The First 100 Days of a New Headship

The First 100 Days of Headship (updated August 2019)




Taking on the challenge of a new school for the first, second or third time is exciting but tough. You only have one go at making those first impressions and the “finding out” stage is vital if you want to implement change quickly. The landscape is littered with leaders who made the wrong changes too soon, whilst the level 5 leader (Jim Collins-Good to Great) knows that you need to build the cultural capital with colleagues so that they develop trust and confidence in the leader and their vision. This paper looks at an outline structure for the new school leader, and how they might go about understanding the first 100 days of headship in their new school. Remember, there will be plenty of things that come at you in your first year that will need your time. By planning these activities, you will make sure that you do not ignore or miss out on building the culture of your school.


Where do you need to be at the end of the 100 days? What are the critical questions? The outline plan below will get you to the answers to these 10 key statements.


  1. Draft 1 of a Strategic Improvement plan should be ready to write and contain very few surprises as you will have engaged people in the thinking over the 100 days
  2. You should know how to add value to your student outcomes as a result of working out where the “low hanging fruit” of improved performance exists
  3. You should be able to segment your staff into these categories
    1. Change agents and leaders-your future implementers and creators
    2. Sound, Solid, Successful practitioners-challenge is to add the 5% to make them category 1 colleagues
    3. Resistant lip servants-the “sounds great boss” as long as it doesn’t need me to engage
    4. Blockers and Mavericks-only one way to work and that’s my way and we’ve seen a few of you off in the past
  4. What curriculum changes are needed for next academic year?
  5. How well do the behaviour and reward systems work?
  6. How good is teaching and learning and how good are the results that the school gets? (2 different questions)
  7. What do the stakeholders think of the school?
  8. What is it like to be a vulnerable child attending your school?
  9. What is it like to be a new teacher working with your team?
  10. What are the indicators of success that you have agreed with your governing board for the first three years and are they taking responsibility to help you to get there?


The Real Challenges to Uncover-key questions


  • Are there pockets of Low Expectations in terms of student behaviour and performance?
  • Student Labelling-are some children categorised by their level of dis-advantage than their potential?
  • How strong and well aligned are the leaders in the school with your ethos and expectations?
  • Inconsistency-is it habit forming?
  • Quality of teaching
  • Budget-Fact or Fiction?


Personal Diary


This is hard to maintain and will probably be the thing that gets left off your list but if you can, discipline yourself to do it. I am a huge fan of Simon Sinek and his golden circles-the WHY, HOW and WHAT of change. Get to know his work and apply it to your reflections. There is value in the rigour of reflection and consideration of how things went. It does not have to be a literary masterpiece, just use WWW (What Went Well) and EBI (Even Better If) to look at what worked and what needs more attention. Remembering back to what you did, how you felt, what mistakes you made will make you a better head as well as an excellent coach in the future of new heads.


The 100 Day Plan-This is really an illustration of what needs to be in your plan, and you need to think about where you are going to build the time to do this work. If you believe that building the cultural capital through developing relationships is the prime goal in the 100 days, you need to plan for this, and this list should help. (Week numbers simply refer to the weeks of the academic year from September 1 to February half term)


Your Leadership Team

  1. Need to do 1 to 1 session asap to establish work practices and role and responsibilities and how you use the staff segmentation exercise and apply it to your team
  2. Need a blue skies day early in the process-Friday evening into Saturday morning-ask them for their vision for the school rather than you tell them yours at this stage-Blue Skies 1-You are in Listening mode here
  3. Do a vision session in week 16 (Around December of early January) as you formulate your thinking ahead of the end of the 100 days-Blue Skies 2-The leadership team are in Listening mode now



  1. Meet every person on payroll-do 1 per day for 15 mins-this avoids the pressure on your diary that comes from everyone wanting to book a time with you. If you tell everyone when their time is, they will relax and know they have a slot to meet you
  2. Staff Questionnaire to inform vision in week 21-keep it simple. 10 questions to explore if there is a gap between what you want to do and the cultural capacity of the school to deliver it
  3. Staff Meetings to do feedback sessions on what you are seeing-make this a positive input so that staff walk a few inches taller as they leave the meeting. You can deal with the things that are not so good in different ways
  4. Open Door Surgeries-Weekly open-door sessions where staff can make appointments to come and meet and share issues they want to discuss. If the door is open, they will make it brief and to the point and if you make each session 10 mins max you can cover a lot of ground without getting bogged down in the detail



