The Life of a Deputy Headteacher: Part 7

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shutterstock_189587951 Portrait of Indian business man and woman in a modern urban setting.


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What does a typical term look like in ‘the life of a deputy headteacher’?

This post has been written towards the end of the examination season and reflects the period between May to June 2016.


This is the 7th in the series of The Life of a Deputy Headteacher and it is just my story.

The reasons I document here, is to share how I am developing in my role as a deputy headteacher; to offer a place to reflect and discuss with other senior and aspiring leaders. The online forum as it today did not exist for me a decade ago when I first became a senior leader, so it is vital that we share our work with each other to encourage and strengthen the important work of school leaders everywhere. It also helps generate good ideas, build networks and expose guff.

If you were in charge of a large secondary school, how would you go about a half-term?

What I hope to offer here is a snapshot into (one of) my working half-terms to help the reader compare, suggest or to use for their own reflection. In a recent post, I asked myself: Do You Want To Be A Headteacher?

shutterstock a man wearing a suit sitting in a desk with a signboard in front of him with the word principal written in it

Image: Shutterstock

In summary, I wrote that I know headship – or any life in senior leadership – does not have to be 24/7. Our workload is our own choice and I am brave enough to make the step, I just know it’s not the time to do so.

So, with this in mind and a never-ending to-do list, how do senior teachers prioritise their own workload without it impacting on others? Or worse, workload putting you off school leadership.

A Day in the Life of …

In the past, I have shared to-do lists and summaries of a day/week. In this post, I offer you my current tasks I am working on and break them down into short, medium and long-term projects. It has been written as ‘a to-do list’ and is to be read in this way so that strategic thinking can be demonstrated. Hopefully, this will give you a flavour of what life can sometimes be like as a deputy headteacher working in a large Inner-London secondary school.

Short Term:

*defined as imminent and within next 6 weeks

  • End of year work sampling students’ books with 3 heads of departments I line manage.
  • Appraisal observations.
  • Evaluating an overview of teaching and learning across the school based on the above.
  • Preparing for roll-up to our new timetable next week. I will be meeting my new GCSE class.
  • Leading whole-school assemblies next week.
  • Appointing the last few vacancies we have across the school and negotiating rates with agencies.
  • Re-advertising internal shadow leadership posts and advertising for new teaching and learning colleagues.
  • Exit interviews with colleagues who are leaving the school.
  • Sending our new teacher planner 2016/17 off to print.
  • Printing a pilot exercise book for students to use across the school.
  • Finalising our last INSET day plans for July and new staff induction day.
  • Publishing our CPD calendar for 2016/17.
  • Leading our final Illuminate show and tell session at our school for other school leaders.
  • Publishing our 2nd action research journal.
  • Preparing appraisal guidance for all staff for Performance Related Pay decisions.
  • Publishing our school video.

shutterstock_189588083 Rear View of Two Indian business people with digital tablet in a modern urban setting.

“Sometimes decisions need to be made in the playground …”

Image: Shutterstock

Medium Term:

*defined as within the next 3-5 months.

  • Developing work based upon our Investors in People action plan.
  • Ensuring that the above feeds into our school development plan.
  • Reviewing and refining our school development plan and priorities for the next 3-5 years.
  • Reviewing CPD budget and evaluations.
  • Reviewing our job description templates for all adverts.
  • Establishing our coaching programme, guidance criteria and supporting materials.
  • Establishing our revised whole-school monitoring programme for self-evaluation.
  • Tweaking our staff induction programme.
  • Introducing our CPD breakfast programme to staff.
  • Cross-referencing teacher loadings on the timetable versus cover and coaching needs.

To support this blog, below is my to-do list which records the planned tasks, not other jobs that arise day-to-day. For example, conversations; reading policies; communications; meetings;  my teaching and planning and so forth …

The Life of a Deputy Headteacher June 2016

The image was taken on Wednesday 8th June 2016.

Long Term

*defined as within the next 6 months or longer.

  • Monitoring the quality of our new Learning Policy.
  • Tweaking our new coaching programme to meet the needs of teachers and teaching.
  • Working towards our next level of Investors in People status.
  • Developing our CPD programmes for a second Teacher Development Trust CPD audit.
  • Reviewing our school self-evaluation.

shutterstock_189587804 Closeup Portrait of an Indian businesswoman standing outside using a Tablet touchpad

“In-between meetings and on corridors gives you that brief moment to catch-up …”

Image: Shutterstock

 I remember first writing a post like this, at this time last year: The Life of a Deputy Headteacher: Part 3 and looking at my to-do list as something that was impossible to complete. Former headteacher Jill Berry said here;

Remember things will also happen that you haven’t anticipated and they will take time too. If you can put them in order of priority, that way if things take longer than we expect, at least we’ve started with the most important things, and those things we don’t get to can wait until the following term (or later). Actually deciding on priority order is challenging in itself! Deciding what goes where should come back to vision and values. What is central to your vision? What is desirable but perhaps tangential, cherry-on-the-top?

I will get back to you on this topic after the summer break with Part 8. At the moment, I am looking to remove all the extras and focus on the essentials that impact on whole-staff.


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11 thoughts on “The Life of a Deputy Headteacher: Part 7

    1. Thanks. This is why it is important to blog and share. I never had someone else to contact or bounce ideas off when I first became a school leader. Only source was books and line management (better the devil you know kind of thing). Let me know if you need anything.

  1. Interesting to me as a schools edutech provider. Thank you. Could I suggest replacement of the clearly end-of-life white board being used with a brand new digital board? Looks better, all the work is saved not lost and you can save time as grids are already a template for use.

  2. Thank you. I find your posts interesting and informative. At the beginning of the article you state we all are in charge of your workload and it doesn’t have to be 24 /7 . As a learning and teaching coach in a primary school , I consistently have conversations about workload and teachers feeling like they are on their knees. Would you be able to direct me to any of your posts on workload , work life balance. As a teacher of 24 years I am trying positive for the profession and encouraging teachers to look at how to stay in the profession , rather than leave.

  3. One look at your white board has reaffirmed my opinion that moving into senior management appears to be mostly a bureaucratic, time consuming, and about as far removed from the joy of teaching which most teachers went into the profession as is possible. How is this sustainable for the majority of people who want to balance a successful family and professional life. There is enough work here for 3 people not one. How did everything get so complicated!?

    1. Hi Chris – I agree with you. If I could provide context to the information. Everything in the top left of the image is critical for a September start and to allow systems and consistency to be established and quality assured. Don’t forget, what is here is for the context of the school and won’t necessarily be applicable to all schools and all senior teachers. My focus next year, is to kickstart coaching and get teachers into each others’ classrooms as much as possible.

      Everything else (top-right and bottom-right) are just things – but they don’t need to happen and are not critical. Only exception is INSET days for year ahead and our forthcoming plans for INSET day on 8th July. As we know, tailoring CPD for all staff rather than one-szie fits all, is not an easy task for any school, and to be able to map this across 200 staff needs and priorities of the school requires a high level of precision and sophistication. One thing we are still working towards …

      Thanks for the comment… and don’t be off-putt by my own job list. This doesn’t record the observations, leadership conversations and support/challenge with colleagues, parent and students that are critical to move any school forward and develop staff. You can’t write that kind of stuff ‘on a list’ and it’s probably the most important aspect of my job.

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