Five conversations for governors to have before recruiting a new headteacher

Starting discussions about appointing a new headteacher? We suggest a few questions to ask…

  1. “What do we value in our current leader?”

Replacing an experienced, respected and well-loved leader can be an emotional experience for everyone in a school community.  Governors will feel a great sense of responsibility to make the right decision and there can often be a perfectly natural tendency to want to clone the leader you already have!

Instead, try to challenge yourself to take the personality out of the debate.   See if you can identify what it is about your existing leader that works for you – what skills do they bring, what personal characteristics have made them a success, and what is it about their leadership style that is so effective?  Having done that, you can then test for those skills during your recruitment process.

Try this too – how has your current leader developed throughout their time with you?  This can be a useful reminder that you’ll rarely find the finished article and you might want to think about the areas where you’re prepared to appoint on potential.

  1.   “What skills and attributes are critical for us right now?”

Next, flip the conversation around. What skills do you need right now and over the next few years? They could be quite different.   And although answers to this question are going to depend on your particular situation, it’s far easier to have this discussion before the start of a campaign, rather than after you’ve met your candidates.

Are you embarking on an improvement journey that requires major cultural change in the school?  Is this about a good to outstanding journey?  A rapid turnaround from special measures?  Is there a particular need to transform community engagement and restore confidence?

Answers to the above will be crucial when you’re assessing the suitability of candidates.

  1. “Are we clear about safer recruitment?”

It’s a good idea to think about this early on.  If you’re a maintained school at least one member of your selection panel will need to have completed the safer recruitment training.  Revisit the latest DfE guidance Keeping Children Safe in Education

  1. “What are we offering to our successful candidate?”

You will of course feel excited and passionate about your own school – so why wouldn’t anyone want to come and work with you?   But it’s really important to remember that the schools and academies leadership market is both challenging and highly competitive.   So it’s a good idea to think about recruitment as an opportunity to promote your school and tell a compelling story about where you’re going next.

This isn’t about selling a role to someone who doesn’t want it – but it is about making sure you stand out from the crowd.

What are you offering a candidate that is going to make that difference?  It might be an exciting capital development project to take forward, plans to develop into a Teaching School, an opportunity to join a growing academies trust and move into an executive leadership post in the future.

Whatever those ‘pull’ factors are, take the time to identify them and make sure your advert and recruitment materials set them out clearly.

  1. “How are our skills best deployed?”

Running a successful recruitment campaign takes a mix of skills.  So it can be helpful to determine who in your governing body or selection panel is best placed to support different elements of the process.

You’ll need great written materials, engaging adverts and job descriptions.  Getting this right is crucial to ensuring a professional tone for the campaign.  You’ll also want to decide who will take overall responsibility for coordination and who’ll sit at the interface between candidates and the school.  Whatever you do, remember that ensuring a smooth and professional candidate experience can make a big difference.

So, whether you’ve got project management, sales and marketing, HR or design skills represented across your governing body – try putting them to use in the campaign.