Moving from Middle Leadership to Senior Leadership

Jill Berry

Following a 30 year career in education, during which she taught English and assumed different leadership roles across six schools, Jill finished as a full-time head in 2010. Since then, she has divided her time between studying for a Professional Doctorate in Education, working as an educational consultant and serving as an Associate within the International Division of the National College for Teaching and Leadership. She lives in the Midlands.

Follow @jillberry102

Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

So, if you’re a Middle Leader, what motivated you to move to that role? It may be that after spending some time as a classroom teacher you felt ready for a freshchallenge, and wanted the opportunity to extend your sphere of influence into other classrooms in your subject or pastoral area. It may be that the chance to work with and through other people, to support and challenge, encourage and inspire other staff, in addition to trying to get the best from students, constituted an appealing new area of responsibility. I’ve previously written about why you might want to move to a Middle Leadership role and how you might start to prepare yourself.

"Perhaps the head and senior leaders look to you as a clear example of good practice and strong leadership."

It could be that this Middle Leader role is where you want to stay. You enjoy the fact that you still have a significant teaching commitment and that your focus remains on the subject, or the area, which motivates you most (and may have been what drew you into teaching in the first place). You may very much like the fact that your time and energies go into improving your particular domain, and making that area the best it can be without worrying too much about what is happening elsewhere. You may have built a strong and successful team and relish working with them, helping to get the best from them, and developing them to take on their own new challenges. 

You may feel you have a significant impact on the life of the school through being a beacon of excellence in your area, and that you are actually able to drive change from this position. Perhaps the head and senior leaders look to you and your area as a clear example of good practice and strong leadership. What you achieve within your team influences what happens within the school more widely because you show what can be done and those lessons are applied elsewhere. This may all be enough for you.

Or…

Being an effective Senior Leader is, in my view, not a different proposition from being a strong Middle Leader. It’s still about getting the best from those you lead, through a judicious balance of support and challenge helping them to be the best they can and, through them, reaching more students. The difference is the scale. Suddenly it ISN’T just about your particular domain. Suddenly it’s about whole-school issues and a wider perspective. How can we improve behaviour across the school? How can we ensure we make the most of opportunities for constructive feedback to pupils in all subjects? How can we further improve the quality of teaching and learning overall – and can we do all this without unreasonably adding to workload so that teachers are just expected to pedal faster, work harder and handle more pressure? Can we look after the staff, better to enable them to look after the pupils?

Do these challenges appeal? Do you sometimes, as a Middle Leader, feel frustrated that you don’t have more autonomy, and you think that with the ‘clout’ of a Senior Leader you will be able to make an even more positive difference of the life of students and of staff? You really want the opportunity to work to develop the whole-school assessment processes, or the system of parents’ meetings, or assemblies, or the way in which the school prepares for and copes with inspection. You’re ready to get your teeth into a new challenge.

"Consider which elements of your current role give you the greatest satisfaction."

I have known Middle Leaders who felt ground down by their responsibilities, who saw Senior Leadership as an escape route out of this. If you feel that Senior Leaders and heads have an easier life, I’d suggest you do more thinking and research. If you ever have the opportunity to shadow a Senior Leader or a head for a day, it can be eye-opening. If you are finding your Middle Leadership role verytough, and don’t feel you’re achieving success, climbing higher up the leadership ladder is not the solution. My advice to Middle Leaders who are finding the role very heavy-going is to try to consider whether this is because of the nature of leadership responsibility simply does not suit their skills and temperament. They may be an excellent classroom practitioner, but supporting and holding others to account is not where their strength lies. 

If this is the case, it really is worth considering stepping back into a classroom teacher role. If, on the other hand, you feel it is just your current context which is making you frustrated, and you do have the leadership capacity to make a success of a Middle Leadership role, consider applying first for a Middle Leadership post in another school, to see whether this is, in fact, the case.

If you are a successful Middle Leader, but feel ready for the next step and a wider school perspective, then looking for Senior Leadership opportunities, within your own school perhaps but also elsewhere, is a sensible next step. Consider which elements of your current role give you the greatest satisfaction, and where your particular skills and passion lie. This should enable you to decide what kind of Senior Leader role would be right for you. What can you contribute to a school and how can you continue to develop your leadership expertise, and your understanding of whole-school initiatives?

