30th March 2007 at 01:00
Q) I am a teacher with 21 years' experience. Most of my teaching has been in schools abroad and so I have recently acquired QTS. Since then I have moved on to become head of biology and am currently given a bursary for research.

I am keen on moving on: my job as head of biology is until the end of the year because our present department head is on maternity leave.

My options include applying for a head of biology job, but I am not keen on teaching A-level at the moment. The other option is to apply for the post of head of science, which I am doing. I am still confused about the structure of the leadership team. My CV is good, but I need to brush up on what qualities are required for a good leader. I would be grateful for advice.

A) Your question poses a common dilemma of many mid-career teachers; what do I do next? As I have said before in this column, and stress in my book Taking Control of your Teaching Career, now is the time to take stock and prepare a personal audit of your expertise, ambitions and expectations.

Then start trying to match these with what is on offer. There is no point having ambitions that can never be realised. It seems, from what you have written, that you like some aspects of teaching and also enjoy research.

This is assuming the bursary is something you have not had foisted on you.

If you have a higher degree, working with trainee teachers might bring together your different interests. You could achieve this either by remaining in a school, perhaps looking for a SCITT (School Centred Initial Teacher Training) co-ordinator's post, or by seeking a vacancy in a higher education teacher training establishment. If you take a head of science post, there is no reason why you have to teach A-levels. If you enjoy key stage 3 teaching, you could either find an 11 to 16 school or just not timetable yourself with such groups. I am sure your colleagues would be happy to teach such students. However, what's more important is your consideration of what you want to achieve with the second half of your career. As to what makes a good leader: a mixture of experience and enthusiasm with a certain amount of knowledge. And, above all, a questioning attitude, which your question suggests you already have.

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