People Director

  • Job title: People Director
  • Job Type: Full time
  • Salary: Circa £80k per annum
  • Department: People Directorate (HR)
  • Reporting to: Deputy Bursar
  • Location: Field House
  • Start: As soon as possible
  • Closing Date: 26 June 2023 at 5:00 pm
Apply here

An exciting opportunity to join an award-winning independent school with circa 1850 children across 3 schools and 650 staff. Highgate School are looking for a People Director to play a leading role in shaping our people agenda to ensure Highgate is sought after place to work which further embeds an environment where people flourish.

We are looking for a dynamic leader with experience in creating and implementing people strategies, ability to modernise working practises and managing people change. Highgate are embarking on an exciting next phase and we are looking for a People Director that has an appetite for change.

The Department

Highgate School’s people are at the centre of everything we do. To further embed and build on this ethos we are moving away from the traditional HR function and developing a people focussed department, to work with and empower colleagues to reach their full potential.

There is a warm, welcoming atmosphere within our department that underpins our culture as a school. Teamwork is at the heart of everything we do and by working together with our colleagues in other departments, we aim to provide the very best opportunities for all our students and staff.

We are a team of 7 people who work together to deliver a high quality, efficient Human Resource, Payroll and Recruitment service in line with the School’s Safer Recruitment Policy, current legislation and best practice guidelines to the whole school ensuring that day to day HR functions are effectively managed. We aim to create a flexible, open and honest working environment where staff wellbeing is activity promoted.

Job Description


Strategic development, planning and implementation

  • Contribute to the development of the school’s vision and strategic goals to enable the organization to grow and develop by placing people and wellbeing at the forefront of everything we do
  • Develop and implement a people strategy which supports the school’s development plan and encompasses work already been carried out around staff wellbeing
  • Within the people strategy, create and implement a learning and development approach, embedding diversity & inclusion and wellbeing within everything we do at Highgate
  • Oversee the coordination of all nominated projects, ensuring effective planning, communication and implementation throughout
  • Create a robust measuring and reporting system within the people function, with clear KPIs to report to senior management or governors on any trends or issues that have occurred
  • In partnership with the bursarial management team, identify opportunities for automation within the department to remove the manual ‘heavy lifting’ and ensure we are following practises at the forefront of the sector
  • Where required, review organisational structures in the light of the needs of the school and work with the Head and Bursar to implement changes as required

HR Leadership and Management

  • Work with the bursarial management team to develop a culture of open communication, wellbeing, inspirational leadership, innovation and excellence across the support functions of the whole school
  • Provide day-to-day support to the people team and ensure thorough objective setting, appraisal management and the agreement of personal development plans. Ensure that all team members’ objectives are specific and measurable and in line with strategy, aligned to Highgate’s ethos, aims and business plan
  • Provide leadership and motivation to all staff in the department, ensuring that the necessary skill and competency levels are in place, developed or acquired
  • Drive a culture within the team that is supportive, nurturing and delivers excellence in everything it does


  • Lead the school’s support staff recruitment processes alongside the recruitment manager, from onboarding to offboarding, ensuring we have frequent dialogue with candidates and provide a seamless experience for employees starting at Highgate
  • Introduce people metrics and KPIs to measure the performance and market so information can be communicated to the senior team, allowing agile decisions
  • Create a consistent approach across support staff and teacher recruitment, and work with the teaching recruitment team, to ensure a seamless experience for the candidates
  • Review and be responsible for processes, ensuring compliance with regulations relating to recruitment, immigration and employment, and work closely with the Compliance Director
  • Have overall responsibility for all employment checks and the maintenance of the Central Register of Appointments

Employee Relations (ER)

  • Provide best practice advice and guidance to the Head or his deputies, Bursar, directors and managers on staffing issues such as absence, capability, the management of performance, disciplinary and grievance and settlement procedures
  • Work with HR manager to create a process where ER cases can be effectively managed and reported on so any improvements can easily be identified
  • Provide advice to staff at all levels on all relevant aspects of people policies and procedures
  • Alongside HR manager take overall responsibility for the effective management of employee relations casework across Highgate
  • Improve management/employee communications where needed, including mediating disputes and advising line managers on how to implement HR policies
  • Ensure effective absence management and occupational health procedures are in place

Employee Reward and Recognition

  • Develop a reward and benefits policy which meets Highgate’s needs, contributes to maximising employees’ contribution to organisational performance and enhances employee retention and satisfaction
  • In consultation with the Bursar, advise on annual pay awards, conduct salary surveys, undertake job evaluation and benchmarking, review and implement relevant salary scales.

