Career clinic

8th June 2012 at 01:00
This week Professor John Howson answers questions on transferring from the US and leadership skills

Teaching across the pond

I am currently at a university in the US studying for a master's in school administration that will enable me to become an assistant principal in the States. I am a British citizen and would like to return to the UK within five years. I also have seven years' teaching experience. Can you tell me if my degree would transfer to the UK school system and if so, how?

US teachers with state accreditation can now acquire qualified teacher status (QTS) in England by registering their certification with the relevant authorities. Here is the link for more information: bit.lyKWud8U.

As for whether you would find it easy to secure a teaching vacancy in England, much depends upon a variety of circumstances. At present, when across most of the country teachers applying for posts outnumber the vacancies available, it is doubtful that you would find it anything other than difficult.

However, I note that you are thinking ahead and asking about the situation in five years' time. Who knows what the job climate will be like then? It may be similar or it could be like 2003, when the country was desperate for teachers and jobs were being offered over the telephone to teachers from around the world.

Except when there is a shortage of teachers, schools in England tend to be conservative in their approach to appointing those who have not worked their way up through the system, especially to more senior posts.

From the fact that you are studying for a higher degree in school administration, I assume that you would look for a leadership post. School leaders in England have much more responsibility than those within the state system in the US, where school boards and superintendents take on much of the work carried out by heads and other senior leaders here.

This would put you at a disadvantage. However, leadership is about more than acquiring technical knowledge; it is also about vision and values. Free schools, academies and the private sector may be more open to employing someone with a track record of success in another system.

I want to be a better leader

I originally trained in further education but now work in an academy as a classroom teacher. Last year I covered for a department head. I would like to improve my leadership skills as I don't feel they come naturally to me. I am conscientious and hard- working but not good at office politics.

First, the technical side. As a qualified FE lecturer you may now be able to obtain QTS, and that would mean you would be paid on the main scale and also be able to pass through the pay threshold to the upper pay spine. For details of this change, visit bit.lyHDmNIr. So, officially, there is a route to you becoming a leader.

As for your confidence as a potential leader, do remember that leadership is about technical knowledge as well as personal qualities.

If you want to consider moving your career forward into a leadership grade you will need to consider your subject expertise and how to acquire the competencies necessary for running a department.

You also need to think about what your leadership style would be. Taking responsibility for others can mean making difficult decisions. For instance, if rolls are falling and this means less money, how do you argue the case for keeping staffing numbers at their present levels? And how do you decide a strategy for any reduction if that is what the outcome is? If a member of staff is underperforming, are you prepared to take a difficult decision with regard to their future or to allow underperformance to continue and hope that someone else will deal with the issue? Are you prepared to argue with senior leaders for your department?

If you feel uncomfortable handling these sorts of questions, it may be that departmental leadership isn't for you. There may be other options in career terms such as a subject specialist and perhaps an advanced skills teacher, but even here the extra salary will bring responsibilities. The nature of any leadership role means that you have to accept the challenges that come with responsibility.

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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