The lion's share

8th April 2005 at 01:00
Want a challenge? Ready to take on more responsibilities? Have excellent people skills? A promotion might be the next step, says Dawn Cox

Management responsibility in schools is now less based on the years of experience in the classroom than it used to be and more on flexibility and willingness to learn the skills needed on the job.

Many schools now employ teachers in their early years in the job in positions of management, so the competition for promotions is getting tougher.

How do you know when it's time to go for a promotion? If you have a desire to make more of a difference to children's education and you have the energy and ideas, then you should go for it. If colleagues are saying to you that you should apply for a job, then it is a good indication that they feel you have the skills.

Think carefully about which type of promotion you would like to go for. Now that management points are on their way out, promotions will be much more focused on teaching and learning. This means that although you may take on a pastoral responsibility it will be assessed on the impact that it has on a child's learning. In fact, some schools are abolishing fully qualified teachers as heads of year and are appointing non-teaching staff instead. If you are interested in pursuing this path for development in your career, make sure you are aware that opportunities in this area may be restricted in the next few years.

If you feel you're ready, consider those areas of responsibility that may not be written in a job description but are part of the small print for most positions of management in schools. Most management jobs have a generic set of skills that will ensure you are successful and effective.

With any responsibility you need to have a certain amount of organisation to keep things running smoothly. This includes keeping paperwork up to date. The further "up" your promotion the more you will be required to complete formal and official paperwork that must be accurate and professional. Here your ability to use ICT will be an advantage and, indeed, it is often a requirement in job descriptions.

Management positions usually involve leading a group of staff, therefore it requires a wider range of people skills than the average classroom teacher.

Be prepared to tell people what they don't want to hear, listen to moans, and negotiate with staff who might not be that flexible. Communication skills are essential.

If you are going to take over from someone else, then this in itself may present problems. Taking over from an effective, well-liked colleague is different but, alternatively, taking over from an unsuccessful, unpopular person will mean you have the extra task in restoring confidence in your team. Either way a lot of patience and sensitivity will be required.

With some management responsibilities come extra tasks that are not directly related to your job; an extra lunch time duty or participation in an after-school detention rota. Make sure you know what these are and you are happy to fit them in with your day-to-day duties.

It is safe to say that often responsibility comes with the pay but doesn't come with the time needed to complete your duties thoroughly. You need to consider whether you have the energy and extra time available to manage this. Your extra time may come because, as an experienced teacher, you need less planning time than a new member of staff. Although you may have a reduced timetable with management responsibility, you will still have your own classes to prepare and mark for. You must do this as well as your extra duties.

Before you go for promotion, try to speak to someone who has the same or similar responsibility and ask them for advice. Be prepared to take the difficult aspects of the job with the enjoyable parts and, remember, for some responsibilities it is more financially beneficial to do a shift down the pub on Friday night than take a promotion. Always go for the love of the job, not the money!

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