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5 leadership tips for climbing the ladder

Some pertinent guidance for developing an effective appraisal system that maximises outcomes.

Andy Goodeve  Andy Goodeve
16 December 2022

‘...walk with Kings-nor lose the common touch.”

Reaching the pinnacle of the teaching profession is in many quarters understood to be securing a Headship. Here we look at 5 tips for helping individuals to achieve a mindset to allow them to climb the leadership ladder and flourish.

Tip 1 - Have Perspective

Pure unadulterated naked ambition within the teaching profession can be very dangerous. Personal ambition can drive departments, faculties and year groups forward. However, it must not be at the expense of young people. There is nothing worse than seeing a bored group of middle/senior leaders feeling that they have to be at a school event to enhance their profiles and to be seen to do the right things.

We recommend a measured pathway to the top. Do not set any predefined goals such as becoming a Deputy Head by a certain age. Look to acquire relevant whole school experience and take advantage of mentoring before looking to reach the next stage. The very best school leaders have strong credentials, are school centric and genuinely wish to enrich the lives of young people. Ambition is healthy, but it must be due to a genuine passion for education and not the attraction of an inflated salary.

Tip 2 - Outline Your Credentials

The advent of the NPQH (National Professional Qualification of Headship) has helped to give formality to aspiring to the top of the ladder. Training in managerial techniques, school placements and leading a programme of change is great preparation. Nevertheless, experience and the ability to work under pressure are paramount to able be to demonstrate to school governors that you possess the required credentials. At interview, you must be able to espouse your achievements and we advise you to take ownership of outcomes to help you prepare for increased responsibility.

Values must not be overlooked. A fair and just leader is someone who can be trusted. A highly thought of leader is one that is less likely to face descent from the staff room. This can save valuable time and always adopt the mindset of treating others how you would like to be treated yourself. You will never be all things to all people and inevitably you will experience some unpopularity in some quarters. However, you can always strive for improvement and be aspirational for your school. Staff will value this mindset and value your credentials.

Tip 3 - Be School Centric

A big attraction of working within a school environment is the diversity that exists. This is evident in the vast array of academia, culture, sport and art. Versatility is a theme of school life and as a senior member of staff you are required to be a good all rounder who accepts responsibility. In decision making, listening to the varied views in a staff room is time consuming. However, it is thoroughly recommended. Leaders cannot be dismissive of staff members and must take their views on board prior to making decisions. Every interaction helps you become more experienced and prepares you for future decisions. An honest approach with colleagues means you must make decisions and explain why you have made them. Always get back to staff and build your reputation as someone who cares immensely about all aspects of school life.

In climbing the ladder, an appreciation of the intricacies of the school budget is required. Whilst this may not be your particular area of expertise, there is considerable pressure to balance the books. Aspiring Heads are encouraged to spend time shadowing their Business Manager to gather experience of budget planning. This can be furthered by volunteering to manage an element of the school budget. This means that you gather responsibility and become accountable. This is something which could set you aside from another candidate at interview.

Tip 4 - Consistently Deliver High Standards

The very best school leaders inspire confidence in both young people and their colleagues. This can be achieved by adhering to very high standards. Punctuality and following up on all issues is paramount to ensure the smooth running of a school. You must meet deadlines, otherwise, staff will soon lose respect for you. Ensure that your assemblies, staff meetings and INSET training are well planned and thought provoking. This will show that you care and that you adhere to high standards.

Presence is a important characteristic of a senior leader. Avoid spending too much time in front of a computer screen and ensure that you are a regular presence in the corridors. Maintaining a calm and collected persona might sometimes be challenging. However, you must pride yourself on exhibiting these traits. Maintaining a connection with the classroom is strongly advised. This will help you understand the pressure that colleagues are under.

Tip 5 - Make Development a Priority

The role of a senior leader is to provide genuine leadership.This will enable colleagues to feel supported and allow them to display confidence in their role. As a leader, you are responsible for creating an environment for young people to succeed and access their chosen pathway. A good way to consider the work of a highly effective senior leader is to think like an architect. This profession is characterised by planning, design and implementation. This means that the leader must remain in post long enough to see through the changes that they have made.

Staff are a very expensive resources and their development must be a priority. Having a robust appraisal system is an important means of monitoring their performance. Also, it serves as a means to high development opportunities. Your own appraisal is an opportunity for you to map out your intentions to gather whole school experience. However, this must not be to the detriment of the school. Your own personal ambitions must be correlated to the work you are undertaking. This synergy will ensure that staff, students and you all benefit which is highly desirable. Success of this nature will mean you build a profile that will enable you to further your career and reach the pinnacle.


We are fortunate to meet a wider number of senior leaders in supplying our product SchooliP. From experience, we find that the very best senior leaders are time efficient and whole school minded. They are still great teachers and have teachers and students at the forefront when making decisions. The ladder to the top involves many late nights and difficult conversations. We pride ourselves on creating software that streamlines processes and saves valuable time which can then be devoted to leadership.

SchooliP helps to empower aspiring senior leaders with the wealth of information needed in order to improve their school. SchooliP is a web-based tool for staff appraisal and professional development, which helps to identify strengths and target key areas of weakness. The leader who has opted for SchooliP has a proven robust framework for success.

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