Headteacher Recruitment Guidance

Advice and arrangements for appointing a Headteacher to a Church School in the Diocese of Ely

The following guidance has been produced in partnership with Diocesan officers. This document should be considered as guidance and is subservient to all standard employment law, particularly that aimed at ensuring fair and inclusive processes. In the event of questions, Church of England schools should contact the Director of Education, Diocese of Ely via the Diocesan website, www.elyeducation.org

Church schools presently fall into one of three categories: Academy (either as part of a MAT or as a stand-alone), Voluntary Aided (VA) or Voluntary Controlled (VC). The legislation differs in each case but in decisions regarding the employment of headteachers or other employees, it is worth noting that the Trust is the employer in the case of an Academy, the Governing Body is the employer in Voluntary Aided schools, and the Local Authority is the employer in the case of Voluntary Controlled schools. 

The key for all Church schools is to make sure that the person appointed as headteacher is willing and capable of leading a school that has a distinctively Christian character. A school’s Christian character underpins all that it does and its place in the community and is also tested as part of the national inspection process for Anglican schools (SIAMS (Statutory Inspection of Anglican and Methodist Schools)). Church of England Schools are explicitly for those of all faiths and none, serving the common good. 

The key questions asked on any Church school inspection relate to the school’s Christian vision in respect of provision which has both a strategic intention and operational practice underpinned by inclusive Christian values. Inspectors will assess whether this is truly distinctive and to what extent it is promoted by leaders at every level. Governors will need to be satisfied that their new headteacher will offer appropriate leadership in relation to the school’s Christian character and place in the community. It is essential, therefore, that this requirement is clearly set out in the person specification and advertisement for the post. 

Inspectors also review the impact of collective worship on the school community. Headteachers will usually lead much of the worship in their school, especially in the Primary sector. If candidates will be leading acts of worship, governors should be satisfied that this will be done well and thoughtfully. Most schools now invite candidates to lead an act of worship as part of the selection process. 

General Guidance for Governors 

A headteacher does not have to be a practicing Christian to be a headteacher of a Church school or academy. It is however desirable, in the same way that that a candidate with a primary age teaching background is more likely to be well suited to be the headteacher of a primary school. Ideally the individual would be a practicing Anglican Christian (someone who regularly attends an affiliated Church) or at least a self-declared Christian, even if without specific denominational links or practices. 

In practice, a potential headteacher may be neither of these things but never-the-less well equipped, professionally committed to and able to uphold the core values of Christianity. In short, it is preferable that a potential headteacher has a personal faith-based commitment as well as a professional practice-based commitment to the religious character of the school, along with a leadership style and approach of compatible style and ethos. 

It is accepted that a professional practice-based commitment can still work well, when the headteacher’s personal values and leadership style are culturally aligned to core Christian values. This is particularly true where additional support can be given to the school through strong Christian governance, clerical support, and community church links. 

In all cases it is the outcomes that matter; a school is said to be distinctively Christian in character because of the lived experience of those in the school community (not least the young people) not because those leading it are Christians or simply because it is called a Church School. The Diocese has excellent headteachers who fall into all these distinct categories, achieving good or excellent gradings in SIAMS inspections. 

Involvement of the Diocese 

Governing bodies are to contact the DBE (Diocesan Board of Education) Team as soon as the need to commence a headteacher recruitment process becomes apparent. The Diocesan staff are experienced in supporting governors throughout the process, from the development of the recruitment pack to advising and attending both shortlisting and final interviews. 

The Diocese works closely with the Local Authority on this matter, particularly in the case of VA and VC schools. 

Technical Guidance for Governors 

Voluntary Aided Schools 

*In appointing teachers and the headteacher of a Voluntary Aided school the Governing Body must ensure that there is a majority of Foundation governors on the selection panel, who will be tasked with ensuring that the Christian ethos is likely to flourish and be maintained in the case of each prospective candidate: 

‘The governing body may give preference to persons whose religious opinions are in accordance with those tenets of the religion of the school, who attend religious worship in accordance with those tenets, or who give, or are willing to give, religious education in accordance with those tenets. ‘ 

This means that it is permissible for governors to specify that they wish to appoint a practising Christian to the post of headteacher. Governors should, however, be clear about how they define any faith commitment and be open to the possibility of a good candidate not being of such faith. It will be necessary to agree a clear definition of the term ‘Christian’ in this context. The simplest definition is that the successful candidate must be a member of a church in membership of the Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland. Diocesan officers will be able to assist with the definition, which should be included in the person specification and advertisement for the post. 

