Career clinic

2nd December 2011 at 00:00
This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about moving up the pay scale and age discrimination

Keen to get ahead

My performance-management meeting is approaching and I would like to broach the subject of moving from main pay scale point 5 (M5) through the threshold to the upper pay scale. Is this possible? If not, what should I be doing to help my professional development? I feel I am ready to take on a leadership role.

As you are on M5, the provision relating to accelerated movement up the main scale does not really apply, as you only have one more step to reach M6. Lower down the scale, it is possible to seek to skip increments based on exceptional performance. But I do not think you can accelerate the time between M6 and applying to pass through the threshold, as it is normally necessary to have two performance reviews at the appropriate spine point for that process to be able to take place.

Generally, I have not heard of many teachers being offered accelerated progress up the main scale. A bigger question might be whether teachers should be agitating for the abolition of the main scale and its replacement with a single salary point for classroom teachers in order to help new entrants pay off student debts acquired during training.

As for promotion, the obvious answer is for you to apply for assistant or deputy head posts at another school, assuming you already have a post with a teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) payment. If you have not yet reached that stage, your next move is to apply for a post with some sort of responsibility, preferably one that has a TLR attached.

Almost any professional development will help demonstrate your enthusiasm for learning. However, any attached leadership element will show your desire to take on more responsibility. You will have to consider whether this is possible at your present school or whether it might mean looking for a new post elsewhere.

Am I too old for management?

Realistically, is there an upper age limit to applying for senior management roles? Would someone applying for their first deputy head post in their early to mid-40s have a chance? I do not have QTS (qualified teacher status). My school has a specialist music scheme - although it is a state school - and the headteacher recently made me the manager of this.

Theoretically, anyone can apply for senior management posts in schools, whether or not they have QTS. But in reality, I would expect most vacancies to go to those with QTS, although academies and free schools can appoint who they like and usually pay what they want.

The reason for the preference for qualified teachers is that a high level of teaching expertise tends to be required in running a department or phase level in a school. And headteachers in all but the largest institutions are expected to be their school's leading practitioner. Above that level, organisational leadership tends to become more important than specific teaching expertise.

Realistically, if you have not made it to at least assistant head level by 40, it becomes progressively harder to do so from then on. Vacancies for first-time deputy heads are usually filled by people in their mid-40s or younger, depending on the size and location of the school, and any other specific requirements that narrow the field of candidates.

Governing bodies still seem less than sensitive to the fact that, at 40, most teachers will have 25 years or more to work before drawing their pensions. How that attitude can be changed will be key to the satisfaction of those who reach middle-management level in schools over the next decade. I think there should be more of a debate about the extent of ageism in the profession.

Professor John Howson is our resident career expert, with 40 years in education, including spells as a teacher, academic, school recruitment researcher and government adviser.

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