A Day in The Life of a Deputy Headteacher: Part 5

Reading time: 5
shutterstock_238251598 Businessman checking statistics and diagrams on pc


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
Read more about @TeacherToolkit

If you are a senior leader, how has the end of the year (2015) been for you?

This post has been partially written prior to the holiday season, and reflects a period between October to December 2015.


This is the 5th in the series of The Life of a Deputy Headteacher. The reason I write this is to post online how I am developing in my new role as a deputy headteacher; to offer a place to reflect and share with other senior and aspiring leaders. If you were left in charge of a large secondary school for the day, how would you go about your day? What I hope to offer here is a snapshot into my working day; to help the reader to compare, suggest or to use for reflection.

Return of the Deputy:

In ‘The Life of a Deputy Headteacher’ blogs gone-by, I can sum up each individual blogpost in one single word; note the time of the academic year may also be a factor;

In leadership, it is easy to feel like the walls are closing in. Times are sometimes tense and it is often relentless. But, it is not always a pressure-cooker; there are many wonderful moments day-to-day …

 shutterstock_186723332 Concept of a stressed businessman under pressure

Image: Shutterstock


A Day in the Life of …

(The section was written in October 2015)

I had just 4 hours sleep the night before stepping up to become acting-headteacher for the day. This wasn’t due to the fact I had not done this before or that I was anxious. No. It was from the exhaustion and sheer relief of overseeing performance related pay and the completion of the appraisal cycle for every single member of staff; the annual process coming to an end the night before at a governor committee. The meeting ended at 8pm and I got home and into bed by 9.30pm. I was shattered from the expectations and the emotional ending of this task …

The anticipation of presenting a fair and transparent process from our pay policy – thanks Mr. Gove! – and decisions for the very first time as a school – and in my role – was extremely challenging. In 2014, we had secured a local agreement with unions and had our pay policy delayed for one year due to various circumstances.  The pressure to now get this right for all of our staff was immense. Of course, I did not do this alone; guided by my brilliant headteacher and a wonderful member of our support team to help me with the logistics, the strategy was left to me.

There was one over-ridding comment from the committee. “This process is robust, transparent and fair; far greater than what we receive in our industry.” This feedback resonated with me. Not because it made me feel better, but because we are clearly in a landscape where performance appraisal is clearly better-managed than other leading industries. I know, this is just one example, but it is food for thought whether you agree or disagree with the process. For me, I am divided.

shutterstock_233537917 Businessman accused with hands that indicate

Image: Shutterstock

As a leadership team, we had already witnessed the impact disjointed pay policies is having on recruitment to the school. Made-up pay scales and incentives being offered to our own staff, as well as staff arriving for interview with misconceptions. It has been an interesting year for schools and funding … I guess this is what leadership is for sometimes. To protect staff for nonsense and to shield them from the stress and constraints imposed on us all from the government.

All Before Lunchtime:

Following the personnel (governors) meeting, the very next morning, I was leading up the school. This blog sets about capturing the highlights from the day. Here is a snapshot into my morning;

  • 7.15am: Overseeing and triple-checking a collapsed timetable to compensate for a year group of 220 students being out of school on an educational visit.
  • 7.30am: Overseeing cover allocation for the day; buying in cover supervisors and supply teachers, as well as rarely cover.
  • At 8.20am: leadership briefing, dealing with events from the day before; discussing any unresolved issues; planning for day ahead …
  • 8.35am: Gate duty; welcoming students and dealing with late arrivals.
  • 9.00am: Reading applications …
  • 9.30am: Preparing for the stage 1 appraisal process (and reflecting on the success of 2014/15).
  • 10.00am: Ensuring 220 year 7 students depart safely to their residential. Waving them off!
  • 10.30am: Managing the diner break time for service queue entrance/exit; thanking staff and clearing the playground for the next lesson.
  • 10.45am: Teaching a one-off technology lesson to year 7 as part of the collapsed timetable.
  • 11.45am: Welcoming 20 food technology technicians to school for the day for a training event. Followed by a quick walk of the main building …
  • 12.00pm: Reading, replying and mainly deleting emails. Picking up a few conversations with staff.
  • 12.30pm: Lunch duty around the school building until 1.45pm. (We have a double lunch period for KS3 then KS4/5).

shutterstock_155673026 Concept of stress at work with businessman with smoke

Image: Shutterstock

After midday, I lost track of my thoughts and failed to record what happened next. Typically, I stand in the diner with students and staff on duty from 12.30pm until 1.45pm. We have a double lunch hour with lower and upper school rotating. I help manage the queue system to ensure a calm and safe entrance into the diner. This is steadily being taken over by lunchtime supervisors to allow me the freedom to walk the site and speak with students and staff; manage unplanned cover and so forth. Gradually as we settle into our new building, I am managing to visit tutor time (during the lunch hour); assemblies (when not leading them) and walking to the far reaches of our new playground.

