Thinking about moving from deputy to head?

Blog
02 August 2017 by AMiE
Author and former headteacher Dr Jill Berry talks through some things you might want to consider, and on 13 October she will be speaking at the annual national early headship conference.

AMiE is funding two places at the event. If you are interested contact AMiE director Mark Wright.

Being a deputy is a good preparation for headship but you need to recognise that becoming a head is not just more of the same. And you need to be prepared to embrace that. Deputies are largely operational, but as a head you have a more strategic remit. 

It is likely you will have at least two terms between being appointed and starting. Read widely, go on courses, shadow people doing jobs that you don’t really understand. You will have time to think about where your weaknesses are - maybe you need to know more about finance, marketing - and then set about learning more about those areas.

To be a good head, temperament is really important. You need to have strong values, a sense of moral purpose and good judgement. The leaders who worry me are those who never have self-doubt.

I had days as a head when I thought I was barely getting away with it, but you need to keep a sense of perspective, understand there will be ebb and flow, and on days like that remind yourself of your successes.

You’ll need to be resilient and that comes partly with time. I was a better head in year 10 than year one. Sensitivity is important because to lead well you have to be able to understand feelings and empathise. But you do have to be able to get over things quite quickly.

Another thing you’ll need to be prepared for is that just moving up one level will fundamentally change how staff perceive you.

Some people love status. They may as well have ‘headteacher’ tattooed across their forehead

 

Some people love status. They may as well have ‘headteacher’ tattooed across their forehead. I’m not one of them.  I wasn’t naïve, I knew that as head I wasn’t just one of the troops, but I could divide the staff into two groups: one group respected the role but also saw me as a person, and the other saw me only as the head. That was their issue rather than mine.

With governors, you need to help them understand your role so they can provide the right amount of challenge and support

 

With governors, you need to help them understand your role so they can provide the right amount of support and challenge. When I had a new chair, I invited them to shadow me, which worked well. 

From your first day remember to listen. Steaming in and announcing to everyone what your vision for the school is won’t lead to success. You need to listen, reflect and learn. You never stop learning.

Dr Jill Berry’s book, Making the leap, covers a wide range of issues including preparing your application, managing the lead-in period and developing a good relationship with governors. To order a copy go to www.crownhouse.co.uk £12.99.

AMiE’s publication How to survive at the top also offers lots of practical advice on managing as a new leader.

If you need help or advice, our team are here to support you on 01858 464171 or email the AMiE helpline.

Tagged with: 
Leadership