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5 steps for climbing the school leadership ladder

Find out about the 5 steps for helping individuals progress their educational career through leadership to headship and how IP can help to support that route.

Andy Goodeve  Andy Goodeve
09 December 2022

It is our nature to better ourselves, improve and do the best we possibly can. For a teacher the pinnacle of the profession, for many, is securing a Headship. Here we look at 5 steps for helping individuals progress their educational career through leadership to headship.

Step 1 - Perspective - ‘I am going to be a headteacher by the age of 35’

The journey of someone's career will be varied with highs and lows, but whatever route is being taken you must never take your focus off the reason for joining the profession - to make a positive difference to the lives of young people. There is nothing worse than individuals completing tasks, attending events and meetings to enhance their profiles, rather than improve children’s outcomes.

Do not set any predefined goals such as becoming a Deputy Head by a certain age. Look to ‘build solid foundations’ and acquire relevant whole educational setting experience, taking advantage of collaboration and mentoring before looking to reach the next stage. The very best educational setting leaders have strong ‘foundations’ , are educational setting centric, have a strong moral compass 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 a job title or salary.

Step 2 - Outline Your Credentials - ‘I am now qualified to be a headteacher’

Developing yourself professionally is key to career progression. Training in managerial techniques, opportunities to visit/work in different settings and leading on different projects is great preparation. Professional qualifications ( NPQLT, NPQSl, and NPQH) have helped to give guidance to those aspiring to progress through leadership. Nevertheless, nothing is better preparation than experience and the ability to work under pressure. These are paramount to be able to demonstrate to educational setting governors that you possess the required credentials. In interviews you will be able to confidently take ownership of the projects and explain your achievements.

Values must not be overlooked. A leader who values fairness 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 educational setting. Staff will value this mindset and value your credentials.

Step 3 - Embrace educational setting diversity - ‘I know the way forward’

A big attraction of working within an educational setting is the vast diversity that exists in the environment. This is evident in the vast array of academia, culture, sport and art. Being adaptable and versatile is essential for leaders as you are required to be a good all rounder who accepts responsibility. In decision making, listening to the varied views in a staff room can seem time consuming, however, it is thoroughly recommended. Leaders cannot be dismissive of staff members' views and opinions and must take these on board prior to making decisions. Every interaction with staff 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 educational setting life.

In climbing the ladder, an appreciation of the different areas of your educational setting, other than teaching, is strongly recommended. Understanding the finances of the budget may not be your particular area of expertise, but 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 educational setting budget. This means that you gather responsibility and become accountable. This is something which could set you aside from another candidate at interview.

Step 4 - Consistently High Expectations - ‘I am too busy to walk around my educational setting’

The very best leaders inspire confidence in both young people and their colleagues. This can be achieved by adhering to high expectations. Punctuality and swiftly following up on all issues is paramount to ensuring the smooth running of an organisation. You must meet deadlines, otherwise, staff will quickly 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 expectations.

Presence is an 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 colleagues are under.

Step 5 - Make Staff Development a Priority - ‘We need to make lots of changes’

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, implementation and evaluation. 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 resource and their development must be seen as a priority. Appraisal gives an opportunity for you to map out your intentions to gather whole educational setting experience. However, this must not be to the detriment of the educational setting. Your own personal ambitions must be correlated to the work you are undertaking. This synergy will ensure that staff, students and the whole organisation community will 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.

So how can iP support good leadership?

Here at iP, we are fortunate to meet a wider number of senior leaders. From experience, we find that the very best senior leaders are time efficient and whole educational setting 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.

iP helps to empower aspiring senior leaders with the wealth of information needed in order to improve their educational setting. iP is a web-based tool for staff appraisal and professional development, which helps to identify strengths and target key areas of weakness. Click on the image below to watch an overview video:-

The leaders who have opted for iP has a proven robust framework for success.

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