You’ve got your spot in the staffroom and your mug in the cupboard, and you’ve resourced all your schemes. You’re comfortable, but a little part of you is getting restless.
Knowing when is the right time to move on can be prompted by many things, and making that decision to actively apply for other jobs can take a little self-reflection before you finally put your resignation in.
Are you being challenged?
Tracey Lawrence, head of school at Danemill Primary School in Leicestershire, says if you’re not feeling challenged, a fresh start at another school can give you a new lease of life. “I think it is the best time to move on to a new school when you no longer feel like you are being challenged or if your skills aren’t being utilised to their fullest,” Lawrence explains. “A new start in a fresh school can reignite your skill set and bring that impact into a new setting.”
However, as James Bowen, director of the NAHT Edge union for middle leaders, points out, making the final decision to move to a new school is not an easy one. “Unless you are no longer happy in your school, leaving can be a real wrench,” he says.
"Teachers often have strong emotional bonds with the schools they work in and it’s easy to feel like you are abandoning your colleagues and pupils. However, the reality is that there is a time when everyone needs to move on and you shouldn’t feel guilty for doing so.”
Where do you want to be?
If you are currently employed without any responsibility but hold aspirations of one day being a head of department, or a member of senior leadership, then you need to consider what your next role will offer to ensure you are on track to achieve your goal. For example, if you want to eventually be a head of department, you would probably want some experience as lead teacher of a key stage.
However, thinking about promotion in the future doesn’t automatically mean you are looking for jobs that already come with responsibility right now. You could be looking to expand your experience of working in different contexts, or in a different size of school. It is also worth considering the potential for promotion in the new school, and that’s certainly something to ask about if you secure an interview.
Just because you already hold a post of responsibility in one school, don’t rule out applying for jobs that might look like a step down, if you think there will be value in getting experience in teaching in a different context. For example, becoming a TLR with a key-stage responsibility in a very large school may provide more opportunities for you to develop management skills than a head of faculty in a small school would.
When should you leave?
Most people consider the end of the academic year as the easiest time to leave. However, there are some advanatges to leaving mid-way through a year.
If you start in the summer term, you can then settle into a new school during its quiet period, when things generally start winding down. Then, when September comes around, you can start the academic year with a good knowledge of the school procedures and get stuck into your role.
Leaving in the middle of year can have its difficulties, though, especially if it’s the first term of the academic year. However, if you get offered your dream job in October, there’s very little you can do about the timing.
While leaving mid year can be disruptive, it is important to remain professional and assist in the transition, Bowen says. “You cannot turn down a dream career opportunity purely because it comes up mid year. As long as you act professionally and do everything in your power to help achieve a smooth transition, then there really shouldn’t be any long-term negative consequences for your future career development.”
Have you talked it through?
Before you make any decision, it is definitely worth booking an appointment with your current headteacher, or a member of staff you feel you can ask for advice, and talking through what you’re thinking. It could be that there is a potential to change your role where you are, or they might be able to give you some good advice about where to look next.
All good leaders want what is best for their staff, and you shouldn’t be afraid to ask for guidance. However, if you’re nervous about letting your school know, then maybe ask a former colleague or friend, or try contacting some recruitment agencies that offer careers advice.