Navbar button The Headteacher

How to hire the perfect assistant headteacher

September 28, 2022, 12:25 GMT+1
Read in 3 minutes
  • Kindness and a final million-dollar question helped Rebecca Leak recruit a brilliant new leader
How to hire the perfect assistant headteacher

Making time

We planned the process meticulously, making sure we had mapped the complete timeline. This included the deadline for applications and the date for interviews but we also thought carefully about the day. We wanted the activities to be unrushed with enough time for everyone involved to contribute and reflect. We also reserved times for pre-interview visits as these can be so important in attracting the right candidate. And time was set aside at the end of the day for proper consideration of the applicants.

Communicating values

Every email you send, every sentence you write has an impact. When someone enquires about a role, are they getting the message that you need them to receive about your school? We are getting better in our Trust at truly incorporating our values into our communications. One of our values is Care and we want this to shine through. We are kind and encouraging in the way we invite candidates to interview; we ask if there is anything we can do to help them through the process.

Showing initiative

We were recruiting for a leadership position so we wanted the candidate to actually contribute to the process. We needed someone with initiative so we thought about the ways in which they could show us how they step up, in real time. That is what a normal day in a school calls for after all. We included a pupil voice session but we let them plan and run it. We gave them a short brief but apart from that, it was up to them.

Early onboarding

Onboarding is so important and the recruitment process can be treated as part of onboarding. As this was a senior leadership position in one of our schools I knew it was important that I was involved as all our senior leaders, over time, take on a Trust portfolio. It gave me a chance to speak to all the candidates about the Trust. Whoever was recruited would already know what we stand for and what our mission and vision is.

Million-dollar question

I thank a headteacher I worked with for this and it has never failed to come up with the goods. As the final question in the interview, I ask, “If we did not appoint you today, what would we be missing out on?” In executive coaching, the secret is in the questioning and this really is a golden nugget. Ask it at the end. The candidate almost gets caught out and you often get a beautifully honest answer.


I send a personal note to every candidate that we interview - handwritten and sent by post. Not only in case I need to call them in the future if the selected candidate did not work out (don’t burn your bridges!), but it is also my philosophy that we should look after, support and encourage every professional working in our school system. Ultimately children somewhere will benefit, which is what it is all about.

Rebecca Leak (@RebeccaLeek_ ) is CEO of the South East Alliance Multi-Academy Trust