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Masterclass: Promotion - Ready to step up?

Timing is everything when applying for a promotion, so make sure this is the right move for you

When it comes to promotion as a teacher, the picture is uneven. The principal determinants are the sector you work in and, perhaps rather surprisingly, geography. Whereas maths or science teachers in secondary schools in the South may be spoilt for choice when it comes to promotions - especially early on in their careers - the picture may look different for a primary teacher in Wales.

Put simply, there are more chances out there for some than there are for others. Interestingly, there are twice as many men in promoted posts as women in all sectors.

So when's the right time to go for promotion? The circumstances vary hugely. Many teachers enter the profession saddled with debts that they want to offload as quickly as possible, so it's hardly surprising they grab the first opportunities that come along. It's also flattering to be told that you should go for a promoted post and that you are ready to do so. However, a certain degree of caution needs to be exercised over this.

Exactly how much, for example, will your promoted post be worth? Many teachers are profoundly disappointed when they do the sums. How much more will the post require of you than you already give - and can you sensibly accommodate this into your life?

You should balance this against your own view of where you would like your career to go, along with your personal levels of stamina, ambition and determination.

To put yourself in the frame for promotion, the most important thing to do is demonstrate your ability in the classroom. There are countless stories of incompetents who have risen up the promotional ladder and many of us have worked with far too many of them.

For the most part, being good at your job, along with an involvement in other, wider aspects of school life, will put you in a good position. Further to this, enhancing your qualifications, either through a formal route such as masters-level credits or through some well-targeted continuous professional development is important.

You should keep your eyes and ears open for things that enhance your CV - and that usually means going beyond being good at your everyday teaching and looking for opportunities to display your talents and your abilities.

Moving schools might be the best route to promotion, despite the challenges and upheavals that it could present. Fresh ideas and new perspectives frequently sharpen up your own professional knowledge and development. Teachers often move when they have been rejected for an internal promotion and find that it was a blessing in disguise.

If in doubt, ask yourself if you can live with working with people in promoted posts whose abilities you doubt. Could you outperform them, given the chance? If so, it's time to think about moving up.

Jon Berry is senior lecturer in curriculum research and development in the school of education at the University of Hertfordshire Next week: Dealing with difficult colleagues

Key points

- Enhance your CV. Don't sell yourself short, either in your application or at interview.

- Form a clear impression of the requirements of any promoted post. Are you sure that it's the right one for you?

- If you have definite plans for your career, is this necessarily the right move at the right time?

- Do your sums. Work out exactly what this might mean for you financially both now and over the next few years.

- Don't be daunted by adverts or job specifications - it's always worth giving it a go.

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