Some teachers are happy to be just that, good-quality classroom practitioners from here to eternity. Others enter the profession with a clear career path to management or headship. But the majority are somewhere in the middle, undecided.
If this is you and you are considering promotion at some point, you can act to make sure you develop the skills and approaches that will help, no matter where your career takes you.
First, and most importantly, you need to be prepared to move school: it is incredibly hard to step into management from being in just one school. Some people will always think of you as the NQT and not take you especially seriously. Complete a few years in a school, then consider moving on, ideally to a different type of school. A wide range of teaching experiences can only benefit you and any future management role.
Be open to new challenges. If you are asked to take on a responsibility such as a curriculum leadership, or a new age group, then consider it. For example, moving between age groups could be the stimulus you need. I moved from Year 6 to Year 2 and it was one of the most intimidating but refreshing moves I ever made. Consider changing the curriculum area you lead, or taking on another responsibility. Effective senior managers have often had a range of teaching experiences and this can give you greater credibility with your future staff.
Stay one step ahead, read teaching websites and journals and magazines, consider new ideas and philosophies and how they could apply to your setting and your teaching. Challenge yourself to research issues such as pupil voice, assessment or peer massage.
Stay fresh and enthusiastic about your teaching, don't trot out the same old photocopied sheets but try to develop, alter and enhance the experience.
Try to expand your range of continuing professional development (CPD) experiences. I volunteered to take boys football - I didn't have much of a clue but I took a coaching certificate and it proved to be a really interesting and enjoyable experience and added another string to my bow. Courses such as Leading from the Middle (from the National College for School Leadership) can help expand your horizons. This is vital if you are in a small school where opportunities for CPD can be limited. If you can and have the time and support, taking a secondment with the local authority or gaining a masters degree can enhance your skills and make you attractive to another employer.
Don't be intimidated or tempted to join the "nay" brigade. Every school has doom and gloom merchants. Don't be swayed by their negativity. When a new initiative is suggested, give it time and thought and don't dismiss things out of hand, even if others do. If you want to try new ideas, discuss it with a positive member of staff and have a go.
Try to take responsibility for a project that will make a change to your school, be it re-vamping the library or installing a new ICT suite. This will give you experience of managing budgets, people or even the furniture and fabric of the school. All of these will assist in developing your management skills and understanding of how systems operate.
Develop a range of management strategies: from the first class you take with a teaching assistant attached, you are effectively managing staff. One of the biggest complaints against senior management is that they are great with children but not good with adults. So see every opportunity to deal with other staff as a way of learning.
Observe other senior staff, get involved with the parents' group or governors to learn how the school runs and how relationships work. Relationships with staff and families can make or break a school and you can learn from watching others.
Kate Aspin is senior lecturer in primary education at the University of Huddersfield
Next week: Managing supply staff.
- Embrace change.
- Listen and learn and ask.
- Do as much CPD as possible.
- Get any management experience you can.
- Get involved with parentsgovernors.
- Research and read, read, read.