A critical evaluation of the role of a deputy head teacher

Published: 2019/12/10 Number of words: 2282

The duties of a deputy head teacher are important in the day-to-day leadership and management of the school. ‘Leadership is leaders inducing followers to act for certain goals that represent the values and motivations – of both leaders and followers.’ (Burns, cited in Cooper and Argyris, 1998: 355). This quote indicates that leadership is largely based on the human resources side of business and management as managers focus on organisation; for example, planning, setting up resources, staff training, decision making (Management – hub organisation, 2009). The deputy head teacher’s roles and responsibilities can be related to management theory and will be considered in this assignment. Aspects of management styles which suit the roles will also be taken into account.

The roles and responsibilities of deputy head teachers are diverse. They need to liaise and work in partnership with other professionals, including colleagues and those from outside organisations. Continuing professional development, both monitoring when it is needed and promoting effective teaching and learning strategies, is a vital part of the deputy head teacher’s role, (Buckinghamshire Council, 2009). As well as the necessary managerial tasks, the deputy head must also take part in the setting up and operation of school policies and procedures. Finally, the roles and responsibilities of the deputy head teacher are moulded to meet the individual day-to-day needs of the pupils and staff.

For the purpose of this assignment, there are three leadership and management theories relevant to a deputy head teacher’s role. These are political, contingency, and human resource theories. The human resource theory establishes that managers should give support to the employees and focus on the individuals’ behaviour to motivate them during the working day (Department of Education and Training, 2009). One of the main theorists in this field is Elton Mayo who conducted the Hawthorne experiments that studied the influence of environmental pressures on worker productivity and motivation (Envision, 2009). The way that managers use and manipulate their authority and power to achieve their goals is part of political management theory. Another important principle of political theory is the need to liaise with other agencies and organisations to build alliances to more effectively reach standards that have been set and achieve aims and objectives (Department of Education and Training, 2009). Finally there is the contingency theory. This theory implies that management is dependent on situational variables, such as the environment. The manager or leader might use different techniques depending on what is needed (Shenhar, 2001).

The deputy head teacher works in partnership with many people in the school, including the head teacher, other teachers, support staff, governors, parents, and external agencies. This new integrated approach has been adopted by the government in the Every Child Matters: Change for Children Agenda (Department for Children, Schools and Families, 2009). The government believes that through this approach more children will have the opportunity to reach their maximum potential and will help those who are considered `at risk` (DCSF, 2009). When services work effectively and efficiently together children and their families will have easier access to a range of different services in one place (DCSF, 2009). According to Curtis and O’Hagan (2003) it is of great significance to have a strong, positive partnership with parents because they know their child better than anybody else and are the child’s primary agents of socialisation. This responsibility relates to the political management of a deputy head teacher as part of the multi-agency work.

Deputy head teachers must give appropriate support and advice to their colleagues in order to develop and improve their teaching methods and classroom practice. According to the Buckinghamshire Council (2009) it is the deputy head teacher’s job to observe and arrange continuing professional development for any members of staff that may need it (including themselves). This is more often taking place in school training sessions rather than through formal higher education qualifications, due to good, thorough management and leadership in the school (Bartlett and Burton, 2003). Continuing professional development is becoming commonly associated with the roles of professionals in schools because all educational professionals need to ensure that their knowledge and skills are as advanced and up-to-date as possible. In September 2000, the government created the General Teaching Councils to ensure that teachers and other educational practitioners are appropriately trained and can maintain high standards. These councils are regulated by each local Education authority (Browne and Haylock, 2004).

This responsibility of the deputy head teacher can be related to any of the three theories: it links to the human resources theory because the leader provides support for the other staff and focuses on their personal needs. It links with political theory because the staff will receive training from a registered provider to reach the standards set in the curriculum. According to Bush (2009), schools and their leaders must interpret their own ethos and educational aims from external standards set by the government. Finally, the role is linked to contingency theory as the deputy head teacher needs to observe or be in a situation to determine when continual professional development is needed.

