Review: “Making the leap: Moving from Deputy to Head”

Although this book is primarily aimed at the transition from Deputy to Head, I think it is also useful for anyone moving into a promoted post with key transferable ideas for all.

Moving into the position of head can clearly be daunting, but as Jill mentions, you will build the bridge as you walk on it.”  This should offer some confidence to those that are prepared to make the leap.

Firstly,  as Head, one must not forget that Teaching and Learning is still the school’s main priority: it is the lifeline of the school and this must be in mind at all time.

One of the best bits of advice Jill offers is to make careful use of the lead-in time before taking up your post.  The lead-in time can be a great way to ensure a smooth transition, build your reputation and foothold by attending extra-curricular events, start to identify the school’s starting point and notably try and identify the school’s ‘bright spots.’  This will help formulate ideas for when you formally take up your post.

Once in post, caution must be taken, as Jill warns, as one must be mindful of what leaders have done in the past in order to avoid the threat of disloyalty from other leaders.  Leaders must strike the balance of change but also have an acute awareness of previous work.

As the school leader, you must also make sure that you have the right people in the right seats.  This may be crucial before you start driving school improvements.

A key priority once in post must be to further assess the quality of teaching and learning, but in a way that need not be overly officious.  Instead, simply invite staff to invite you to an activity or class they are proud about.  Although perhaps a slightly quixotic preposition, teachers will find this a lot less threatening and you can reach the same outcome via a much more personal route.

Moreover, think carefully about a teaching timetable.  What is the point of you teaching?  In some cases, if it fits your priorities (e.g. learning all the names in Year 7), it may be apt to teach.  However, if it is a shelter from important activities, is this really right?  After all, you are the most expensive member of staff on site.  It really does come back to what you think is a priority in your position.

Finally, you are the school leader.  As head, your role is much more strategic, looking at the bigger picture and the community.  As a result, you must gain a clear picture of where the school is going and help drive it in that direction.

Possible Practical Implications

1) Make use of the lead in time to attend school events, identify ‘bright spots’ and key areas of possible improvement.

2) Initial impressions with everyone need to be as positive as possible.

3) Start from where the school is rather than where you are.

4) Find the ‘bright spots’ and do more of them

5) Get the right people in the right seats before driving the bus

6) Observe T&L by inviting staff to invite you into their classes

7) Be wary of the ‘honeymoon period’ where some are eager to impress

8) “Never underestimate the power of the brief handwritten note”

9) Strike the right balance of change and awareness of previous work

10) “Build the bridge as you walk on it.”

A great book, not only for the move from Deputy to Head but also for anyone moving up into a new leadership position and who wants to maximise their impact straight away.  If you want to find out more, click the link below and find out for yourself.