Preparing for a Senior Role in a Small Independent School

Practical tips to become an effective Senior Leader

Thomas Packer

Thomas Packer has been teaching for over 30 years in a variety of settings: Maintained and Independent Schools, Secondary (11 – 19) and all-through (3 – 19) Schools, Day and Boarding, Boys’, Girls’ and Co-educational. His specialist subjects are Physics, Mathematics and Further Mathematics. trainer profile

This course is a must for anyone aspiring to a leadership role in a small school, whether it be a Preparatory School,

Senior or all-through. Small schools bring real challenges, not least because of the need to be involved in just about every aspect of running a school. Unlike larger schools, there are very few people to share responsibilities. You might currently be leading a small department with one or two others, yet to secure a leadership role you must be confident that you can lead a larger team in an interdependent community. This course will help you make this transition! To be effective, you need thorough preparation and training, which this course will provide. Not only will this course enable you to take up a new post with confidence it will also equip you with the necessary ideas to succeed at interview. The emphasis throughout the course is on providing practical and useful tips as well as focusing on real life situations.


A complete overview of the many aspects of the day-to- day running of a small independent school provides the backdrop to the course. There’s a raft of whole school issues to take on board; unfamiliar curriculum areas for example or pastoral issues that might not yet have come your way. Monitoring and evaluating pupils’ or staff performance, dealing with the public – these will all come your way and those around you will depend on you being able to take these in your stride from day one. Managing your own time and learning when and how to delegate is the key to balancing all these aspects at once. At the same time, there’s the difficulty of establishing suitable distance from the rest of the school staff, with being a part of a small, close-knit team. You’ll learn how to manage others and how to deal with possible difficulties you might encounter. These include dealing with difficult staff,unreasonable parents or driving change. In short we’ll give you a toolkit for personal success.

Whatever your career goal might be, this course will inspire you and develop your existing skills further.


What other teachers have said about the course

  • Excellent course - very relevant and great opportunity to share experiences, well worth attending!

    Annette Ellis - Waverley School
  • The course was exceptionally helpful in giving real life advice in preparing for senior leadership. Tom led the course in an informative, supportive manner and it was enjoyable to attend.

    Charlotte Scanlon - Eaton House The Manor (Girls)
  • Very very informative, great chance for reflection and to hear and share stories and examples from personal schools. Leaving feeling inspired and more confident with ideas to try straight…

    Holly Simms - Hawkesdown School

Full Course Content

This Course Aims to:

  • 1 – Prepare you for a leadership position in a small school
  • 2 – Enhance your understanding of what exactly is involved
  • 3 – Give you the confidence to deal with difficulties
  • 4 – Help you to devise strategies for managing your own workload
  • 5 – Develop your skills to lead and manage others

Course Outline:

Session 1: Managing Yourself

  • Small school issues-what they are and how are they different from those in larger schools?
  • Being efficient: what jobs are worth your time and what aren’t?
  • Learning to delegate-practical tips based upon years at the chalkface
  • Balancing familiarity and distance within a small team-the tight rope of managing those you deal with.

Session 2: Leading and Managing Others

  • Leadership styles – how to develop and deploy your skills effectively
  • Persuading others – getting the best from your team and your governors
  • Dealing with difficult situations – keeping calm and staying in control when faced with conflict or a crisis
  • Monitoring and Performance Management – formal and informal ways of knowing what’s going on

Session 3: Managing Aspects of the Job

  • Curriculum and assessment – what the pupils are taught and how it’s organised
  • Pastoral and SEN – looking after the needs of your pupils
  • Other aspects: finance, public relations and marketing – keeping pupil numbers up and balancing the books
  • Inspections and regulations – making sure your school is compliant and inspection-ready