Succession Planning in Schools 

Explore expert advice from Debbi Penny, one of Juniper's HR consultants. She discusses essential strategies for effective succession planning in schools, including talent identification, knowledge management, creating a collaborative culture, and embracing diversity. These strategies aim to ensure school continuity when it is needed most. 


Recent years have demonstrated the unpredictable nature of the ever-changing education landscape. Keeping a school growing and improving isn't just about what happens each day; it relies a lot on thinking ahead and planning carefully for unexpected and inevitable changes. This is called succession planning.  

Succession planning in schools is the process of carefully identifying and preparing individuals to step into key roles and leadership positions when necessary. This proactive approach ensures that the school can maintain its operations smoothly and continue to thrive, even in the face of unforeseen challenges. By investing in training and continuous professional development programmes, schools can grow a pool of talented individuals ready to take on new responsibilities. This strategic planning also involves considering the school's long-term goals and identifying the skills and experience needed to achieve them. By doing so, schools can effectively address any gaps in leadership and talent, ensuring a seamless transition and sustained success at all times.  

In this blog, Debbi Penny, one of Juniper’s experienced education HR consultants, outlines essential strategies for effective succession planning in schools. These strategies include talent identification, knowledge management, creating a collaborative culture, and embracing diversity, all of which aim to ensure school continuity when it is needed most.  

However, Debbi first clarifies who is responsible for succession planning and suggests possible school starting points.  

Who is responsible for succession planning in schools? 

Succession planning in schools typically falls under the authority of the school leadership team, including head teachers, deputies, and the school’s HR manager. While the ultimate responsibility may be the school's leadership, successful succession planning often involves collaboration across various departments and stakeholders. This may include input from teachers, department heads, administrators, and even external consultants specialising in education HR management. 

Where to start?  

Schools might begin by asking the following important questions to start the succession planning process: 

1. Who within the school aims for leadership or seeks new roles? 

2. How can performance reviews aid in enhancing our leadership skills? 

3. Do we have a plan in place for temporary leadership during extended absences? 

4. Are we ready for the expected exit of key leaders? 

While this focus is primarily on leadership, it can be applied to various roles within the school. 

Identifying and developing talent  right from the start  

Recognising and nurturing talent is crucial for successful succession planning in schools. This means spotting people with potential even from the moment of induction, not only for leadership but also in other roles within the institution, such as teachers, administrators, and support staff, who show exceptional skills and leadership qualities and understand the school's values. 

To develop potential successors, schools need to invest in successful onboarding and induction initiatives, professional development programmes, mentorship initiatives, and opportunities for skill enhancement. Exposure to different experiences, leadership training, and mentoring relationships help prepare people to take on future leadership roles confidently and competently. 

Knowledge management and institutional memory 

Long-serving staff often have valuable insights and experiences that are key to maintaining the school's identity and success. To do this well, it's important to document processes, create clear handover procedures, and pass on knowledge through mentorship and training. 

Using technology can also help a lot with managing knowledge. By setting up good systems for documenting things, using digital platforms to share information, and keeping all resources in one central place, schools can make sure that important knowledge is easy for future leaders to access. 

Create a culture of collaboration and growth 

Succession planning isn’t merely about replacing outgoing leaders but creating a culture that values growth, collaboration, and managing staff transitions effectively. Encouraging teamwork, open communication, and shared leadership principles create an environment where potential successors feel empowered to contribute their ideas and skills. It also helps build a pipeline of talent, encourage a sense of commitment, attract future leaders and retain existing staff who align with the school’s vision and values.  

Embracing diversity, equality and inclusivity 

Practising diversity, equality and inclusivity when it comes to succession planning is crucial for a school's success over time. When we include people with different perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences, our leadership team becomes stronger. This diversity helps us generate innovative ideas and be flexible. Ensuring everyone has a fair chance and support, no matter where they come from, helps us build a leadership team that can meet the needs of everyone in the school community. 


Succession planning in schools is not just about filling empty positions; it's a crucial strategy guiding a school’s future. By actively finding talent, keeping important knowledge, promoting teamwork, and welcoming diversity, schools can become stronger and smoothly pass leadership roles to new people. Good succession planning leads to long-term success and growth, securing the school's legacy for years to come. 

Plan ahead with Juniper 

With over 200 years of combined hands-on education experience, Juniper's expert education HR consultants is here to support your school's succession planning needs.  

Book a free consultation today and let us help you create a plan to ensure your school runs smoothly, no matter what challenges arise.