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Mark Richards

Mark started his teaching career as an English and media studies specialist before moving on to middle and senior leadership roles. As an Assistant Headteacher he was responsible for behaviour, attendance, literacy and teaching & learning.

Advice for middle leaders seeking senior leadership positions

If you are a middle leader and are considering making the step up to a senior leadership role, it’s well worth pausing for thought first.

Advice for progressing from middle to senior leadership

Reflect on what it was that motivated you to apply for your current role.

For many teachers, moving into a middle leadership role is a natural step. It offers a new challenge and gives the opportunity to extend your influence beyond your own classroom. Being in middle leadership position also empowers you to challenge, support and inspire colleagues – and, of course, students too.

There are many good reasons to want to stay in middle leadership. If you still enjoy having a significant teaching commitment and your passion for your subject remains the same, leaving this behind can be a wrench. Not only that, you might have built and developed a strong department/team. If it is a successful and very close-knit unit, the prospect of continuing on your journey together to face new challenges can be very appealing.

The flip-side to this is that sometimes middle leaders can feel a little frustrated. People often feel that having the kudos of a senior leadership position will make it possible to be able to make more of a difference and have a greater overall impact on staff and students. You might just be ready to take on the fresh challenge that senior leadership presents.

The key difference is the scale of responsibility

In many ways, being a senior leader is not really that different from being a middle leader. Getting the very best out of those you lead is still the primary objective. As a senior leader, you will have to deal with difficult colleagues at some point – but middle leaders have to do this too.

The key difference is one of scale. It’s no longer just about your team, your area or your subject. Suddenly everything is whole-school, the bigger picture and a wider perspective.

If you feel ready to take the next step and feel the time is right to seek a senior leadership position, you should think about how you can develop your leadership expertise and show that you have the capacity to take on a whole-school responsibility.

Take on a whole-school responsibility

Look for opportunities to get involved – or lead – an initiative or project that takes you out of your own subject area or domain. This will show that you have the motivation, determination and talent to take lead on a whole-school level.

Choose the right senior leadership role for you

Choosing a particular senior leadership role, not just any role, but one that is well suited to your skills, interests and experience is a smart move. Of course, many skills are transferable – but it still makes sense to apply for a role that will allow you to build on an existing specialism, rather than taking on something completely different.

Prepare, listen and learn

Make good use of the time in between being appointed to a senior role and actually starting in your new position. If the role is in a new school, find out as much as you can about the role, the school and its context before you formally start. All teachers are expected to ‘hit the ground running’ but this is especially true for senior leaders.

Every new role will require you to do things you have never done before. You will need to listen and learn consistently – and that never stops.

Finally, now you are in a senior leadership team, never forget the importance of working as a team. Senior leaders that work in isolation within their leadership group will never be the most successful.

Course Recommendations

The course Securing Success in Your First Leadership Role is aimed at those thinking of applying for, or about to start, a senior role. Packed with examples of good practice, it provides some excellent tips for developing your own style as a senior leader, communicating effectively and time management.

As well as this, you will learn practical strategies about how to deal with difficult colleagues, how to maintain the necessary distance required to lead effectively, and coping strategies that will ensure that you meet the challenges of a senior leadership role.

You may also be interested in the following:
Preparing for Deputy Headship – develop practical strategies and techniques to successfully prepare for an advanced leadership role.

Effective Personal Management – Getting the Most Out of Your Day – the essential personal skills-building course for reducing stress and getting things done.

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