Appraisal, Learning and Development

  • Within the people strategy, manage an appropriate and effective appraisal system for the support staff that is embedded into the culture
  • Provide professional guidance for the teaching staff appraisal system
  • Create a training and development strategy in line with Highgate’s strategic direction
  • Ensure that cost-effective training and development plans are in place and that training activities are co-ordinated and delivered either internally or, when appropriate, outsourced.
  • Support the development of line management skills across Highgate, including improving motivation, handling under-performers and using capability and disciplinary procedures, through guidance and appropriate training
  • Manage the induction procedures for support staff, and assist staff responsible for the induction of teaching staff, monitoring consistency of practice across the whole school
  • Ensure group and individual training records are maintained
  • Ensure the development of a register of training resources, effective training providers and approved courses

Policies, Procedures and Regulatory Compliance

  • Ensure overall compliance with employment legislation and regulations, safeguarding and safer recruitment. Equity, Diversity and Inclusion; work with the compliance director to maintain an excellent standard
  • Ensure compliance with ISI Regulations in relation to People Management
  • Manage the development, review, and regular updating of all people policies and procedures ensuring compliance with current legislation and best practice and their consistent application across the School
  • Give direction to and monitor processes within the department to ensure that responsibilities are met with regard to regulatory requirements and an efficient service is provided

Budget Management

  • Be accountable for the departmental budget
  • Ensure day-to-day budgetary management and develop and implement monitoring procedures for in-year expenditure, reporting to the Deputy Bursar as necessary


  • Provide reports for the Governors and senior management and attend internal meetings as required
  • Represent the school at appropriate meetings and People networking forums as required
  • Undertake any other duties commensurate with the responsibilities of the post as may reasonably be requested by the Deputy Bursar and Bursar
Person Specification
  • Criteria
  • How will these be tested or verified?
  • Qualifications, Experience and Knowledge
  • Essential
    • Qualifications in human resources or significant experience in managing a large team with people at the forefront
    • CIPD qualified or equivalent
    • Strong record of working with a senior team to implement organisational change
    • Demonstrable experience of developing and implementing People strategies and policies
    • Experience of managing and developing a team to become high performing
    • Strong working knowledge of employment law issues and ability to apply these to a variety of situations using a pragmatic and common-sense approach
    • Knowledge of child protection and safeguarding policies
    • Understanding of the independent school sector
  • Skills and abilities
  • Essential
    • Excellent organisational skills with an ability to plan, prioritise and meet deadlines
    • Complete discretion, confidentiality and integrity in all aspects of work
    • Excellent interpersonal and relationship building skills. Can quickly establish credibility and respect and establish strong working relationships within the school
    • Demonstrated ability to improve employee morale and engagement and skilled in developing people systems and processes
    • Strong recruitment skills and understanding of the market and technology in identifying where we can find the best candidates
    • Independent worker with an inquisitive nature, always looking at how to improve processes and systems
    • Ability to produce correspondence which is mindful of Highgate’s environment and working routines and in sympathy with its ethos
  • Other
  • Essential
    • Confident and personable
    • Ability to work well as a member of a team
    • High degree of personal drive, self motivated and self aware. Recognises own strengths and weaknesses and committed to personal development


Location | Highgate Village, adjacent to Hampstead Heath, with quaint shops and easy connections across London.

Pension | AVIVA workplace pension scheme offered with a generous 21% employer contribution.

Fee remission | Available on application for qualifying employees.

Leisure facilities | Free access, at stipulated times, to our sports facilities, including a fitness suite and swimming pool (recently refurbished).

Holidays | Generous holiday allowance of 33 days (including bank holidays) for full-time staff. Most holidays will be taken during school holiday periods.

Lunch | A complimentary lunch.

Help with sustainable travel  | Access to the Cycle to Work Scheme and a Season Ticket Loan scheme for public transport.

Family-friendly policies | Highgate appreciates that employees sometimes have family commitments so we try to be as supportive as possible, for example with enhanced maternity pay (8 weeks’ full pay, then 10 weeks’ half pay) and paid dependant leave.