  1. Shape and Structure-What does it look like and how far is it away from your expectations
  2. Where is the balance between knowledge, skills, pedagogy etc It is likely that you have become a head because you have a deep-seated belief about the importance of the curriculum. Unless you were the deputy who developed it, there is a strong chance that this will need more work but before you make change, understand where it works now and where the best thinkers and teachers are located.
  3. By day 100 you should have identified your curriculum and learning lead practitioners who might be made up of people who are new teachers and very experienced ones. This was my favourite bit of the plan!



  1. You need to gather work samples from children across the school. The key is to get the children to talk you through their work and not just look at the books in isolation in a leadership meeting. Children will tell you if this is their best work or not and what they understood by doing it.
  2. Who and where are your vulnerable students? Who teaches them? Can you assign your leadership team and yourself as mentors to the ones you are most concerned about?
  3. By day 100 there should be a plan in place for making learning more successful for the most vulnerable children in the school


Quality of Teaching -start in week 3

  1. Hard as it may be, I believe passionately that heads should still teach even if it is no more than a couple of hours per week. I taught music and business studies for the 11 years before I became a MAT CEO
  2. You might want to start by observing your leadership team and making sure everyone knows you are doing that. This is the leadership by example part of the 100 days!
  3. Publish to staff your lesson visit protocols-don’t create the impression these are accountability visits! Your aim on your visit should be to cover the foci I have suggested in “Learning Walks” below-this is information gathering and taking the temperature of your school. This will be the source of the “buzz” as to why you were right to want to lead this school!
  4. Do cover lessons-1 per week to get a sense of how well cover is planned and delivered and get an insight into displays and student attitudes when their class teacher is away


Middle Leaders-engine room of improvement although their role and value is far more than this

  1. Meet in small groups-3 max-and look at their developmental journey-what gets them to where they are now and where do they want to get to next
  2. Encourage them to blog, read research, visit other schools, take assemblies, lead CPD, become a teacher governor at another school-get them to be the most rounded version of themselves they can be-this investment and interest in this group never fails!
  3. Developmental session-their vision for their departments-present in pairs to each other-they can only do this if they observe the practice in the different departments
  4. How do they build teams? How do they model what you have done with them with their teams?


Parents-Not really No7 on the list!

  1. You need to think about the communication strategy that will support the way you engage parents and there is no single way to do this, but these ideas might help
  1. Parent Surgeries by year group –involve SMT and governors-try to cover all of the year group in the first 100 days. Get someone to make a note of the questions that were raised and then send a summary out to parents so that even those that could not attend get to know the context
  2. Principal’s newsletters-fortnightly across the first 100 days-these need to be digitally communicated via twitter or facebook and then stored in a parents’ section on the website
  • Parent Voice Group-cross section to get parent views in more detail-I did this in the 101-200 days as I knew what changes I wanted to make and tested them in these fora
  1. Parents and Student Questionnaire to inform vision in week 21-similar to the staff survey at the same time
  2. You may decide this is not for you but….phone randomly 10 parents per week to get an unsolicited sense of how they feel about the school
  3. Send every child a birthday card! One of the things that former students still remind me on twitter even today that they liked. Sunday afternoon job to handwrite “happy birthday from Mr C” and then get them sent out on Monday. I don’t think I ever had more than 40 to do in one go. My regret is that I didn’t do if for staff as well which I would now!



