Jill Berry, author of 'Making the Leap - Moving from Deputy to Head' shares her top tips for preparing for your first headship application.
“I definitely wouldn’t want to be a head…”
Have you ever said that? I certainly have, and I can fully remember why the role seemed to hold little appeal during my early years of teaching – the pressure, the responsibility, and the sheer intensity of the job.
But sometimes what we want from our career changes as it progresses, and I think I knew I wanted to be a head when, as a deputy, I realised how much I actually enjoyed it when my head was out of school and people looked to me, rather than the person standing behind me. I was a head for ten years, and it was definitely the most rewarding and satisfying job I had over my thirty-year career. Headship offers you the opportunity to make a difference to the lives of children and adults on a scale unlike any other you have ever known. It is a privilege to be able to lead a school in a way which aligns with your own vision, values and leadership principles.
So what advice can I offer to those considering their first headship application?
1. Do your research carefully and choose a school where the legacy you inherit from your predecessor is coherent with your own underlying educational principles and where you believe you will be able to lead in a way which is true to you, and where you can develop into the school leader you dream of being. Visit the school and begin to tune in to what makes it distinctive.
2. Use this research to craft a written application which demonstrates in a compelling way the match between what the school needs from its next head, and what you have to offer. Beware of simply focussing on what you have done in the past: consider, rather, your potential and what you could do in the future, given the opportunity and the right degree of support and challenge from your governing body.
3. If you are called to interview, continue to show how you are a good fit, using your past successes and achievements of examples of what you are capable of. Begin to build your relationship with the different members of the school community throughout the application and selection process.
4. Prepare thoroughly and show that, although no one starts their headship as “the finished article”, you are aware of any areas in which you are continuing to develop your skills, and that you are committed to doing so, both during the ‘lead-in’ period between securing a post and formally stepping into the role, and once you take up the position. Show self-awareness, and a determination to listen, reflect and learn.
5. And if you are unsuccessful on your first attempt, do not give up. Accept that you would not want to work closely alongside a governing body that failed to recognise your potential and choose you. The right job in the right school is out there – and it will be worth it.
By Jill Berry, author of ‘Making the Leap – Moving from Deputy to Head' (Crown House, 2016)