Four reasons middle leaders put off a move to SLT

The next step up means too many sacrifices, argues this middle leader

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Career progression is something that has always been a matter of luck for me. I don’t mean that I’ve walked into positions with no effort, but rather that I’ve been lucky in the sense I’ve had lots of opportunities in terms of additional responsibility.

Previously, it’s all been very natural to move up the ladder, but now SLT is the next step, I am hesitating.

I feel confident in my ability to teach, as well as my ability to lead and help others. It would be natural to want to step up. But for some reason, unlike promotions in the past, the next step feels like a big one. There are a number factors at play.

1. Experience

How do you know when you have enough? One thing I’ve learned is that the longer you are in education, the more robust you become to situations through exposure and experience. Every time I feel like I’ve seen it all, something else happens and it makes me think I need more time on the ground before I move up. I suppose you could argue you’ll never see it all in schools, but experience is something that you can only gain through years in the job.

2. Age

I’m not 30 yet, and I sometimes feel like that is a factor in my reluctance to seek an SLT post. I know I have the ability to do the job and the classroom experience to excel as a leader in teaching and learning (or something similar), but in the back of my head I worry about whether the “Old Guard” are going to respect me and support my decisions considering I’m still relatively young. Age shouldn’t be an inhibiting factor with regards to career progression, but again I really feel that I need to have a certain number of years under my belt.

3. Family

Making the decision to work more isn’t something I would accept lightly considering I have a young family. Being ready to take the next step in your career isn’t just about your experience in school, it’s about what’s going on at home, too. If I put things in perspective, spending time with my little boy is more important to me than spending a considerable amount of extra time in and around school at the moment. Will that change as he gets older? Yes, I’m sure, but for now a big factor stopping me trying to move up is what’s going on outside school.

4. I’m happy doing my job

As the old saying goes, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, and it holds true for me in teaching right now. I know what my next steps are, but I’m enjoying what I’m doing. I am one for pushing myself and I am doing that in my current role…so why would I want to move on to senior leadership if I’m happy with what I’ve got?

I'd be interested to see how many others in middle leadership positions share this view. Does the jump involve too many sacrifices for the majority of us to make the leap?

Adam Riches is a specialist leader of education and lead teacher in English

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