Head teacher

Head teacher
Principal (school) redirects here.

A head teacher or school principal (also known as headteacher,[1] headmaster, headmistress or the Head, sometimes informally in Scots, the heidie or heedie) is the most senior teacher, leader and manager of a school.

In Scotland, such officials are sometimes known as the "rector", most commonly in independent schools. In North America and Ireland (including Northern Ireland), such officials are usually known as the "school principal", but some schools use the term "headmaster" or "Head Master". Some American public schools, such as Boston Latin School[citation needed] and Milpitas High School,[dubious ][citation needed] also use the term "headmaster", either because of its history or historical connections.

The terms "headmaster" and "headmistress" used to be the standard throughout both the state and private sectors, with "head teacher" usually being used only to refer to them collectively. In recent years, however, it has become usual to officially use the gender-neutral term in state schools. Nevertheless, the gender-specific terms are still in common use, and may be in more formal use in some schools, particularly the remaining state grammar schools. Independent schools usually still officially use the gender-specific terms. Some use other terms, such as "high master". Independent schools frequently use other titles for officials under the head teacher.[clarification needed][citation needed]

The official term for the third most senior teacher in state schools (as in many independent schools) was "second master" or "second mistress", but these terms have generally gone out of use in the state sector.[citation needed]

Some schools use terms such as "Head of the Upper School" or "Head of the Middle School" to identify those people who are in charge of a particular division of the school, but who are under the direction of the school headmaster.[citation needed]

"Principal" or "Head of School" is used as the title of the head administrator of an elementary school, middle school, or high school in some English-speaking countries, including the United States, India and Australia. Public schools in the United States generally use the title principal whereas private schools in the United States sometimes use the title Head of School.[citation needed] Books and documents relating to the early days of public education in the United States show that the title was originally Principal Teacher.



While some head teachers still retain some teaching responsibility, other than in very small schools, most of their duties are managerial and pastoral.

In Australia, the Head Teacher is in charge of one (in the case of a major subject) or multiple (often in smaller schools) specific departments, such as English, Maths, Science, etc., but maintains full teaching duties and status. They are considered part of the school executive, and often a Head Teacher position is a stepping-stone into administration.

Deputy head


In larger schools, the principal is assisted by one or more "vice-principals", "assistant principals", "associate principals", or "deputy principals". Their position is secondary to the principal with regard to school governance. Assistant principals generally perform specific duties such as handling student discipline, curriculum, student council or student activities whereas the principal has the ultimate responsibility for the school as a whole (including faculty and staff, physical plant, etc.).

Regional information


In many Australian schools, a principal is the head administrator of a school who has been appointed to her/his position by the school board, superintendent, or other body. The principal, often in conjunction with the school board, makes the executive decisions that govern the school, as well as having the authority over the employment (and in some cases firing) of teachers. The principal is often the chief disciplinarian of the students. In many US schools, however, student discipline is the vice-principal's responsibility, and broader school decisions are the duty of the principal. The title Head Teacher is also used in Australia to denote a head of subject or department (e.g., Head Teacher of English).


In Scotland, the post of Principal Teacher (PT) is held by the third most senior teacher in a Primary School, whose job it is to oversee a certain aspect of the school's organisation, or by the most senior teacher of a department/faculty of a high school, whose job it is to run and manage that specific department/faculty.[citation needed]

United States

In 1999, there were about 129,000 "principals" in the United States.[2] In the early decades of public education, the full title was "principal teacher", which accounts for the present day title having an adjectival form, essentially being a foreshortened version of the original full title.

Yet the term Headmaster is still used.

See also


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • head teacher — head teachers also headteacher N COUNT A head teacher is a teacher who is in charge of a school. [BRIT] Syn: head …   English dictionary

  • head teacher — n BrE the teacher who is in charge of a school American Equivalent: principal …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • head teacher — ► NOUN ▪ the teacher in charge of a school …   English terms dictionary

  • head teacher — headteacher UK [ˌhedˈtiːtʃə(r)] / US [ˌhedˈtɪtʃər] or head teacher UK / US noun [countable] Word forms headteacher : singular headteacher plural headteachers Word forms head teacher : singular head teacher plural head teachers British * a teacher …   English dictionary

  • head teacher — noun Head teacher is used after these nouns: ↑school …   Collocations dictionary

  • head teacher — noun the educator who has executive authority for a school she sent unruly pupils to see the principal • Syn: ↑principal, ↑school principal, ↑head • Derivationally related forms: ↑headship (for: ↑ …   Useful english dictionary

  • head teacher — noun chiefly Brit. the teacher in charge of a school …   English new terms dictionary

  • head teacher — noun (C) BrE the teacher who is in charge of a school; principal 2 (2) AmE …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • head teacher — noun A gender neutral term for a headmaster or headmistress …   Wiktionary

  • Deputy head teacher — A deputy head teacher, deputy headmaster or deputy headmistress is the second most senior teacher in a school in the United Kingdom and elsewhere. Secondary schools usually also have between one and three deputy heads (occasionally depute head in …   Wikipedia

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