Of course this blog does not capture all the corridor and playground conversations; the decisions and thought process behind each comment, action and movement, but I hope that above at least captures a 24-hour period in my working life.

January 2016 onwards:

To support this blog, below is (a photograph of current to-do list) my office whiteboard. The image was taken on Friday 18th December 2015.

The Life of a Deputy Headteacher

These are a few of the projects I need to push forward during January to February 2016.

Urgent and Important:

  • As CPD leader, the first day back INSET day always sets the tone.
  • Learning Policy; particularly a marking re-visit after our work sampling in November.
  • The launch of our coaching and mentoring CPD.
  • Department diagnostic reporting – blog to follow on this.

Not Urgent But Important:

  • To review the CPD budget expenditure for 2015/16
  • To launch our CPD loyalty card scheme and CPD menu.
  • To launch our staff well-being scheme.

Urgent But Unimportant:

  • To launch TeachMeet London.

Not Urgent and Not Important:

  • To buy a blind for my office door as it is made from glass and offers no privacy for one-to-one conversations with colleagues, students and parents. My office leads out onto the school playground. Here is one photo I have of the space when we first moved into the building.
  • To purchase tickets for our Extended Leadership Team to attend the ASCL conference in March 2016.

The cogs in the wheel are already turning, but for now, it is time to relax at home for the holiday season. Despite the exam and revision season heating up, there will be several CPD and teaching and learning priorities next term. I will be useless to everyone without a proper rest …

shutterstock_183277100 Concept of build a business system with gear

Image: Shutterstock

Have a relaxing holiday everyone!


@TeacherToolkit logo new book Vitruvian man TT


4 thoughts on “A Day in The Life of a Deputy Headteacher: Part 5

  1. HI Ross…your ‘deputy head’ blog resonated with me because I am also a deputy head, at a large, urban junior school, and I also teach year six full time! The year six job is massive in itself at the moment (!) and I get two semi afternoons ‘off’ for management and my own planning etc ! But, after 29 years of teaching, I can do the job! What gets me is that there is no support network for this level of management…the heads have their network, to which I don’t belong, and the staff have their cliques and gangs, to which I don’t (and can’t) belong, so I often feel like a ‘one-man’ band’.And then trying to organise big ‘events’ with out anyone really helping more than they are required to, is hellish, but they will all praise and enjoy the event at the end, and inside I’m screaming “How lovely you enjoyed it BUT help at the beginning would have been welcomed ‘ so I get grumpy and come across as the ‘grumpy’ one! Don’t get me wrong…I’m doing all that is needed and more but sometimes I feel like throttling staff from all levels!!! Thank goodness for the PTFA who do actually provide some support for some things! How do you cope!

    1. Hi Paula, I totally get the grumpy one! 🙂 It’s stress and exhaustion with no support in place. You need to ask for it. If you keep performing like this, it will be expected. I still cannot understand why primary colleagues only receive x1 or 2 afternoons off per week for planning and marking! It’s ludicrous.

    2. Oh Paula – could have written that myself. Very isolating position at times and sometimes I just feel that I am expected to be ‘perfect’ and there for everyone else all of the time for the crap stuff, but not always to enjoy the nice stuff. Nice to know it’s not just me though.

    3. I am also a deputy in a one and a half form entry school and completely agree that deputy heads are in a league of their own.
      There are no support networks for deputies yet you are supposed to support the staff around you and the head. Who supports the deputy?
      I love reading these blogs. Although my day differs somewhat as I also teach in year 6. I’ve been given 20 mins management time each morning and an hour and 20 mins every afternoon. This is in a bid to raise standards.
      After completing my NPQH I realised that being in the classroom was something I didn’t want to do anymore and I wanted to learn how to be a good leader and manager.
      Since October we have had a new head who is brilliant but I now feel I’ve moved backwards but with the same expectations as before. I’m meandering through a fog. That’s how I feel.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.