Succession planning

Succession planning

Guidance for school leaders and governors

Schools need great staff who have pride in being a part of an organisation. 

Succession planning is important for three reasons:

1. It ensures effective staffing throughout the school

Plans help schools cope with anticipated and unexpected changes in key personnel. This reduces the impact and stress of these changes.

2. It makes recruitment easier

Candidates will be more attracted to schools that highlight:

  • career development opportunities
  • training
  • CPD

Case studies on career advancement in recruitment adverts help sell schools as a good place to work.

3. It assists with retention

Employees who feel they are being invested in are likely to be more engaged. They will also feel a stronger sense of:

  • loyalty
  • commitment
  • satisfaction

What is it?

Succession planning ensures school staff are recruited and developed to fill key roles within and beyond the school.

Succession planning looks at:

  • current strengths
  • future needs
  • gaps which are then addressed through training and development

It identifies key personnel and assesses who could cover their role on a temporary or permanent basis. This ensures that pro-active and structured support is in place as contingency measures.

Succession planning is not just about upwards career movement. It should include sideways steps and provide contingency plans in the event of temporary or permanent staff loss.

The focus should:

  • be positive and engaging
  • acknowledge strengths and ask staff about their career aspirations
  • involve working together, developing staff for the individual as well as the school

We recommend that all roles within schools are included. This is so everyone who contributes to the successful running of a school is considered and fully developed.


Staff development

It's important to:

  • make all staff aware, promote opportunities within the school, and encourage participation
  • identify 'potential' and enable training and support
  • set out individual plans for development and potential for next career steps
  • view it as a success when a member of staff moves onto a leadership position at another school

When identifying 'potential', be mindful of identifying people 'like us' and perpetuating barriers to people who are 'not like us'.

Development opportunities may include:

  • work shadowing for staff who aspire to more senior/broader roles (both within the school and in other schools)
  • exchanges and visits to other schools
  • use of mentoring and coaching schemes
  • providing short, focused leadership opportunities for aspiring leaders
    work with other schools to take advantage of beneficial leadership development opportunities


As an organisation it's important to:

  • review and check organisational structure
  • look at effectiveness and development of new models
  • ensure appropriate induction and support for all staff
  • make appointments to roles which provides opportunities for candidates with 'potential'

Headteachers and governing bodies will check individual performance and development. They will do this on an annual basis through appropriate committees (Resources).

They will also check the workforce profile to look at patterns or trends. This will help identify risks and actions, including:

  • diversity of staff
  • staff turnover rate
  • length of service
  • reasons for leaving
  • summary of training and development provided
  • appropriate local and national leadership development and succession planning initiatives
  • developing a school culture which offers development opportunities
  • ensuring school budget funding supports agreed priorities for development
  • ensuring headteachers and senior leaders explore the benefits of collaborative approaches with other schools

Useful links

Wakefield Succession Planning Policy
Government - Talent Management – developing new leaders

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