Voluntary Controlled Schools 

In a Voluntary Controlled school, current legislation states: 

‘In connection with the appointment of a person to be Headteacher of the school, regard may be had to that person's ability and fitness to preserve and develop the religious character of the school.’ 

The emphasis must be on the candidate’s professional capability to develop the school’s Christian ethos. The Governors are likely to advertise for a candidate who 'will actively support the aims and the ethos of a Church school'. The diocesan officer will be able to advise on this aspect of the selection process. 

The Importance of the Ethos Statement 

In a Church school, the school’s religious character is described in the ethos statement, which forms part of the Instrument of Government. It may also be expressed in the school’s mission statement. Church of England schools in the Ely Diocese share the following common ethos statement, which should be included in the materials sent to candidates. 

Ely Diocese Church of England Ethos Statement

Recognising its historic foundation, the school will preserve and develop its religious character in accordance with the principles of the Church of England and in partnership with the Church at parish and diocesan level.

The school aims to serve its community by providing an education of the highest quality within the context of Christian belief and practice. It encourages an understanding of the meaning and significance of faith and promotes Christian values through the experience it offers to all its pupils. 

Things to consider in appointing a headteacher for a Church of England school 

  1.  Governors are advised to contact the relevant diocesan officer as soon as the prospect of a vacancy arises. Officers must be given the opportunity to support the appointment process. 
  2. Governors should ensure that any materials provided to applicants explain acronyms such as CEVA (Church of England Voluntary Aided) or CEVC (Church of England Voluntary Controlled). 
  3. In addition to the current or previous employer, the governing body may wish to ask each candidate to name a referee who can vouch for their commitment to their faith (this might be a minister of religion, or similar). 
  4. Any criteria relating to faith commitments to be used in the selection process should be set out clearly in the person specification. A selection of phrases sometimes used in the person specifications for Church of England schools is shown below: 
  • The vision and commitment to further develop the school’s distinctive Christian ethos (as described in the school’s Ethos Statement). 

  • A commitment and ability to communicate Christian values and principles across the curriculum and through all aspects of school life. 

  • A clear commitment to the Christian faith. (VA schools, or VC schools using the ‘reserved teacher’ mechanism) 

  • Practising Christian (or denomination of the school). (VA schools only)  

  • The ability to lead and manage the school as a Church school effectively. 

  • The ability to communicate to staff, pupils, governors, and parents a clear understanding of the distinctive nature of a Church school. 

  • Experience and/or knowledge of working in a Church school community. 

  • The ability to lead appropriate Christian collective worship that makes a positive impact on all participants. 

  • The ability to communicate Christian teaching and values clearly and effectively through collective worship, spiritual, moral, social, and cultural development, and in school life. 

  • An appreciation of, and strong support for, the central role of RE and collective worship in a Church school. 

  1. Governors should consider how to obtain the evidence to indicate that candidates meet the essential criteria for the post.  
  • This can be through pertinent questions at interview that relate to the school's vision and how being the Head of a Church school is different to being the Head of a maintained school 
  • The candidate taking collective worship for either some or the whole school. The following is a description of how a Primary school might set up an act of worship for candidates to lead. 

Act of Worship 

Candidates might be asked to prepare a fifteen-minute act of worship on the theme of the week or a specially chosen theme. The act of worship should include: 

  • A song which is best chosen by the school and the candidate notified in advance 
  • Prayer and reflection as part of the worship. 
  • An act to indicate the beginning of the act of worship. 

Candidates may use other props or equipment but must supply them themselves. 

Candidates will be notified in advance of the approximate numbers, age and mix of the children. It is advised to ensure the group includes a cross section of the school. 

The event should take place in the school hall or other appropriate space. 

Members of the selection panel will sit with members of staff at the edge or back of the Hall and will participate in and observe the act of worship. 

Where to get Help 

In the event of questions Church of England schools should contact the Director of Education, Diocese of Ely via the Diocesan website. Alternatively, schools may wish to email either:

Deputy Director of Education Sarah Conant- sarah.conant@elydiocese.org 

Head of School Performance Linda Allison- linda.allison@elydiocese.org 


The information contained within this guidance is correct at the time of publication. Most importantly, the advice about recruiting headteachers for Church schools conforms to current employment legislation. Schools which are beginning a recruitment process are advised to check that the version of this document that they are using is up to date, reflecting any recent changes to Employment Law. 

 For schools in DEMAT please contact the Trust for their process



Page last updated: Monday 14th August 2023 4:13 PM
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