  1. Top priority-talk to the chair in the first few weeks about how he/she is going to measure your success. It cannot just be about the result and the next OFSTED inspection. The GB have appointed you so must know what it is they want from you. If Heads fail, then GB fail as well. In a MAT if a Head fails, then the CEO and the board of trustees fail
  2. Need to set up an informal session with each of them, visiting them in their workplace to build relationships but to open up the community dimension-after all they will spend plenty of time in your workplace!
  3. Find out how they want you to present your heads’ report? Length, style, tone, powerpoint or word? Getting this agreed can save you such a lot of time later
  4. Within the first 100 days you need each member of the board to come and participate in a learning walk with you and they then need to feedback at the next GB meeting
  5. Find out what role your leadership team has with the GB. You can possible delegate some of the sub groups to them if that works


The Building-this is yours and you need to do your due diligence on it

  1. Layout and Design-do the walk with the building services team
  2. You might need to commission a condition survey to enable you to plan a repairs and maintenance cycle of work over the next 3 years. I sudden surprise that costs 100K to repair means that potentially some of the planned expenditure you have set aside for learning might not take place
  3. Areas for Improvement-where do children go that you do not want them to go?
  4. Refurbish Reception-first thing that visitors, students and parents see-your chance to make a mark-get pictures of learning all over the reception


Assemblies and Student Voice

  1. Set up a student leadership group-25-30 students from different year groups to get feedback on a range of issues and to pick up themes and areas for development from the student questionnaire
  2. Do 3 sets of assemblies
  1. Week 1-My Standards and Expectations-this is me, this is my family, you are my family, this is what I do when I am not working, and what I expect from you (4 slides!)
  2. Week 4-What I like about this school and what I might want to change(use loads of pictures of things you have seen that impress you-children are captivated by seeing pictures of them and their friends-music, sport, lessons, lunchtime, food, etc)
  • Week 10-How I want to improve this school-what I have decided we need to do differently


Ten Things to get to know in days 1-100-there is more than this but this would be a good start

  1. Budget in the year before you arrived and the budget you have in front of you
  2. How much of your GAG or student income is spent on staff-start getting worried if it exceeds 80%
  3. How large are your reserves? What have they been earmarked for?
  4. Exam Results over the last three years
  5. What impact does PP have?
  6. Attendance of students and staff (investigate the Bradford Factor for staff analysis if you do not already know it-powerful and transparent)
  7. What type of contracts are your support staff on?
  8. How effective is Performance Management?
  9. How many staff are on UPS3 and what additional responsibilities do they undertake in return?
  10. What did the previous head start but not finish?


Community Networks

  1. Meet as many local heads as possible-invite to a breakfast or tea session
  2. If you are a new head in a MAT you must get out to see the other schools in the trust-the MAT should have a plan for how academy leaders meet and work together but just because you are in the same trust does not mean you can ignore the relationship building
  3. If the children in your school come from a primary or move to a secondary outside your MAT go and see the schools that are not part of the trust and build those links
  4. Who are the main employers in the area? Organise a breakfast meeting for local business and industry people
  5. Invite the local residents-use the school postcode-to a session in the school-use music and drama to provide intro performance-get some key messages-your neighbours see the best (and occasionally the worst) of the way that children behave as they leave the school


Self-Evaluation-this is not really a day 1-100 task, but you can set the process up as you build the strategic plan-just three short reminders here from me

  1. Self-Evaluation is a culture not an operational task and is the responsibility of everyone in the school to be self aware and self challenging
  2. Self-Evaluation only works if it is clear to everyone what the goal is you are working towards
  3. Self-Evaluation is a series of questions and conversations not a lonely weekend writing an 80 page document!


Strategic Development Plan

  1. Leave this until Day 101-the purpose of the 100 days is to get a clear picture of the development needs of the school-you do need however to sign post people to the main themes that are emerging
  2. You need a holding plan that focuses upon core principles and some fundamental themes that are the cornerstone of improving the school. My plan usually contained these sections before I shared the main one and was built around these questions
  1. How are we managing behaviour?
  2. How strong is teaching?
  • How reliable is assessment and how do we know?
  1. What use is our data collection to us?
  2. Do middle leaders really improve standards?
  3. Are the governors the catalyst for change or are they passive and neutral?


Learning Walk-this relates very closely to section 5 above

  1. I would set aside 3 hours per week for this and target or focus on different areas of the school, so it is a more detailed look rather than a skim across the surface
  2. This gives purpose to the walkabouts that you must do. This enables you to make the point that this is about learning rather than accountability although clearly you will be making judgements about what you see
  3. Good idea to focus on themes and tell staff and students this is what you are looking for-take a different member of your SMT or middle leaders each time you do it. Take a camera so that you can get images of really good work or students engaged in learning-do not forget to tell parents you are doing this!


