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Q I teach English in a secondary school: are my chances of promotion less than say those of a history teacher?

A You pose a very interesting question. In theory, everyone should have the same chance of promotion. However, some teachers do seem to have a better opportunity than others. This is how it works. In the subjects with more time allocation across the week, there are almost always more teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) posts available. Even in English departments it would be rare for there just to be a head of department on a TLR1 (pound;6,663 - Pounds 11,275) and everyone else on the main scale or upper pay spine. There are typically heads of key stages and possibly other posts on a TLR2 (pound;2,306 - pound;5,688). The advantage is that there may be more opportunities for advancement, even with the very flat TLR system now in place.

However, this intermediate step does mean it often takes two promotions to become a department head, whereas teachers in smaller departments can often reach middle management with their first promotion. From then on everyone is equal in terms of competition for places on the leadership scale as an assistant head. There are other possible routes to promotion. The Fast Track Scheme now recruits solely from within the profession. There are also limited possibilities around the Advanced Skills Teacher grade for someone who has concentrated on becoming skilled in their subject, but this is not in widespread use. What is clear is that the next few years are going to offer many promotion opportunities as the teachers recruited in the 1970s retire.

In fact, in some areas, promotion for existing teachers may be easier than either entry into the profession or moving to a new area as a classroom teacher. Still, as far as promotion is concerned, it is worth developing a plan and not leaving everything to chance. Send off for some job descriptions to see what sort of experience and qualifications are required for posts you might be interested in. Don't neglect your own professional development. Some schools are only interested in paying for staff development that meets the needs of the school, and not those of the individual. If this is the case in your school, you may find you have to invest some of your own time and money in developing the skills necessary for promotion. The alternative is to risk losing out

John Howson is a recruitment analyst and visiting professor of education at Oxford Brookes University. To ask him a question, email him at

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