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Innovative Co-Headship for Deer Park

Innovative Co-Headship for Deer Park confirmed for September 2024

Following the appointment of Headteacher, Richard Clutterbuck, to the post of Head of Strategic Partnerships at Bromcom, a leading EdTech company, from September 2024, we are delighted to confirm the appointments of Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang, members of our existing Strategic Leadership Team, as Co-Heads at Cirencester Deer Park School. This joint temporary role reflects the Corinium Education Trust’s values of courage, kindness, collaboration and innovation.

'We are looking forward to leading Cirencester Deer Park School. We are very excited to be given this opportunity to work with staff, pupils and parents in our new roles as Co-Heads. With our combined experience and shared vision, we feel well placed to take the school from strength to strength'. Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang.

Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang have both grown professionally through the school. While they have each served for 12 years on the school’s leadership team, both progressing from Assistant Headteachers to Deputy Headteachers, initially with Chiquita Henson, during her Headship, and, more recently, with Richard Clutterbuck, they are both outward-facing and have actively engaged in, and led, research and training for teachers, support staff and school leaders across Gloucestershire. They share a deep commitment to the school and have highly complementary skills.


‘I am delighted to congratulate Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang on this Co-Headship. It has always been a privilege to work closely with them and, more recently, with staff and governors, to find the best solution for the school. They are like two sides of the same coin. Given their present roles and experience, I am confident they will provide the school with stability and continuity. However, they also share a determination to build on the school’s strong foundations to ensure all pupils and school staff thrive.’ Chiquita Henson, Trust Lead (CEO), Corinium Education Trust.

Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang are already preparing to welcome our new Year 7 pupils and their parents on our Induction Days and Evening on Thursday 11 and Friday 12 July. They are looking forward to introducing themselves as Co-heads to the wider community of the school in September.

The decision to appoint Co-Heads has not been taken lightly. The Trust and members of the School’s Local Governing Body seriously considered a range of options, before advertising a temporary Headship internally. We did our research and, encouraged by members of the school’s Local Governing Body, who have direct experience of co-leadership in the business and commercial world, Chiquita Henson, Trust Lead (CEO), two senior leaders, Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang, and Emma Hope, a Head of Faculty, visited another school with a mature co-headship. Appointed in 2017, as Co-Heads at The Holt School in Wokingham, Anne Kennedy and Katie Pearce, described how their co-headship works and provided inspiration and reassurance:
‘It was really helpful to visit The Holt School in Wokingham and meet their Co-Headteachers. I was immediately impressed by their mutual respect and teamwork. After hearing about their experiences as Co-Headteachers, the model made perfect sense and had clearly benefited both the school and them as individuals. Therefore, I am excited that Cirencester Deer Park is adopting this model, as I believe Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang possess the diverse skills needed to continue to drive the school forward.’ Emma Hope, Head of Faculty.

Appointing Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang as Co-Heads was not a foregone conclusion. The Trust ensured there was a robust process in place. Chiquita Henson, Trust Lead (CEO) worked closely with the school’s Chair of Governors, Rachel Brindley. They met with the school’s Local Governing Body, which includes parent governors, and Chiquita Henson, met with and listened to groups of staff to share models of leadership and understand their priorities for the leadership of the school.


Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang submitted a joint application for the post of Headteacher and were interviewed on Friday 21 June. As a part of their recruitment, they gave a presentation to staff which showcased the quality of their teamwork and confirmed the alignment of their vision and aspirations for everyone at the school.


‘I was pleased to be asked to take part in the process for our new headteacher. A selection of staff from across the school listened to a presentation, took part in a Q&A, but also had time to reflect on the options put forward and what we thought would be right for the school. The message was very clear and consistent: Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang know our school, know our staff, pupils and our community and want what we all want: to be safe, happy and successful. They are determined to build upon their current work as members of the school’s leadership team through evolution, not revolution. This model is innovative and creative. I hope our community comes together to support this change, because I think we are starting something quite special!’ Jim Ellen, Assistant Head of Faculty.


One of the key advantages to this model is that it will help alleviate some of the issues that can weigh heavily on a single headteacher and lead to isolation. Anne Kennedy and Katie Price, at The Holt School, reflected on the old adage, a'problem shared is a problem halved’, and talked enthusiastically about how empowering they found their partnership to be and the positive impact their work together had on their school. 
Following the interview and confirmation of their appointment, the panel reflected on the strength of Helen Charlesworth’s and Liz Lang’s commitment to the school.


'This is a very exciting appointment and a co-headship model is innovative and courageous. Both Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang are excited about the opportunity ahead and how it can be transformational in school leadership. They have shared their commitment to the overall school ethos and values of kindness, determination and trust. They have a clear vision for the strategic development of the school, furthering the quality of curriculum and education. They are passionate about leading, supporting and developing their teams as well as ensuring the best possible outcomes for every child. The Local Governing Body is very supportive of the co-headship model and we look forward to working with Helen and Liz in their new role.' Rachel Brindley, Chair of Governors.

While this is a new and temporary solution to the leadership of the school, the Trust and Local Governing Body plan to work closely with Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang and will keep the model under review. If successful, it may be extended. The co-headship will evolve. However, to help staff, pupils and parents understand how the model will work in practice, we are working on a series of frequently asked questions for September.

‘Over the last four years I have had the pleasure of working with Helen Charlesworth and Liz Lang as part of Deer Park's strategic leadership team. I have learnt much from both through their expertise as leaders and their deep knowledge of the school. I couldn't be happier for Deer Park that these highly professional, intelligent, astute and compassionate people will sharing the mantle of headship of the school. Deer Park is set to climb to even greater heights under their watch.’  Richard Clutterbuck, Headteacher.