For Example:

  • Week 1-How do lessons start?
  • Week 2-Are children engaged in the learning?
  • Week 3-How are students encouraged and praised?
  • Week 4-What is the learning environment like-walls, displays and the tone of the classroom set by the teacher
  • Week 5-How are exercise and text books being used?
  • Week 6-What is being learned and how easy is it to tell?
  • Week 7-Which children sit at the back of the class and why?
  • Week 8-Student Behaviour
  • Week 9-The Quality of Feedback-books and verbally
  • Week 10-Do lessons have good endings
  • (Week 11-20-do it again)


Creating a Timetable over the 100 Days (these are the main building blocks of the process-not everything from the 100 day checklist is here)


Week Activity Checklist On Going
1 Staff 1 to 1 session (SMT)

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Staff Meeting 1

Assembly 1

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
2 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Publish to staff your lesson observation protocols

Head’s newsletter 1

Do site walk with grounds team

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
Week Activity Checklist On Going
3 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Meet with Welfare teams to find out which students are the most vulnerable and arrange a time to talk with them

Start programme of 1 cover lesson and 2 learning walks per week (repeat Week 4-20)

Refurb plans for reception

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
4 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Parent Surgery 1



Meet subject leaders in groups of 3

Blue Skies session 1 with SLT

Head’s Newsletter 2

Assembly 2

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
5 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Parent Surgery 2

Staff Meeting 2

Work Sample with children

Meet subject leaders in groups of 3

Meet Local Heads

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
6 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Meet target students from Week 3 and review progress since meeting

Meet subject leaders in groups of 3

Head’s Newsletter 3

Reception refurb booked for half term

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary



Week Activity Checklist On Going
7 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Work Sample with students

Meet subject leaders in groups of 3

First meeting of Parent Voice Group

Breakfast Meeting for Business and Industry leaders

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
8 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Parent Surgery 2

Meet subject leaders in groups of 3

Head’s Newsletter 4

Parents and Student Questionnaire

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
9 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Staff Meeting 3

Work Sample with students

Meet subject leaders in groups of 3

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
10 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Meet target students from week 3 and 6

Meet subject leaders in groups of 3

Head’s Newsletter 5

Assembly 3

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary



Week Activity Checklist On Going
11 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

Staff Questionnaire

Parent Surgery 3

2 Open Door Surgery for staff

Work Sample with students

Local Residents Concert and getting to know you session

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
12 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Parent Surgery 4

Head’ Newsletter 6

Student Voice Conference-issues from parent/student questionnaire

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
13 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Sessions for staff

Staff Meeting 4

Work Sample with students

Meet target students from week 3, 6 and 10

Meeting 2 of Parent voice group

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
14 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Leadership Seminar with middle leaders developing themes from sessions in weeks 4-9

Head’s Newsletter 7

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
15 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Parent Surgery 5

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary



Week Activity Checklist On Going
16 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Parent Surgery 6

Blue Skies Session 2 with SLT

Head’s Newsletter 7

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
17 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Staff Meeting 5

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
18 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Head’s Newsletter 8

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
19 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary
20 5 staff 1 to 1 sessions

2 Open Door Surgeries for staff

Parent Surgery 6

Head’s Newsletter 9

Themed Learning Walks & Personal Diary



I really hope this has been helpful. Being a head is one of the greatest jobs in the public sector and there is no greater responsibility than changing the lives of children and their communities. You will win! This is why.


  • This is your school and whilst you are accountable you are making the decisions and they will be good ones
  • You have a vision that you believe in and others will find compelling
  • All of the problems have an answer either in your school or in another if you are willing to be collaborative and open in seeking help and guidance
  • You drive and challenge the culture of the organisation-if you hear things you do not like, say so!
  • If you follow this 100-day guide, the rest will be sorted!!








3 thoughts on “The First 100 Days of a New Headship

  1. Sarah Counter

    This is a really useful document which I can easily adapt to be specific for our new MAT Principals. It would have been invaluable as a new independent school Head too. Thanks so much for sharing it.

  2. Tuesday Humby

    Really useful for our new heads and I couldn’t agree more about heads still teaching. Thanks so much for sharing.


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