10 things in preparation for Headship

It was good to be with IAPS N1 Deputy Heads this afternoon and to be invited to contribute to the programme along with Neil Jones.

The first session focussed on preparation for Headship which is something I have posted on before; see previous posts.

Today I highlighted:
1. If you are a Deputy Head you should never feel compelled to be a Head. Some Deputy Heads continue to be fulfilled in their role and do not feel called to Headship. It is the right career progression for some, but not for all. Equally, there are other options and you should pursue what is right for you and your family.
2. Seek to gain as much practical experience as you can before becoming a Head. The angle of your learning curve will be proportionate to your experiences, so prepare well; it will enable you to start with greater confidence and self-assurance.
3. Decide what your vision for education is. This will determine the type of school you look for. Do not apply for every job advertised. Be true to what is fundamentally important to you.
4. Get a mentor. The journey will be so much more productive and beneficial. It could be your current Head or someone outside school. Ideally ‘walk the talk’ with your current Head, explore the priorities they set and the decisions they take.
5. Consider what additional training you need e.g. in strategic planning and management, leadership styles, whole School finance, governance etc. Courses – prehaps an MA and/or NPQH or another option.
6. Network and build up a support group. Share ideas and experiences and use it as a way to extend your CPD. Use Twitter and blogs.
7. Establish your work life balance, time for – family and friends, exercise/keeping fit and interests other than school. NB if you become focussed solely on school you will not be able to continue giving.
8. Commit to the highest level of professionalism. Aim to be the very best you can be. First impressions count. Reputations take time to build and can be lost in seconds – you cannot take it back and careers can be ruined. Watch what you say and do – in public and via the social media. This may seem so obvious, but every year a number of Heads misjudge their actions and their career evaporates instantly.
9. The unexpected will happen – often. You need to be able to respond quickly, with confident and keeping an overview – covering all areas/needs. Never assume anything. Ask questions to ensure clarity, monitor progress without micro-managing. Support colleagues and school families. Have a paper trail for everything (it is vital if there is a potential for a ‘situation’ to develop).
10. None of us will ever be the perfect leader. We should never stop learning and developing. Do not be a panda (black and white in your thinking) or an ostrich (with your head in sand to new ideas and developments). Listen to, and reflect on, the views of others. Be open to embracing new ideas and change. Everyday we should be learning from those around us.


2 thoughts on “10 things in preparation for Headship

  1. neiljones

    Reblogged this on Adventures in School Leadership and commented:
    A very concise and thorough list from my friend prepschhead! Far more erudite than my contribution yesterday, this list gets to the heart of the significant points to consider in Headship. For me, numbers 3, 6 and 8 stand out as carrying the most weight and having the greatest bearing on one’s personal development as a Head.

    Decide what your vision for education is.
    Network and build up a support group.
    Commit to the highest level of professionalism.

    I was privileged to be with an outstanding group of fellow Heads at an annual dinner last night in IAPS district 1N. The dinner also marked the retirement from Headship of two wonderful educators and significant characters within Prep Schools. It is clear that successful Headship will also require character – not just in the personal attributes of resilience, perseverance, graciousness, etc. – but in being a figure that the community you lead can rally around. Not everyone can be a larger-than-life and ebullient individual, but there are other “characters” that Heads can be that inspire confidence, trust and a desire for affiliation. I met many last night and it is an aspect of Headship that must not be lost.

    The school is you and you are the school, perhaps?

  2. prepschhead Post author

    Thank you for your comments and kind words Neil. Let us hope we have the opportunity for something similar in the future!

    I agree we need characters in schools . . . . .

    Re: your observation/reflection – ‘the school is you and you are the school’.
    I believe a Head provides vision which shapes the school’s direction, for better or worse. A good head champions ‘community’ and motivates the team to enable excellence in teaching and learning. My views are in line with the following . . . . bit.ly/178wgUh
    ‘The school does not belong to me. The school belongs to the kids, the parents, the community. I am a guest leader until either I or someone else decides it is time for me to move on. When we do leave, the school will still be here. Our responsibility is to honor and respect our school community, serve our guests, strive to build capacity and a caring community, and cultivate a positive culture where all students believe they can be successful.’


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