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Moving Up: Applying For A Job As A Headteacher

Published: Thursday 19th March 2015

Being a headteacher in a school is a highly paid, respected and coveted position and vacancies for such positions usually arise due to retirement. As the vast majority of retirements take place in the summer term, applications for the role of headteacher are generally for a September start. In many cases, the current deputy headteachers would be invited to apply for the role, but it may also be offered externally. In either case, the governing body of the school offers the role, so you would need to contact the school for an application pack.

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Before doing so, however, it is highly advisable that you take a visit to the school you wish to apply for if it is not the one you are currently working in. This can help you evaluate student behaviour and staff morale, while also giving you the opportunity to show your skills, interest and enthusiasm.

How To Apply For A Headteacher Role

The application for the role of headteacher is similar in many ways to other teaching positions. You will still need to outline your own educational background as well as your teaching experience, but you will also need to show your leadership experience and explain the nature of this in your personal statement.

When filling out your application form, it is vital that you target it towards the needs of the school you are applying to. Your application form must sell you to the school, so you will need to explain very clearly why you are the best person for the job. Your skills and experience should be based on real-life recent examples, backed up by facts and figures about how you improved your previous school. Generally, your last two years’ experience is seen as the most important indicator of your abilities.

The process of a headteacher interview

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An interview panel will generally be made up of the current headteacher, the chair of interview and two or more other members of the governing body. The governing body makes the decision as to who should be appointed. Generally, it is advisable for there to be an odd number of governors present to ensure a majority vote if needed. If it is a religious school, a member of the clergy may also be on the interview panel. Similarly if the school is under the control of the Local Authority then an LA adviser may be present. However, neither the LA nor the diocesan advisers have any voting rights.

There should also be someone on the interview panel who has responsibility for the safeguarding of children. This may be the Head of Pastoral Care or a member of the governing body who has completed training in all aspects of safe recruitment. You will be asked questions based on the core competencies and these will be divided up among the panel members. If you can provide specific examples to back up your experience in each area, this will be seen favourably. 

Some schools may choose to have a series of mini-panels instead, each focusing on a different aspect of the role. In some schools, there may also be a student panel as part of the selection process, or you will be asked to lead a discussion with a group of children. This is usually included to observe your interaction with the students.

What Will I Need To Prepare?

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Many schools ask headteacher applicants to prepare a presentation for the panel. This presentation will be based on a topic supplied to you in advance, and will normally last 10 minutes, with an additional 5–10 minutes for questions from the panel. Unlike the application process for regular teachers in the UK, you will not be expected to teach a class as part of the application process. Instead, you may be asked to observe a lesson and give feedback. In this instance it is crucial to remember that you are observing the lesson in the role of a headteacher. You must be familiar with the current Ofsted criteria and give your feedback using Ofsted terminology. 

Following the observation part of the exercise, you will normally be asked to present feedback to the teacher (and then separately to the assessor). Ensure you keep all feedback unbiased, relevant and always make sure you make constructive suggestions for improvement. Some schools may ask you to lead an assembly on a topic of your choice, or they will supply you with one in advance. If you are asked to do this, it is generally to assess your presence, how you speak to crowds and your leadership style. Choose topics and techniques you are confident with. 

In some schools, you may even be asked to take part in a role-playing exercise to see how you would handle certain situations. This can be in the form of your approach to correspondence or a scenario they have chosen for you. It is important to remain true to yourself and act as you would in such a situation rather than adopting a persona for the purposes of the role-play.  The interview process is a long one and  usually far more detailed  than regular teacher interviews, sometimes spread over two days.  It is important to research the school you are applying to carefully and prepare yourself to perform well.

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