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How to become a head of year at your secondary school


The latest statistics on pupil numbers show that the average secondary school has 986 pupils. Meaning that a head of year would typically be responsible for 140 pupils.

So what will be your key role as a head of year? You will primarily be responsible for the pastoral care of students in your year group. Heads of year help to maximise achievement and raise standards by mentoring students. As an example, if a student's attendance and grades were to start slipping, you might consult their form teacher and or even arrange to speak to the student directly to understand why.

If this sounds like the role for you, here is how to become a head of year at your school.

What are the responsibilities?

The key areas of the role include:

  • Behaviour management
  • Safeguarding
  • Attendance
  • Organising whole-year assemblies
  • Leading the pastoral team

With Covid-19 changing the way we teach and learn forever, there is the added responsibility to think about how you can create a safe learning environment. One NAHT survey found that 87% of respondents believe there needs to be clearer guidance on how social distancing will be maintained in schools.

Speak to another head of year

Approach a head of year that you think would be open to offering you some advice. As with any career move, hearing from someone who is in a position you’re interested in can give you valuable insight.

Here are some questions you could ask:

  • How do you balance your duties as a head of year with your regular teaching hours?
  • What do you find most challenging about being a head of year?
  • Is there anything I can be doing now to prove I’m ready for the added responsibilities?

Ask to shadow or try it out on a temporary basis

Some schools may already have a job shadowing process in place. If that is the case at your school, it is just a matter of enquiring. If your school does not offer this, then why not suggest it? Senior teaching staff are often open to hearing ideas for progressing less experienced teachers.

If your school does not offer job shadowing, you can offer to pick up some smaller duties, like organising the whole-year assembly. This is great practice and will help you decide if being a head of year is right for you. It also shows initiative and means that if a head of year position becomes available, you are likely to be one of the first people considered.

Enrol on a CPD course

Enrolling on a CPD course could equip you with practical advice and give you the confidence to become an effective head of year. You will learn how to deal with challenging behaviour, disaffection, inclusion, whilst expanding your knowledge of pastoral leadership.

Following the pastoral route does not stop you from excelling in the academic side of teaching further down the line. Many heads of year go on to pursue a head of department role, and this can give you a more balanced view of teacher leadership.

It will be different from one school to the next

The structure of your school will determine the shape of a head of year role. In some instances, you would be the sole person responsible for the year, while in larger schools you will often get the support of an assistant head of year. Also, depending on how long the position has existed, you may have the option to develop systems, policies and procedures . There is the option to remain with one school year or to oversee different years as they move up the school. The former lets you develop different skills and the latter will mean you become an expert in one year group.

Regardless, you will play a major part in helping students achieve the grades they deserve by supporting their wellbeing. Many students will have coped with stress and anxiety during the pandemic , so now it is matters more than ever before to have a head of year with a focus on emotional and social wellbeing.

Fulfil your teaching ambition with Teaching Personnel

Whether you are looking to take that next leap in your career or simply searching for a new teaching role, we can help. We are the UK's leading educations recruitment agency, and every academic year we provide staff to over 5,000 schools, delivering a national service on a local scale from our 80 branches. If you would like us to help you find work in UK schools, then register with us.

If you are ready to start your job search then browse our primary teacher jobs and secondary teacher jobs and start your application.

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