Dear John: am I too old for promotion?


I have spent hours completing applications for assistant headships and despite fulfilling all the person specifications and job descriptors in the application, I am not called for interviews. I have asked for feedback, and received such replies as ‘you didn’t visit the school’ and ‘not experienced enough’! I am 51, experienced and ambitious, and am not prepared to give in, but am I being unrealistic? I have an M.Ed, critical friends tell me my letters are fine, and yet I cannot figure out what the problem is, apart from the age issue. If it is my references, how do I find out?
Any advice welcome!



Keep trying. I doubt it is anything but your age unless you know something bad is likely to being written about you by your current head. Sadly, most assistant heads are appointed by the age of 40 and those over 45 are mostly appointed in the school where they are already working. Such posts are most common in and around London, so if you live far from the capital and aren’t able to pass the faith test to work in a Roman Catholic or Church of England school, your realistic chances may be minimal unless your current head or someone senior in the authority is prepared to help. I know all about age discrimination, but being honest, you won’t find it easy at your age without a powerful backer. Realistically, you may need to look for job stimulation or additional income in other ways for the final decade of your career.

John Howson worked as a secondary school teacher in London for seven years before moving into teacher training and consultancy, including a brief period as a chief government advisor. John is now a recruitment analyst, visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University and hosts our Career Clinic where you can post questions to him.

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