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What does a Deputy Head Teacher do?

By K. Kinsella
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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A deputy head teacher is a school teacher who is second only to the head teacher or school principal in terms of authority. The term is most commonly used in the United Kingdom and nations that were formerly part of the British Empire. Deputy head teachers primarily focus on classroom teaching, but they also handle some of the head teacher's responsibilities if the head teacher is absent. Many schools entrust this teacher to handle disciplinary matters, as well as coordinating staffing and overseeing school examinations.

Primary and elementary schools normally employ deputies who have a broad knowledge of educational topics, rather than teachers with a specialized focus on one area of the curriculum. These schools usually assign one particular class of students to the teacher and, with few exceptions, all of the students' classes are lead by that person. At high schools and secondary schools, teachers with this title normally teach classes on one specific topic, such as English or science. These teachers often teach fewer classes than other staff members, but also cover lessons when other teachers are absent.

Daily operations of the school and are overseen by the head teacher, who rarely teaches classes. When this person is away from the school, the deputy head teacher must handle the all administrative duties, including liaising with the school board, the Parent Teacher Association (PTA), and handling staffing matters. Most work closely with head teachers, and experienced deputies take on extra responsibilities designed to prepare them to take on a head teacher role at another school.

Classroom teachers are responsible for maintaining discipline in the classroom, but when a student become too disruptive, he will often be sent to the deputy head teacher to be disciplined. The student's parents will often be contacted to discuss the behavioral problems, and counseling may be arranged. Minor behavioral problems are often punished with lunchtime or after school detentions that the deputy supervises or schedules other staff member to oversee.

Schoolchildren must pass examinations in order to graduate from school and be accepted into higher learning establishments. The this teacher typically coordinates the examinations by making testing schedules, assigning teachers to administer the exams, and finding suitable venues to host the testing. Local governments often require schools to regularly test children at certain ages, and the deputy must coordinate these exams and compile reports for the local authorities.

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Discussion Comments

By BrickBack — On Jul 08, 2011

@Sunshine31 - I think that this position is more like a typical assistant principal position in the United States. The only other thing that an assistant principal might do is probably hire teachers to fill teacher vacancies in the school. They would probably have to do the initial interview for the teaching jobs that the school has and maybe the principal does the final interview and eventually hires the teacher.

By sunshine31 — On Jul 07, 2011

@icecream17 - I agree with you. The principal at my daughter’s school is sort of a hands off kind of guy. He rarely interacts with the students and does not even greet the parents when he sees them dropping off their kids.

I think that the British model of a deputy head teacher would have been better at the school because we would avoid principals like this. I realize not everyone is a people person, but if you work in a school you have to engage the parents and the students. I think it is unacceptable if you don’t.

By icecream17 — On Jul 07, 2011

I really like the description of a deputy head teacher. It sounds like they are very active and hands on in the school environment. They sound a little like they function as a principal would in an American school, but they seemed to be more involved with the children than in an American school would be.

I think that I rather see a principal function more like a deputy head teacher because this way the principals would not be out of touch with their students. There are some principals that focus on paperwork and meet with parents periodically, but never develop a rapport with the students at the school.

I think that this is a mistake and something that probably never happens with a deputy head teacher.

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