Career Clinic

14th October 2011 at 01:00
This week, Darran Lee answers questions about a lazy department head and a disappointing pay offer

Ineffective management

I have been working at my current school for a year and find it really difficult to get on with my head of department. She seldom contributes to any of the teaching resources and does not encourage collaboration. She works the bare minimum that she can, but is highly regarded by the senior management team because she is a long-term friend of several of them. She is constantly mis-managing aspects of the running of the department. I would like to be professional and get on with her. Do you have any tips on how to get along with difficult managers?

History teacher, Bournemouth

I know from my own experiences how difficult it can be working with a less than supportive and ineffective manager. That said, I learnt a great deal regarding leadership - I was constantly considering more effective ways in which they could have approached given situations. Some of those lessons I still use today.

Given your situation, I would not formally complain. She is your head of department and, although there may be room for improvement, she may not appear totally incompetent to others. You are unlikely to gain the support of more senior leaders and could become isolated, which would make your day-to-day relationships in your department and school even more difficult.

Consider an informal discussion with your head of department instead. Request a review meeting to explore your progress across your first year at the school. Prior to the meeting, list the key areas where you would like to see changes in your head of department's approach. (Keep to the key areas, as the list may become extremely long!)

Which of these would be the greatest challenge for your department head? Rank them in order of difficulty. Look to the bottom of this list and take one or two to share as part of your review meeting. Where possible, reflect the change in relation to yourself. If collaboration, for example, is a key area, you can suggest the need for wider department collaboration in supporting your teaching, as you would welcome the opportunity to gain from the experiences of the whole team.

Try and place a positive perspective on this issue. Your head of department clearly has confidence in your planning and teaching, since they are not imposing others' planning onto you.

Finally, good luck with this challenge and consider the leadership learning you can gain - in terms of what not to do.

Appealing a salary deal

Prior to teaching, I studied for my PhD and worked for several years as a lecturer. I am now in my mid-30s and have just achieved qualified teacher status and been told that I will be placed on main pay scale 2. I feel that with my experience I should be higher up the scale than this. My headteacher has made the decision. How should I appeal this? And at what point should I consult my union?

Science teacher, Surrey

Congratulations on completing your NQT year and gaining QTS - a great achievement. I am sure your previous experience as a lecturer and your wider research work has supported your successful completion of this first year.

Teacher pay and conditions regulations provide for additional payments of one or more points for previous relevant experiences that the school considers of value to your role as a classroom teacher. These would, however, normally be considered at the start of your contract with the school, so at the beginning of your NQT year.

It's important to note that these regulations sit within the context of the school pay policy. Your school pay policy should outline how teachers' pay will be determined and reviewed, and the procedures to follow for any grievances you may have. I would therefore give this a careful read-through prior to taking any further action.

With regards to contacting your union, I would not specify a best time to do this. Unions' staff teams have a wealth of knowledge and experience to provide you with advice and support. You can access this in confidence, allowing you to consider their advice prior to deciding any action to take. You could initially speak to your school representative or, if you prefer, contact your regional office directly.

Given that you have already talked with your headteacher about this, I would discuss it with your mentor for your NQT year and head of science. What are their views on your performance as a teacher and would they support you in discussing this further with the head?

If they support your perspective, I would ask for an informal discussion with your headteacher so you can restate your view. Good luck.

Darran Lee is a National Leader of Education and headteacher of the Mills Hill Primary in Oldham, which is a National Teaching School.

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