Next steps: becoming a senior leader

9th February 2018 at 00:00
With middle leadership firmly under your belt, are you ready to make the leap to the SLT?

In my early years of teaching, I often heard people talk about having the “right amount” of experience to become a senior leader, or about how you couldn’t progress until you were “mature enough”.

I don’t believe it is as simple as that. What matters is that you do your role well, in terms of strategically improving teaching and learning. If you’re capable of stepping back and taking whole-school priorities into account, I think you’re ready to move up to senior management.

The question then becomes: what type of senior role should you seek out? As a middle leader, you will have thrived in certain areas, which could be anything from developing teaching and learning to leading on inclusion. When looking for your first senior leadership role, it is advisable to play to your strengths. For example, I enjoyed teaching maths and have recently begun taking more ownership of whole-school data.

Once you know the type of role that will suit you, start scanning the job pages, even if you are not quite ready to apply. Look carefully at person specifications and job descriptions in advance to identify your strengths and areas for development.

That said, try not to be intimidated. I remember looking at person specifications and thinking, “I can’t do any of this”. But if you strip each criterion down and compare it with what you have already done in your current role, this will make things clearer.

Learn from others

If you have senior leadership ambitions, it is important to seek out training while you are still a middle leader to help you get to the next level. Knowing the type of leader you want to become is crucial, as this will enable you to choose the right courses to fill gaps in your knowledge.

Network with other aspiring school leaders, too, as you will be able to learn from each other. Once in a senior post, you will be taking a more strategic approach and making decisions within a smaller group. Being able to work collaboratively with other leaders, who might have different leadership styles, is essential, and it is never too early to start practising.

Once promoted, never forget how you got there. Senior leadership is rewarding but challenging: you won’t be able to do your job without the help of those you manage.

Finally, know that the demands on your time will be endless. Smile, and have a hobby. Make time for your family and encourage others to do the same. Senior leaders must lead by example, so embody the work-life balance you wish to promote.

Damith Bandara is an assistant head at Temple Grove Academy in Tunbridge Wells

Subscribe to get access to the content on this page.

If you are already a Tes/ Tes Scotland subscriber please log in with your username or email address to get full access to our back issues, CPD library and membership plus page.

Not a subscriber? Find out more about our subscription offers.
Subscribe now
Existing subscriber?
Enter subscription number

The guide by your side – ensuring you are always up to date with the latest in education.

Get Tes magazine online and delivered to your door. Stay up to date with the latest research, teacher innovation and insight, plus classroom tips and techniques with a Tes magazine subscription.
With a Tes magazine subscription you get exclusive access to our CPD library. Including our New Teachers’ special for NQTS, Ed Tech, How to Get a Job, Trip Planner, Ed Biz Special and all Tes back issues.

Subscribe now