Adam Robbins sits on the NAHT’s deputy and assistant heads council. He currently works as a deputy at a primary school in East London and prior to that, served for four years as an assistant head at another school.
He agrees that assistant headships have become more widespread, as schools have sought to recruit and retain quality teachers. “A year group or a phase-group leader – I think these are now being given the title of assistant head in order to keep good staff,” he says.
“The assistant-head title has almost become a little bit diluted, I think, because of recruitment and retention issues.”
The other thing that has driven the growth in assistant heads and other leadership positions is the increasing number of responsibilities being loaded on to schools, he argues.
“As schools have changed and become more accountable … there’s more pressure on them to deliver all sorts beyond our basic teaching function,” says Robbins. “The amount of responsibility and accountability for schools has just grown, particularly over the last five, six years.”
He points out that at his current school – a particularly large primary spread across two sites – there are two heads, two deputies and five assistant heads.
The assistant heads have responsibility for early years, key stage 1, lower KS2, upper KS2, safeguarding and child protection, and special educational needs.
However, Robbins believes that just because a school has a large leadership team, it does not necessarily mean it is inefficient or generating unnecessary workload.
“At our school we do have a lot of assistant heads [and] deputy heads, but we are incredibly well managed,” he says.
“We have clear remits … We can’t just do things on a whim – everything here is evidence-based.”