Headteacher absence: how to respond

Know what your board needs to do if your headteacher is absent for a short-term or long-term period, for example if they're on sick leave. Download and adapt our template letter to communicate the situation to parents and carers.

Last reviewed on 23 February 2024
School types: AllSchool phases: AllRef: 3975
  1. Make sure someone steps in for your headteacher
  2. You might not have all the details of the absence
  3. Short-term absence: your board will have a limited role in arranging cover
  4. Long-term absence or vacancy: appoint an acting headteacher
  5. Inform parents and carers of the situation by downloading our template letter

Please note: this article applies mostly to maintained schools. If you're an academy, check your funding agreement to be clear about your responsibilities when your headteacher (or equivalent) is absent. 

Make sure someone steps in for your headteacher

Your board is responsible for making sure a member of staff is appointed to carry out the functions of a headteacher if:

  • Your headteacher is absent, or 
  • Your school is waiting to appoint a new headteacher

However, if your school is expected to be without its headteacher for a long time, your board should look to formalise arrangements as soon as possible. 

This is explained in the DfE's staffing and employment advice for schools (paragraph 2.14 on page 9).

You might not have all the details of the absence

You may not know how long they’ll be absent for – this might happen