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Headteacher selection panel: role and appointment

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Last updated on 19 December 2016
School types: Maintained, Academy · School phases: All
In-depth article
How should we appoint a headteacher selection panel? Headteacher selection panels are required in maintained schools and recommended in academies. We refer to statutory guidance on their role and composition. We also relay advice on personal relationships between candidates and panel members.

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  1. 1 Are headteacher selection panels required?
  2. 2 Who is eligible to sit on the headteacher selection panel?
  3. 3 Guidance on appointing a headteacher selection panel
  4. 4 Personal relationships between candidates and panel members

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Are headteacher selection panels required?

Maintained schools 

The School Staffing (England) Regulations 2009, which apply to maintained schools, set out the process for appointing headteachers. 

The governing body must appoint a selection panel which consists of at least three governors

Regulation 15 explains that when recruiting a headteacher, the governing body must appoint a selection panel which consists of at least three governors, other than the current headteacher. The regulations do not exclude any particular types of governors from sitting on the panel. 

The selection panel is responsible for:

  • Selecting applicants for interview and notifying the local authority (LA) of their selection
  • Interviewing applicants 
  • Recommending the appointment of an applicant to the governing body 


The National College for Teaching and Leadership (National College) has produced a guide to recruiting and selecting a new headteacher. Page 5 of the guidance explains:

Academies are not subject to the same regulations as local authority maintained schools and, subject to their articles of association, are free to set their own procedures

Who is eligible to sit on the headteacher selection panel?

In another article from The Key, we look at the regulations on the composition of headteacher selection panels. We relay expert advice and National College guidance on whether staff governors and outgoing headteachers are eligible to sit on the panel. 

We also look in more detail at how associate members and non-governors can support the selection panel.

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Is there guidance for academies on forming a panel? 

We spoke to Clive Dobbin, one of our associate education experts, for his advice on selection panels in academies.

Clive explained that the appointment process for a headteacher differs according to the procedures adopted by each particular academy. However, he would still recommend selecting a panel of governors as the most practical solution.

Clive said that where an academy does delegate responsibility for appointing a headteacher to a panel, he would advise it to follow the same guidelines and best practice advice as a panel in a maintained school.

In another article on The Key, we look at who is responsible for appointing a headteacher or principal in single and multi-academy trusts. 

Guidance on appointing a headteacher selection panel

We asked Jacqueline Baker, an education consultant who specialises in senior leadership recruitment, for some general guidance on choosing the members of the headteacher selection panel. Her advice is applicable to both maintained schools and, where they choose to appoint a selection panel, academies. 

Jacqueline said that all governors must be content with the membership of the panel and happy for the panel to exercise the governing body's authority during the selection process. However, Jacqueline stressed that it is essential for the full governing body to ratify the panel's decision. 

In the following article from The Key, we look at how the full governing body of a maintained school can ratify the headteacher selection panel's decision:

Dealing with concerns about a governor's involvement

We also asked Jacqueline for advice on what to do if the governing body has concerns about a particular governor's ability to co-operate during the selection process. She explained that if the whole governing body has serious concerns about an individual, it should not involve them in the process.

She emphasised that when delegating responsibility to the panel, the chair should make clear the expectation that all governors, whether directly involved or not, will act in a "fair, democratic and transparent" manner. The chair could also emphasise the importance of supporting the panel's majority decision, and approach a troublesome governor personally if their behaviour persists in causing concern.

In another article from The Key, we relay advice on having difficult conversations with other governors:

What if we can't find enough governors for the panel?

Jacqueline said that if there are difficulties in forming the panel due to concerns over certain governors' involvement, the governing body should remember that only three governors are required to form a quorum.

What if we want to involve more people in the process?

If the governing body wishes to involve more people in the process, Jacqueline said that they can be involved in a supporting or advisory capacity. If they are not voting members of the panel this must be made clear at the beginning of the process.

Another of our associate education experts, Andrea Senior, also pointed out that the governing body can seek external support, such as HR advice from the LA, diocese or multi-academy trust, if necessary.

Personal relationships between candidates and panel members

Advice from One Education

We asked One Education's HR and People team what to do when a governor knows one of the candidates personally from outside the recruitment process.

A representative said that governors should declare their relationships with any candidates to the governing body. The governing body may determine whether the governor can remain on the panel.

If a governor has a close personal relationship with a candidate, she suggested that they should not be involved in the recruitment process. 

Advice from ACAS

The school must ensure that there is no conflict of interest

We also spoke to the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS) for advice on whether a person who knows a candidate personally can be involved in the recruitment process.

A representative said that there is no specific employment law prohibiting this. She added that it may be better to choose somebody else to sit on the panel, as the school must ensure that there is no conflict of interest. 

What if the governors are confident about member's impartiality?

We asked Jacqueline Baker if it is possible for a governor with a personal connection to a candidate to sit on the selection panel if the governing body is confident of their impartiality. 

Jacqueline advised against this. She explained that a personal connection between a panel member and a candidate may cause external parties, such as the school's stakeholders or other candidates, to question the selection process and any decisions the panel reaches.

She also pointed out that approving the involvement of a member with a personal connection to a candidate could bring the integrity and transparency of the governing body into question and have a long-term impact on the governing body's reputation.

If the governing body wishes to benefit from the expertise of the governor in question, she suggested that they could be involved in the selection process in an advisory capacity. She strongly advised against giving the governor in question a voting role. 

Sources and further reading

Clive Dobbin is a partner at Paris Smith LLP solicitors in Southampton, where he is head of the employment department. He has extensive experience of advising schools and colleges, as well as considerable experience as a governor. He has also acted as the clerk to the governors of another school.

Andrea Senior is an experienced HR specialist focusing on management, organisational development and learning and development. She is the chair of the personnel committee of a large secondary academy.

For an overview of good practice in headteacher recruitment, see the following article from The Key:

This article was updated in response to feedback from a governor of a large urban secondary school in the south east. 

The Key has taken great care in publishing this article. However, some of the article's content and information may come from or link to third party sources whose quality, relevance, accuracy, completeness, currency and reliability we do not guarantee. Accordingly, we will not be held liable for any use of or reliance placed on this article's content or the links or downloads it provides. This article may contain information sourced from public sector bodies and licensed under the Open Government Licence.