Career clinic

20th April 2012 at 01:00
This week, Professor John Howson answers questions about marriage and moving to a smaller school

Wedding march

I am teaching at a lovely school, the first I worked in when I qualified. However, I am feeling the pressure to advance my career. I am getting married this year. If I don't move schools now, will it be harder to get a job when I become a Mrs?

Marriage, moving house, divorce and sickness are some of life's most stressful events, according to the experts. I guess changing jobs is up there in the list as well, so there is much to be said for staying put with the familiar, at least for another year, especially if you can secure some extra responsibility from the school where you currently teach. That would be much easier to cope with than changing schools. Any extra responsibility is likely to help when you do seek promotion elsewhere.

With around 80 per cent of teachers in the primary sector being female, any head or governing body that dismissed women because they might have a family would be ignoring a very large number of talented teachers. I wouldn't say that it doesn't happen, especially when there are lots of candidates for a vacancy, but with the current age profile of the teaching profession, plus the need for more primary teachers during the next decade, heads should be looking to employ the most suitable candidate.

The ability to do the job and some evidence of continuing professional development - probably around leadership and teaching and learning - are what will count at interview, much more than your marital status. Demonstrating a happy and contented personality matters, too.

For the next year, I would put work-life balance at the top of your list of choices. I hope you enjoy both your wedding and married life.

Does size matter?

For the past five years I have held a science teaching post with a teaching and learning responsibility (TLR) at a large outstanding comprehensive. I have seen advertised a head of department post at a much smaller school and I am considering applying for it. Would it be a disadvantage to my career for me to move to a "satisfactory" small school? Would larger schools not be impressed when I want to move on?

Clearly your present school values you enough to have appointed you to a post with a TLR attached around five years ago, but it might well be time to spread your wings.

A head of department post is the obvious next step if you wish to stay within your subject area. Head of science posts are usually paid at the rate for the job, often irrespective of the size of the school, so this might be an interesting place to start your career as a head of department.

However, with such a large salary available to work in a small school, competition might be quite fierce, so you need to prepare your application carefully.

You need to determine, especially at interview, whether the school leadership team has a credible plan to move from "satisfactory" level to perhaps become "outstanding", like your present school. As a middle manager you would be expected to play an important part in any such development and at interview you need to try to find out whether the other heads of department and teachers are likely to be prepared to take the school in that direction.

Leading an unwilling department who just want to coast along with a quiet life would be a real challenge, even if it were only a small department, and could become very frustrating. Your future career will depend upon how successful you are. From there you could move to a head of department post in a larger school or into a senior leadership team. But do work out the risk involved and the likelihood of success.

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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