Ready for leadership?

For some, knowing they are ready for leadership is a road-to-Damascus–type experience. Rachel Perkins recalls the moment she knew for sure she was ready for headship.  While she was deputy head of Ilsington primary in Newton Abbott, a major incident occurred the day the head was away: a paedophile was released into the village after a judge decided not to jail him.

Crisis as catalyst
“I received a call from the BBC and by the end of the day we had camera crews camped outside the school gates. This was not a ‘no comment’ situation. It was a biggie,” she recalls. Fortunately Rachel had two weeks previously been trained by the National College for School Leadership on how to deal with the press as part of her leadership programme. She was already enrolled on the NCSL programme but the events of the day and the way she managed them, convinced her that she was ready for any challenge of headship. She’s since been appointed head of a primary school in Devon.

Leadership as career plan
Sophie Murfin has progressed swiftly during her four-year teaching career St Wilfred’s primary school in North Manchester: in her second year she was promoted to senior leader, to assistant head in her third and was made deputy head on April 1st 2008. “It might not have been possible at another school: the support here is fantastic”, she admits. However, a degree in business studies had meant that leadership was always on Sophie’s radar. Fulfilling her ambitions through teaching was more of a surprise. “I had job offers in retails and banking – but joined the Fast Track scheme instead, I loved the idea of making a difference to children’s lives”.

Now or never
Others, such as Mike Merriman, go for promotion because life can otherwise become too comfortable. “Gloucestershire is a nice place where people put down roots. If I hadn’t moved I could easily have stayed at Rednock School in Dursley in the same role for ever.” Instead he took a head of geography role at Commonweal School in Swindon. “I was the youngest person by far in the department, which I had to deal with sensitively. Plus I moved from a rural school to a city that brings its own set of challenges.” Last, but not least, was the 50 minute, minimum, daily commute.  However, it was a successful move and Mike has since returned to Rednock as head of geography. 

Step towards promotion
In fact, 45 per cent of promotions at Rednock  are recruited internally, according to John Davis, deputy head. He is responsible for teachers’ professional development and he’s learned that creating leaders calls for affirmative action from both school and staff. “Teachers are often reluctant to see themselves as leaders and it may take a while for them to take on the mantle”, he says. John recommends the following tactics to develop your leadership potential: 

  • Put your hand up for extra responsibility. Volunteering to mentor a trainee teacher is a good way of developing skills
  • Teaching ideas successfully have since been promoted
  • Model leadership behaviour: this is a better indicator of leadership than qualifications or academic track record
  • Enrol on the NCSL programme, Leading from the Middle

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