Head Teacher

The Head teacher of your child’s school has a potentially huge impact on the quality of students’ experience.

  • A good Head teacher has the respect of staff and students. The staff enjoy working for her, so there is not an abnormally large staff turnover. They also respect her, so they do not cut corners. Students see her as the ultimate sanction, but also trust her and are able to have productive relationships with her. She knows her students. This combination of skills is unusual and hard to find.
  • A good Head teacher is visible and present. Some Head teachers shut themselves away in their office for so long they become afraid of students, and children do not know them. A good Head teacher is at the school gate, in the play ground, and in classrooms, when appropriate.  They are omnipresent.
  • A good Head teacher has positive relationships with parents, but is never held hostage to their whims.They consult with parents when appropriate, but have their own vision for the school.
  • The Head teacher should involve parents appropriately in school decision making. For example, it is good practice to carry out an annual parents’ survey and respond to its recommendations. However, the Head teacher has been appointed because they have the expertise to run the school and make decisions on behalf of the institution. A good Head teacher will steer a clear line between decisions which require parental consultation and those which should rely on her professional judgement.
  • Good Head teachers are charismatic. When they talk, the listeners are inspired.
  • A good Head teacher will be hands on, when appropriate.  She should be there at the school production putting out the chairs if there is no one else to do it.
  • A good Head teacher has a vision for the school, and talks in terms of what will happen in its future.
  • Good Head teachers like children.
  • If a Head teacher lacks key strengths, a strong leadership team can compensate. If the Head teacher, for example, is a strategist, and the Deputy head teacher  is an organiser, then this combination could be extremely successful.
  • In a larger secondary school, it is often necessary for the Head teacher to be more of a figurehead, and to have strong Deputy head teachers who do much of the day to day management. If the Deputies are of high calibre, then this situation can be more than satisfactory.
  • Some Head teachers are often absent from the school. They may be on training courses, working with other schools or courting media attention. Again, this is not a problem so long as their presence is felt and they leave the management in the hands of capable Deputies.
  • A Head teacher needs to be judged with regard to her school’s context. If students come from backgrounds that negatively impact on academic progress; if the school is under funded; if the buildings are run down, and the Head still impacts positively, then arguably this is a far greater achievement than that of a Head who works in a school with supportive parents, a wealthy catchment area, and an effective PTA.
  • Some schools are grouped together, and have an overall executive Head teacher, and also a Head for each school.

Further Information

Open Evening/Visit

Make sure you hear the Head teacher speak at open evening. Ask the students who are showing you round about the Head.Your best answer is that she is ‘strict but alright’. It does not matter if students dislike her so long as they perceive her as fair. Your worst answer is that they like her because she lets them get away with things. Ask the students where they see the Head teacher. Your best answer is ‘everywhere.’ A good answer is when they have done something very wrong, then they go to the Head teacher’s office. An unsatisfactory answer is ‘hardly ever.’However, if they mention a strict Deputy head who is in charge of discipline, then this is acceptable.


The Head teacher will always write something in the prospectus, which will give you an indication of their calibre and philosophy.

Case Study


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