Ask Brenda – Building your professional portfolio

Written by: HTU | Published:

What advice would you give to a newly appointed deputy head and what should I be putting in my personal file to support any headteacher applications I may make in the future?

To answer the first part of your question, begin by ensuring that you know what your current job description asks for. You need to be a model and lead by example to earn the respect of the team you are now beginning to work with.

Do you have a class responsibility? If so, ensure that you show best practice in assessment, planning, delivery and be open about sharing this with them.

If you do not have a class then ensure that you share lessons with staff and where you observe, even informally, that a staff member could benefit from observing others, why not offer to plan and deliver a lesson for that person, allowing them to then evaluate what they have seen and then to have a professional dialogue which allows them to learn from you?

Encourage them to tell you their professional concerns. Begin to establish an open-door policy to allow the team to grow in confidence and to engage with you in a manner which creates a culture and ethos where collaboration develops a learning community.

On a wider strategy level, the best thing you can do is to learn the current systems and strategies in the school. Listen carefully to comments made about what works and what doesn’t and try to evaluate what the issues are.

Look for the areas which could be developed to give you and the principal some “quick wins”, but then also begin to look for long-term strategies which you can focus on and take ownership of.

For example, the new primary curriculum could be an area in which you take a lead. I was working with a school last week and suggested that they should be beginning to work with their staff (including teaching assistants) to look at the new curriculum for 2014 with a particular focus on the changes. They should be encouraging their teams to highlight the areas where they are likely to need support and training if they are to deliver good lessons.

The head was unsure about whether they would admit to this as there is a concern about airing weaknesses. I suggested that she should phrase a response along the lines of “if you will tell us what support you need to deliver the new curriculum, then we become accountable and it becomes our responsibility to ensure that you receive the training you need. If you do not tell us, then the accountability to ensure that all children achieve well remains yours”.

A professional portfolio

A professional portfolio should be a living CV. Ensure that the portfolio starts with your job description, then collect a range of evidence which reflects how you role-model and exemplify high standards against the eight professional standards for teachers.

Divide your portfolio into eight sections and then put in evidence of the impact your work has had in each area as this develops. Your portfolio will grow as you grow. Among the areas to showcase should be the following:

• Monitoring of curriculum and planning – your own (if you teach) and your assessments of others, including differentiation.
• Support given to colleagues (mentoring and coaching of others).
• New initiatives you have introduced and led in school.
• Assessment and the work you have done with staff on, for example, pupil progress meetings.
• Inclusion.
• How have you “led” other professionals – been observed by visiting teachers, role-modelled and evidenced good practice?
• What have you implemented through ICT to raise “performance”? What initiatives have you led linked to ICT?
• Have you/are you working with the local authority or any other external agency to promote/foster good practice?
• Are you working with any other outside agency to promote the school in the wider community?
• Working with/links with parents.
• Working with/links with governors.
• Contacts you use to ensure community involvement.

Where will you look for evidence of impact? Consider some of the following areas of school life and work for finding evidence and documentation for your portfolio:

• Work sampling.
• Moderating pupils’ work.
• Lesson observation.
• Planned whole-school displays/tracking.
• Talking to pupils (start at the end of the key stage).
• Taking photos.
• Curriculum strolling (resources/impact).
• Evaluating planning (online) and other documentation.
• Audit and review/feedback sessions.
• Questionnaires.
• Evaluations of courses led or attended.
• Parent letters.

Begin to create a “professional portfolio” which shows what your leadership has accomplished. Can you show the initiatives you lead and what the impact of those have been? Remember that to introduce something is not enough. It is all about progress and impact, so show what you have done to make positive changes in the school and show how that has improved standards. How have you measured this?How does the evidence you have collated show you as a role model and therefore as a leader within the school community?

DO YOU HAVE A QUESTION FOR BRENDA?Experienced headteacher Brenda Bigland will be offering her advice and answering your questions in this regular column. If you have a query that you’d like Brenda to investigate, email the editor of Headteacher Update, Pete Henshaw, at

• For more primary education best practice and advisory articles from Headteacher Update, click here.

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