Taking on an ‘acting’ role can be a great way to try out a new role with the safety of knowing it is for a finite amount of time. If you are thinking about moving into leadership, then it can be a perfect way to dip your toe.
The thing about acting positions is that their timing is rarely predictable. In my career, I have acted up twice and gone on secondment twice. The first time, my phase leader damaged her knee and was unable to walk for a term. The most recent time, my head gained a much-deserved role as an SIP (school improvement partner) in a neighbouring county. I was tasked by the governors to take the helm while an experienced replacement could be found.
The main differences between a secondment and acting up are that with a secondment you are able to choose whether to apply. It will be in a different school and usually takes the form of a fixed term contract. With acting up, you may not have a choice! If you are in school leadership and your line manager is absent for any reason, then tag - you’re it!
Recent research from the Future Leaders Trust, Teach First and Teaching Leaders warns of a serious shortfall in the number of heads and senior leaders required over the next decade, as pupil numbers rise and the present incumbents retire or move on. Many of those currently in headship attest to the rewards and satisfactions of the role, despite its accepted demands and pressures. But how can we encourage those not currently in whole-school leadership roles to take the plunge – to embrace risk and uncertainty and step up to the challenge? How can we encourage, motivate and inspire them to ask: ‘If not me, then who?’, and how can prepare them and then support them throughout their time in the role?