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Deputy and assistant headteachers: why headship is no longer a choice

Buckley, Judith (2013) Deputy and assistant headteachers: why headship is no longer a choice. In: University of Birmingham Graduate School Research Poster Conference 2013 , 12th June 2013, University of Birmingham. (Unpublished)



It is an expected view that all deputy and assistant head teachers continue their journey into Headship within schools in England, with the notions of role progression, aspiration and performance development at the heart of the process, but in reality this may not the case. For reasons unknown Headship is no longer the preferred choice of many deputy and assistant head teachers in England, hence there is now a national headship shortage. It is important to ascertain why this is so, in particular in secondary schools in Birmingham.

Therefore, the purpose of this research is to explore and elicit the reasons as to why 20 deputy and assistant head teachers do not want to enter into the headship role in secondary schools in the Birmingham area.  Very little literature has been found about the specific role of the assistant head teacher so it is assumed that the assistant headship role is similar to that of the deputy headship role with a variation of some of the overall responsibilities depending on the school structure and with the responsibilities undertaken when the Head teacher is absent.

The following questions will be used to gain further insight into this area:

1. What are the views of deputy and assistant head teachers on why they do not want to become head teachers?

2. What are the perceived barriers and hindrances experienced by deputy and assistant head teachers to becoming head teachers?

3. Which management/training strategies can be used to address these perceived “barriers” and “hindrances” to headship?

After reviewing other methodological choices and reflecting on the purpose of the research, the multiple case study deemed most appropriate in the suitability of generating data in order to effectively elicit the reasons as to why assistant and deputy head teachers did not want to enter into headship.

A purposive sample size of 20 deputy and assistant head teachers was used, applying a predominantly qualitative approach, in order to delve deep into the perceptions and experiences of educational leaders. Semi-structured interviews along with closed-ended questionnaires were the methodological tools used to gather data for the study.

Due to this study being based on the individual interpretations of the lived experience in the deputy and assistant head teacher role, an epistemological stance linked to an interpretivists perspective was applied. This perspective supports the understanding and acceptance of “multiple realities” which would lean towards elements of subjectivity when examining life histories.

The Deputy and Assistant Head teacher interviews have revealed a contentment and mastery within the role albeit being a role of many responsibilities and challenges; however the headship role is not favoured as a career aspiration. The research presents both overt and covert barriers and hindrances, which have affected the career journey of deputy and assistant head teachers in their ‘expected pursuit’ of headship. Further examination into management strategies to address the internal and external barriers and hindrances to headship are addressed.

I conclude that a holistic approach in understanding the career journeys of teachers needs to be considered in the teaching role with the implementation of a clear, ongoing career structure at all stages within the role. Ongoing support through mentoring and coaching could affect the decision-making process of potential deputy, assistant and head teachers in the future when considering headship. With the national headship crisis at the forefront of the education agenda, this research provides regional insight into the personal accounts and experiences of deputy and assistant headship in Birmingham schools along with recommendations for future management strategies with the aim of informing educational policy regarding the development of future leaders.

Type of Work:Conference or Workshop Item (Poster)
School/Faculty:Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Social Sciences
Department:School of Education
Additional Information:

Research Supervisor: Dr Thomas Bisschoff

Date:June 2013
Series/Collection Name:Prizewinners from the Graduate School Research Poster Conference 2013
Subjects:L Education > LB Theory and practice of education > LB1603 Secondary Education. High schools
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Copyright Status:This poster is copyright of the author and/or third parties. The intellectual property rights in respect of this work are as defined by The Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 or as modified by any successor legislation. Any use made of information contained in this poster must be in accordance with that legislation and must be properly acknowledged.
Copyright Holders:The Author
ID Code:1738

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