If Senior Leadership definitely appeals, for all the right reasons, and you know what kind of senior role you wish to apply for, consider what you can do in your current role and school to begin to build some whole-school experience to give yourself the best possible platform for making strong future applications. You will need to ensure that you have the capacity to do so, but can you be involved in a project which requires you to work beyond your domain, using and further developing your current skills and showing you have the motivation, determination and energy to take on a whole-school responsibility. 

Can you build on the experiences and achievements you are proud of for the benefit of other departments/areas of the school? Can you read more widely, and connect with others beyond your school (for example through Twitter and blogs) who are working in those areas in which you hope to make an impact in the future? Can you show you have what it takes to move up a gear and make an even greater contribution to whole-school success?

Good luck in the on-going journey.

Are you in Senior Leadership? Share your experiences below.

[Image Credit]

Register for free to continue reading
Registration is a free and easy way to support us.
When you register, you'll join a grassroots community where you can:
• Enjoy unlimited access to articles
• Get recommendations tailored to your interests
• Attend virtual events with our leading contributors
Register Now
Try Later
Login

Latest stories

  • Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2
    Free recycling-themed resources for KS1 and KS2

    The Action Pack is back for the start of the brand new school year, just in time for Recycle Week 2021 on 20 - 26 September, to empower pupils to make the world a better and more sustainable place. The free recycling-themed resources are designed for KS1 and KS2 and cover the topics of Art, English, PSHE, Science and Maths and have been created to easily fit into day-to-day lesson planning.

  • Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu
    Inspire your pupils with Emma Raducanu

    Following the exceptional performance from British breakthrough star Emma Raducanu, who captured her first Grand Slam at the US Open recently, Emmamania is already inspiring pupils aged 4 - 11 to get more involved in tennis - and LTA Youth, the flagship
    programme from The LTA, the governing body of tennis in Britain, has teachers across the country covered.

  • 5 ways to boost your school's eSafety
    5 ways to boost your school's eSafety

    eSafety is a term that constantly comes up in school communities, and with good reason. Students across the world are engaging with technology in ways that have never been seen before. This article addresses 5 beginning tips to help you boost your school’s eSafety. 

  • Tackling inequality in EdTech
    Tackling inequality in EdTech

    We have all been devastated by this pandemic that has swept the world in a matter of weeks. Schools have rapidly had to change the way they operate and be available for key workers' children. The inequalities that have long existed in communities and schools are now being amplified by the virus.

  • EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab
    EdTech review & The Curriculum Lab

    The world is catching up with a truth that we’ve championed at Learning Ladders for the last 5 years - that children’s learning outcomes are greatly improved by teachers, parents and learners working in partnership. 

  • Reducing primary to secondary transition stress
    Reducing primary to secondary transition stress

    As school leaders grapple with the near impossible mission to start bringing more students into schools from 1st June, there are hundreds of thousands of Year 6 pupils thinking anxiously about their move to secondary school.

  • Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?
    Generation Z and online tutoring: natural bedfellows?

    The K-12 online tutoring market is booming around the world, with recent research estimating it to grow by 12% per year over the next five years, a USD $60bn increase. By breaking down geographic barriers and moving beyond the limits of local teaching expertise, online tutoring platforms are an especially valuable tool for those looking to supplement their studies in the developing world, and students globally are increasingly signing up to online tuition early on in their secondary education schooling. 

  • Employable young people or human robots?
    Employable young people or human robots?

    STEM skills have been a major focus in education for over a decade and more young people are taking science, technology, engineering, and maths subjects at university than ever before, according to statistics published by UCAS. The downside of this is that the UK is now facing a soft skills crisis and the modern world will also require children to develop strong social skills as the workplaces are transformed by technology. 

  • What it’s like to be a teacher with an anxiety disorder
    What it’s like to be a teacher with an anxiety disorder

    We all feel anxious sometimes. Maybe it is going into a new situation such as starting a new job, or having to have a difficult conversation. The feeling of nervousness and anxiousness is completely normal, and an evolutionary necessity. However, for some people, like me, that feeling of anxiousness never goes away. You live with it day in, day out, and it can have quite a detrimental effect on your life and mental health.

  • How Tassomai transformed our school
    How Tassomai transformed our school

    An online learning programme called Tassomai is playing its part in the rapid transformation of Torquay Academy. Reece Broome, who is leading the project at the school, explains.

In order to make our website better for you, we use cookies!

Some firefox users may experience missing content, to fix this, click the shield in the top left and "disable tracking protection"