3 vital tips when starting a new interim headship

It’s day one of a new interim headship role and your head is buzzing: Have I worked out the best way of getting there? Will the IT work? Have I even made the right decision?

Many of the outcomes are beyond your control. But there are a few elements you can plan for to make the transition as smooth as possible, right from the start. Adam Brett, Propelo Director, talks through the advice he shares with new associates starting their first interim headship:

1. Do your homework

An interim headship role is different to a substantive post. But as with any challenge, it’s preparation that helps you hit the ground running. You should already have a good understanding of the assignment, ideally with a written outline capturing key tasks, deliverable milestones and desired outcomes. A good consultancy will always ensure clarity before you begin.

Preparedness will make you stand out from the crowd. Do your own research by checking the school website is up to date, reading governing body or meeting minutes and reviewing publicly available data. 

You can also ask for plans, policies and induction documentation to read before you start. The more you know about a school or trust, the better placed you will be to support it.


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2. Listen first

One of the best pieces of advice an associate has ever given me is to spend the first day of a new assignment listening. 

Of course, you should ask questions and share experiences and thoughts when asked. But it’s crucial to get to know how a school operates and to understand the barriers to improvement and progress. Where are the pressure points and what can you do to help? 

Taking the time to understand the nuances and local context, as well as the personalities, will make all the difference in delivering a successful assignment. 

And remember, you’re only one person. You can certainly help a situation but it will be down to those around you to ensure any improvements are sustainable and embedded. Get to know the teams and find out what they need to succeed.

3. Communicate

Assignments can change over time - new priorities often emerge. There are lots of reasons why this can happen but if it does, talk about it with the consultancy you are working for.  We keep in really close contact with our associates throughout an assignment. We’re on the end of a phone whenever you might need a chat and we usually like to come over and visit after the first week to ensure you have everything you need.

Contract management is a key part of any assignment and it is important you feel comfortable raising issues - and confident they will be tackled and resolved. 

Everyone has a vested interest in an assignment being successful so keep reviewing targets against the brief and when things change, capture these new goals so your success can be clearly measured. 

If you’d like to talk to Adam directly about interim headship assignments, call 01904 567818 or drop him an email: adam@propelo.co.uk


Phil Watt