Becoming a headteacher of a school can be exciting and, at times, seem daunting. It is the responsibility of the governing board to ensure that the headteacher is welcomed into the role. The school should give ample time for the new headteacher to get up-to-date with all relevant information, policies and procedures, as well as all training, such as safeguarding, that reflect the exacting standards expected of all school employees. This guidance is designed to advise governors on the important steps that they need to consider once a new headteacher has been appointed.
An induction should begin once all employment checks have been made on a new employee. An induction is designed so that the new headteacher feels prepared and comfortable to start their role in the school. An induction package should be created in advance of the new headteacher’s start date. The governing board should treat a headteacher induction as any new starter induction; this can be assured by using an induction checklist.
A successful induction will ensure the new headteacher:
- Is introduced to the governing board.
- Is introduced to school staff, parents and pupils – this can be achieved in a designated ‘meet the headteacher’ evening.
- Meets the current headteacher, so a handover meeting can be arranged.
- Receives a tour of the school with the current headteacher and the chair of the governing board.
- Is introduced to other key personnel, such as the designated safeguarding lead (DSL) and other stakeholders.
- Is provided with all school’s policies and procedures, so they can become familiar with them.
- Is notified of any pressing issues in school that need immediate attention, e.g. updating data records.
- Is provided with all necessary documentation such as the self-evaluation form, the school development plan, previous headteacher reports to governors and personnel files for all staff.
- Has all their questions answered.
The induction should be carried out as soon as all employment checks have been completed and an official announcement by the school has been made to all stakeholders. During the induction, the chair of governors should schedule regular meetings with the new headteacher to offer support and any additional guidance required.
Establishing training requirements
The governing board should ensure that the new headteacher has all the training required for their position, e.g. National Professional Qualification for Headship training, or finance training if it has been identified as suitable training by the governing board. The headteacher should be trained in areas such as safeguarding, so that their performance adheres to the exacting standards outlined in ‘National standards of excellence for headteachers’. The governing board should actively encourage any CPD training the headteacher wishes to commit to. Both the governing board and the new headteacher should be aware of, and act in accordance with, the school’s continuing professional development and training policy.
Establishing a relationship
It is important for the chair of governors and the new headteacher to have a cohesive working relationship. To achieve this, the chair of governors should agree to meet with the new headteacher during the induction. They should discuss the new headteacher’s past experiences, the school’s ethos and any other issue either party may have. With this knowledge, they can make an action plan for ways to improve the running of the school.
The chair of governors should ensure that the new headteacher is introduced to key stakeholders, e.g. the DSL or the area finance officer (academies only). The governing board should act as a support network for the headteacher. If they have never been a headteacher before, the governing board should arrange a mentor for them. A mentor may be appropriate for any headteacher – it is for the governing board to decide this in collaboration with the headteacher.
The governing board should make all possible efforts to organise release days with the previous headteacher and the new headteacher. The previous headteacher should make a list of all documentation, passwords and procedures to be handed over to the new headteacher at their first meeting.
To ensure the handover is without complications, it should be split into a few meetings – the governing board can communicate the need for these meetings to the new headteacher's current school. Meetings should take place before the current headteacher leaves the school, which gives the new headteacher time to ask any questions they may have and to iron out any issues that may arise. If they do not receive this initial support, the new headteacher may feel unprepared.
Once the induction is complete, it is good practice for the governing board to reflect upon the recruitment process. Aspects to consider should be:
- The method of recruitment.
- The ratio of applications received to the number of interviewees.
- The time it took for the new employee to leave their previous school to starting their new role.
- The success of the induction process.
- The handover process.
- Whether the questions asked in the interview were suitable when assessing skills and attributes.
- Whether the level of rejected applicants was acceptable and measures that can be placed to overcome this.
- Whether there were any difficulties that need to be addressed.
By analysing the recruitment process, the governing board can identify any particular areas of strength or weakness. This is important so that in the future each new member of staff feels fully supported and confident entering into their role.
DfE (2017) ‘Recruiting a headteacher’ p.30-31
London Borough of Ealing (2017) ‘Ealing Headteacher Handover guidance and checklist (primary)’ p.1
Wadley, N., (2018) (Email conversation regarding advice for governors when inducting a new headteacher to school) [Personal communication: 17 January 2018]