The Life of a Deputy Headteacher: Part 9

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What does the work in school look like as ‘the life of a deputy headteacher’?

This post reflects the period between November 2016 to January 2017 and to be honest, I’m about one month late publishing this. The last update I wrote was in September 2016 and there is much to report. What I hope to offer here is a snapshot into my working half-term to help the reader compare, suggest or to use for their own reflection.

This is the 9th in the series of The Life of a Deputy Headteacher and it is just my story.


The online forum as it today did not exist for me a decade ago when I first became a senior leader – one reason I kickstarted @SLTchat – 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.

September to October 2016:

The first half-term at school was spent revelling in our school’s best examination results ever! Yes, in the schools’ 150-year history. There was much to celebrate and it was great to see the hard work from students and staff pay off, but we are not complacent. The landscape is changing and we know we have much to do in all aspects of school life.

In terms of my remit, these have been some of the projects we have been working on throughout the Autumn months of 2016:

  1. The first task was to publish our teaching and learning policy. Over 18 months of consultation and staff training.
  2. As part of our staff training, we introduced vertical tutoring to the school. For the first time in 10 years, I was a form tutor again. It truly is the highlight of the school day!
  3. In June 2016, we introduced coaching to the school and have spent the first term training our coaches. We continue to not grade lessons as we do not insist that teachers perform for any observer. This model is now live and 20 staff are working with other teachers across the school and outside of their own departments.
  4. We have done much work with marking and assessment, training our own staff to be book-observers of their own books! Marking Marketplace is a great methodology to ensure teachers do not go ‘fishing without the bait’.
  5. We have also kick-started department reviews which is part of our school self-evaluation. Less frequent, but much deeper.

Here is a the obligatory photograph (November 2016) I share of my office whiteboard.

The Life of a Deputy Headteacher

This term has seen our teaching and learning team introduce lunchtime professional development. The session is voluntary and offers free lunch to those attending. It has been a valuable opportunity for new staff and new teachers to the school to come together to question and clarify expectations in terms of behaviour and teaching and learning. It is a great forum to ensure both policies are not just written on paper.

November to December 2016:

Over half-term I switched off. Well, not technically. I spent much of my time at my desk at home writing my new book: Mark-Plan-Teach, due for publication in September 2017. The book builds upon some of the work we have been doing at school, as well as many ideas from my teaching and learning experiences in the classroom.

On return to school, we used our CPD sessions to equip teachers to be even better in the classroom. With ‘differentiation’ as our reoccurring training need across the school – we know this because every teacher completes a self review of the teachers standards twice a year, this data is collated by department and globally across the school and then published in a department diagnostic. This information is then tailored for differentiated training for groups of staff.

  • In October, we re-equipped our teachers to have a better secure overview of the children in front of them, knowing prior starting points and current assessment in class. This has also reduced in-school variation and improved assessment.
  • Over the course of November – always a challenging time for any school, this was the period where monitoring the quality of our new Learning Policy was needed. Evidence suggests that the quality of teaching and learning always needs to improve, so the focus is on going back to areas for development rather than focusing on areas of the school we know are working well.
  • For the remainder of this half term, time was spent tweaking our new coaching programme to meet the needs of teachers and teaching. Over the past three months, even though I’ve been teaching for almost 20 years, to take time out to provide meaningful feedback to another teacher as well as receive it myself, has been probably one of the most significant reminders on my senior leadership career.

Teachers need time to talk about teaching, and coaching provides this opportunity for individuals to discuss their lesson in greater detail.

  • In December 2016, we received or twelve-month progress inspection by Investors in People to maintain our new status. If you have not been part of this new rigorous framework, I can highly recommend. Colleagues are selected at random and are questioned on appraisal, professional development and reward and recognition. Some of the feedback we received was sublime, with one particular highlight from a member of staff saying that it was:

“great to have a headteacher [and other senior teachers] as form tutors and someone who teaches in the classroom.”

  • As part of our drive to develop our CPD programmes, we are hoping to apply for a second Teacher Development Trust CPD audit. I am pleased to say that we have our annual CPD programme that is published for all staff to see what is available. We know one size does not fit all and that nothing works everywhere, which is why we are keen to develop a tailored and multifaceted CPD programme available to over 100 teachers at any given time. This is a huge task, but our next phase of this project is to gather a wider range of teachers to take part in leading CPD across the school and for teachers themselves to select – as well as line managers to guide – appropriate and long-term CPD.
  • I also managed to get out of school for a day to lead a workload CPD session with ASCL, one I will be repeating at their annual conference in March 2017. If you’ve not watched the video by Nigel Marsh: that worklife-balance is a fallacy, then you are missing out on some vital information. You can also download my 12 Steps to Reduce Workload presentation.
  • A term highlight was attending the school Christmas carol concert and annual show. It always makes the ‘heart warm’ and is a vital reminder to everyone, that education is so much more than exam results.

School life is always exhausting and your work is never done. It’s all about managing your own workload and protecting others from imploding too.

January has been extremely busy and I will report back in due course with updates …

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