Becoming a Senior Leader in Education


Should I apply for a senior leadership position in a school?

It’s a question that many teachers working in schools ask themselves at some point. The correct answer to the above question will depend on the individual, of course – but if it is a question that has come into your head recently, you’ll want to make sure that you get the answer to it right. So, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of becoming a senior leader in education.

Becoming a senior leader: an opportunity to make a difference

It’s kind of why you became a teacher in the first place, isn’t it? The opportunity to make a difference in the lives of children and young people is one of the privileges of the profession.

And the opportunity to make a difference needs to be at the forefront of your mind when you are considering whether to try to become a senior leader or not.

Let me explain… as a ‘classroom teacher,’ you make a difference for the pupils you teach. Your classroom is your kingdom, and it is between those four walls that the magic is made. 

The thing is that the impact you can have on pupils is limited to those four walls. 

When you are a middle leader, such as a Head of Department, you now have an opportunity to have an impact on a wider cohort of young people – and the step up again to senior leadership will take your responsibility and potential impact on a whole-school level.

If you want to become a senior leader, you need to demonstrate that you have had an impact at a whole-school level. Taking on a whole-school project or initiative is an excellent way to do this. Getting more involved on a departmental basis is also a great idea. You need to show that you have an interest in departmental and whole-school issues.

A senior leader in education working with children

Is a role as a Senior Leader in Education what you really want?

Perhaps most importantly you need to be sure that senior leadership is the right move for you. Yes, the desire to have a greater impact across the whole school is a big attraction – but do you know what the role will entail?

Generally, the people who move into middle leadership and then senior leadership do so, initially, because they are some of the most promising and best classroom teachers in a school. Promotion seems like a natural step. But the further up the management ladder you go, the less time you will spend teaching in the classroom.

The prospect of teaching kids is why we all entered the profession and what we all really love. You’ll be doing a lot less of it when you become a senior leader.

Also, bear in mind that the best classroom practitioners don’t always make the best leaders and managers. In fact, there are quite different skill sets needed.

Apply for the right position for you

Once you have decided that senior leadership is the right move for you, you shouldn’t just apply for any role as a senior leader in education that you see. Look carefully at the job description and what the role would involve. Make sure that it matches both your interests and your skills.

Once you’ve got there – what can you expect?

Senior leadership can be very tough and there’s always a lot of pressure – but it’s also incredibly rewarding. It really feels like you are shaping the direction a school is moving in – because you really are! That is a real privilege.
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