortunately, disillusionment can set in amongst staff but this could also be for a variety of other reasons. Everyone from parents, staff and governors now need to move on in the best interests of the school. It will be the task of the new headteacher, along with the governing body, to bring everyone together and develop new pathways and whole school strategies, not least for team development. However, this does not happen overnight.

It is inevitable that a new headteacher will want to change and develop certain aspects of school life. How this is achieved needs careful handling in itself, as we can see from this example. Getting everyone on board requires time and diplomacy! Staff training and professional development opportunities will certainly help. Revisiting the school vision using some INSET time and inviting governors to attend can be a useful starting point.

As for the governing body, it is apparent that it was not fulfilling its strategic function effectively, in particular, the critical friend role. Governors need to ensure they have a robust in-depth understanding of school data and they ask questions to challenge the status quo. Governors should not therefore, be surprised when their expectations and understanding of how things are within the school, are challenged.

Here are some useful ways to develop the critical or questioning friend role, in addition to information on how to gain a better understanding of how to use performance data:

How to challenge effectively? Practical tips

The Critical Friend

Governor Guide on the Use of Performance Data

Have all the relevant members of the governing body undertaken the mandatory training on school performance data? Check with your clerk and / or the Local Authority to see if you need to attend.

School self-evaluation exercises and a self-review of governing body effectiveness are a great way to reflect on the school strengths and areas for development in a user-friendly way. This in itself, can help to promote discussion, ownership and most importantly create an environment of openness and transparency. As a governor, are you fully involved in the school self-evaluation processes? Does the governing body review its own work looking to how it can improve? Your Local Authority /Regional Consortium will have some information on this to assist you, along with the Governors Cymru Services templates.

Have changes to members of your school’s senior leadership team caused staff morale problems?
Has a change in leadership revealed previously hidden issues affecting school performance?
Does your governing body feel confident about evaluating school performance data?

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

Contact Us

01443 844532 / 029 2075 3685 [email protected]
Sam MacNamara – 07943 887275 / Jane Morris – 07957 969708