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A good school leader knows when talented teachers must be shown the door

It sounds counter-intuitive, but sometimes it's best to give your best staff the "positive push"

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This is an edited version of an article in the 30 October edition of TES. To read the full article, subscribe to TES 

Successful school leaders are adept at spotting potential in teachers and predicting their future capacity for leadership – sometimes even before the teachers recognise it themselves. That puts a lot of responsibility on leaders to ensure that people fulfil their potential. The best way leaders can do that, in my view, is often by pushing talented staff to leave.

Internal promotion and being offered the chance to take on new challenges within a school are important opportunities for growth, helping teachers to build a range of skills and to demonstrate versatility.

But if a teacher is to develop the breadth of experience and a healthy overview of the educational landscape – the wider perspective that ensures they appreciate the big picture and do not become entrenched in the context of one particular school – they need to teach in different educational settings. There are different ways of doing things, and sometimes it takes a change of scene to make us fully appreciate this.

If you are a middle leader, senior leader or headteacher, ask yourself who the most talented staff are within your current team (teaching and support). How might further responsibility help these people to find greater professional fulfilment?

It may be that opportunities for them to take on middle or senior roles are simply not going to materialise at the right time in your school. But, as I said, it is often a better option for that experience to be gained elsewhere, regardless.

It may feel strange trying to show your best staff the door, but consider the following:

  1. Being known as a school that is committed to the personal and professional development of all staff, enabling them to achieve even greater things elsewhere in due course, demonstrates your wider commitment to education and can actually support future staff recruitment. Other teachers may be keen to apply for roles at a school that is known for successfully growing leaders.
  2. Teachers capable of undertaking such challenges are likely to feel even more highly valued by the demonstration of your confidence in their capacity to do so. Having such conversations about future career development can be a positive way of ensuring buoyant staff morale.

Jill Berry is a former headteacher with experience in the state and independent sectors. She is now an education consultant and researcher


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