Working at Highgate

A culture of community, kindness and belonging

Highgate is a caring, open-minded community, where we promote kindness, empathy and friendship. Everyone who works and studies with us deserves to feel they are part of a welcoming environment that enables them to be themselves and to thrive as individuals.

Our community extends beyond the school, through partnerships, charity work and our commitment to equality, inclusion and sustainability. All members of our school community are encouraged to look outwards and play an active role.

In a recent ISI inspection (Dec 2021), it was noted that “Pupils show exceptional respect for, and appreciate diversity within the school and wider community, and their own and other cultures, demonstrating sensitivity and tolerance to those from different backgrounds and traditions.”

Staff wellbeing

Highgate is committed to staff wellbeing, which we promote by encouraging a strong work-life balance; trying our best to support flexible working requests; providing a nutritious complimentary lunch in the dining hall; and offering access to sporting facilities including our recently renovated swimming pool.

The Staff Wellbeing Committee, with representatives across the School, meets regularly to drive forward initiatives, and a selection of staff have been trained as Mental-Health First Aiders.

We encourage an open culture throughout our school, with regular staff surveys, action committees and opportunities to feedback. We strive for continual learning and improvement, and staff training and development is paramount. There are opportunities to participate in the wider life of our school, such as taking part in trips or societies and getting involved in partnership projects.

More details about working at Highgate can be found here:

Work with us    Aims + Ethos

Charitable work and sustainability

As an independent school, we want to use our position as a charity effectively: to make high-quality education accessible to as many children as possible – through our bursary programme at Highgate and through our work with local state schools. We have partnerships with over 60 state schools across 7 London boroughs, and we are the principal educational sponsor for London Academy of Excellence, Tottenham – an academically-selective state sixth form in a community where such opportunities are lacking.

Alongside this, our staff and pupils undertake charitable activities throughout the year. These range from staff giving up their time to neighbourhood schools and charitable organisations, focused fundraising campaigns, to pupils undertaking community work in the local area or further afield.

As a school, we have a central role to play in educating our pupils, staff and parents about the importance of environmental sustainability. We are taking positive action to adapt our operational performance to tackle the negative effects of climate change. We encourage all our staff to reflect upon their personal and professional practices, to support our environmental agenda and to make positive changes wherever possible.

Application procedure

  • Closing Date: 26th June 2023
  • Timing of interviews: First round end of June, Second round in early July

Contact: Matt Crump, Deputy Bursar is happy to answer any questions about this post.

Early Application: Applications will be considered ‘as and when’ received and we may close the vacancy if we appoint before the closing date.

Apply here


We know that more diverse teams are stronger teams, and that the more inclusive we are, the more our staff and pupils will feel a sense of belonging and will thrive. To enable us to make reasonable adjustments, please let us know of any disabilities (including neuro-divergence) when you submit your application.


As this role will have regular unsupervised contact with children you must, if appointed, comply with Highgate’s Safeguarding Policy and Staff Code of Conduct. If in the course of carrying out the duties of the post the post holder becomes aware of any actual or potential risks to the safety and welfare of our pupils, these concerns must be reported immediately in accordance with the Safeguarding Policy.  If whilst in the post, Highgate becomes aware of any safeguarding concerns to staff, pupils or the community; these will need to be followed up in line with the safeguarding policy and code of conduct which is underpinned by KCSE and other legislation. These concerns may need to be shared with other agencies.  A copy of these policies will accompany all offers of employment. Training will also be provided to all staff to support Safeguarding practice.

Please read before you apply

Highgate is committed to the safeguarding and welfare of children and applicants must be willing to undergo child protection screening appropriate to this post, including checks with past employers, the Disclosure and Barring Service and overseas police check if necessary. Candidates from overseas must provide information about their past conduct, for example, by providing documents issued by overseas teaching authorities.

Please note that this role is ‘exempt’ from the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 and therefore, you are required to declare any convictions, cautions, reprimands and final warnings that are not ‘protected’ (i.e. filtered out) as defined by the Rehabilitation of Offenders Act 1974 (Exceptions) Order 1975 (as amended in 2013). Shortlisted candidates will be asked to provide details of all unspent convictions and those that would not be filtered, prior to the date of the interview.

In accordance with the latest guidance from KCSIE, we shall be conducting online searches on any candidates who are shortlisted.

Apply here