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The headmaster or headmistress is the person in charge of staff, pupils and the running of the primary or secondary school. They are the highest authority in a school and will have to report to external governing bodies and educational boards.
They aim to maintain and improve standards of teaching through close supervision of members of staff, revision and approval of syllabi and by holding regular meetings with staff in order to suggest and listen to ideas relating to the functioning of the school and to keep all members of staff up-to-date on developments. They will also provide a point of contact between staff members and governing and educational boards.
In a large percentage of schools the head will not teach the pupils. They are the head administrator, or manager, and will deal with all aspects of the day-to-day and long term running of the school outside the classroom. In smaller or independent schools the head may also act as the head of a department and teach their specific subject to pupils.
The head is responsible for dictating and imposing the institution’s codes of ethics, conduct and behaviour and must ensure that all health and safety standards are met. Although maintaining discipline is the responsibility of all members of staff, the head will typically oversee more serious cases of misconduct, whether relating to a pupil or a member of staff.
The governing bodies of a school will allocate a budget towards the costs of maintaining the school and its workforce which the head will manage under governor supervision. This budget could be put towards any number of costs, such as new hires, new equipment, school building maintenance, staff training programs or publicity, to name just a few.
The head is the figurehead of the school and, perhaps more commonly in the case of independent schools, they will promote the institution and foster external relationships in order to maintain desired levels of enrolment and attract new staff.