The deputy head teacher is also required to meet people’s individual needs within the school, both other members of staff or the pupils. The Every Child Matters agenda (DCSF, 2009) agrees that this is important in a person’s learning and the government is encouraging schools to take a more personalised, tailored approach to an individual’s education. This responsibility can also relate to any of the three theories: first, with contingency theory, for example, the deputy head teacher may have to cover a sick teacher’s lessons, so it depends on the situation. The responsibility also links to human resources theory because the deputy head teacher has to know what motivates individual people. To do this requires getting to know the staff and pupils. Finally the role can be connected to political theory as external government policy such as Every Child Matters: Change for Children has substantial information about individual needs (DCSF, 2009).

Another responsibility of the deputy head teacher is to co-ordinate and implement a set of agreed policies relating to topics such as health and safety, behaviour, and discipline which take into account the ethos of the school. Berlew (cited in Cooper & Argyris, 1998) sees leadership as …the process of instilling in others shared vision creating valued opportunities and building confidence in the realisation of the shared values and opportunities.’ This means that by working together, the staff can discern values that are important to them and that support the school’s ethos and make the decisions to put them into the policies. Browne and Haylock (2004) believe that it is important to transmit the values that are in these policies and procedures through pastoral care which empathises with and meets the needs of the individual. This responsibility relates to the human resources theory as it links to what people value and appreciate in the school and what they think is acceptable and unacceptable. It also relates to human resources theory by meeting their needs through pastoral and individual care.

There is also a large element of distributional leadership in the deputy head teacher’s role. According to Camburn et al. (2003) distributional leadership is where authority, power and leadership or management tasks are shared out within the organisation. The deputy head teacher receives some of the tasks from the head teacher, such as, planning, organising, and reviewing. Harris (cited in Hatcher, 2005) maintains that ‘Leadership is a shared and collective endeavour that engages all members of the organisation’. The everyday managerial tasks that a deputy head teacher carries out can be linked to Henri Fayol who developed the five elements of management in his theory (12manage, 2009). He says that the managers’ roles are to plan for the future, to organise what is needed when and where, to command and coordinate the staff and pupils to make sure they all share the same goals and standards, and to control, review and evaluate the performance of all involved in the process (12manage, 2009). According to Hatcher (2005), the head teacher is responsible for reaching targets and standards so may choose to share out the leadership and management tasks to aid in the monitoring of and achieving these goals. However, the distribution of leadership can be both positive and negative. The positive aspect is that because the deputy head teacher is seen as more of an equal to the teachers and other staff than the head teacher, who is more of an authority figure in the school, the deputy head teacher might get more support from the other staff. This happened in Elton Mayo’s Hawthorne experiments; when the experimenter paid the workers more attention, their productivity level increased (Envision, 2009.) The negative aspect of the head teacher giving some control to the deputy head teacher is that the deputy head teacher may not be as thorough with checks and other managerial tasks as the head teacher, who is the main authority figure.

In terms of management style, a deputy head teacher works in is a collegial system. In this system, the power and authority are shared among the group members who collaborate and have discussions that lead to shared decision making (Bush, 2009). Bidwell and Yasumoto (1999) believe that when working collegially all groups have shared objectives and values that they communicate in their small groups to bring about collective problem solving and decision making. An example of this would be an English department in a high school. The collegial management style also allows school staff to have support groups for advice and to express any worries they may have to other professionals whom they know and trust (Browne and Haylock, 2004). This style also contributes to continuing professional development as staff can support each other and give advice. This is autonomous learning and empowers staff as each person is equal when bringing an idea to the group (Krovetz and Cohick, 1993).

In conclusion, there are many different definitions of leadership and management. From the definitions of leadership studied it appeared that leadership is primarily associated with humanistic approaches as a group and shared effort. The definitions were also linked and sounded collegial in style. Whereas the management definitions where more focused on the structural elements of management and the functions and processes of management.

Overall, the deputy head teacher role consists of both leadership and managerial responsibilities. The deputy head teacher has to be able to display personal leadership qualities when dealing with staff and pupils such as empathy and enthusiasm. The deputy head teacher must also be committed and motivated and be able to motivate people (tips4jobs, 2009). They also have to take on managerial tasks such as the budgeting, developing action plans, and contributing to target setting.

Reference list

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