The career experiences of Depute Headteachers in Secondary Schools in a single Scottish Local Authority including their Perceptions of, and Aspirations towards, Headship.

  • Fiona C. Keatings

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    This thesis offers an idiographic, qualitative analysis of the career experiences, perceptions and aspirations of secondary Depute Head Teachers (DHTs) in a single Scottish Local Authority. The purpose of the focus on deputes, a significantly under-researched group within educational leadership, was twofold: to investigate their recounted experiences as deputes and to explore how these impacted their perceptions of, and aspirations towards, headship.

    An exploratory survey was offered to all 28 potential participants within the target Local Authority. Semi-structured interviews were then conducted with 15 self-selected DHTs. Interpretative Phenomenological Analysis (IPA) was used to analyse the interview transcripts. Three key themes emerged: Being a DHT, Perceptions of Headship and Headship Aspirations.

    Informed by Archer’s work on the competing impacts of structure and agency on decision-making (2003), the thesis considers how participants variously shaped their careers and the particular factors which influenced them within their apparently common structural context. The group displayed both heterogeneous and homogeneous aspects in this regard and in their constructions of headship and broadly positive, though qualified, aspirations towards it. Related implications for policy and practice are considered and areas for future research are identified.

    The thesis offers a fresh contribution to the field through its focus on the ‘lived experiences’ of deputes within a Local Authority outwith Scotland’s central belt and in its identification of contributions to addressing the recognised challenge of attracting school leaders, derived from current potential aspirants.

    This thesis and its findings are likely to be of interest to members of the teaching profession and specifically to those considering promotion to senior leadership within it. Consequently the thesis is also likely to be of use to those concerned with supporting, selecting and recruiting these individuals at school, Authority and national level.
    Date of Award2021
    Original languageEnglish
    SupervisorLiz Lakin (Supervisor) & Jane Fenton (Supervisor)


    • Depute Headteacher
    • Secondary School
    • Scottish Local Authority
    • Perceptions, Aspirations
    • Headship

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