Is Middle Leadership For You?

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Daisy-May Lewis

Daisy is Head of KS3 and mental health lead in a Secondary School for students with Social, Emotional and Mental Health Needs. She is a Religious Studies subject specialist but currently delivers a range of subjects including: English, PSHE, Citizenship, History, Geography and Philosophy. Her...
Read more about Daisy-May Lewis

Should you making the move to middle leadership?

The landscape of teaching is becoming increasingly difficult with many schools still enforcing performance related pay and graded lesson observations; would you want to lead in this environment? If you feel that you have the vision, values and a clear moral compass then leadership may be for you.

Middle leaders have to be everything to everyone: critical friend, supportive colleague, subject expert and psychologist to name but a few. This is what makes the role so important.

8 Tips For Making The Move To Middle Leadership

Here is my advice for those thinking of joining middle leadership and what you should consider before you make the next step or not.

1. Teaching

Are you comfortable that your teaching is to a quality where you could advise others?

It is true that so-called outstanding teachers do not always make ‘outstanding’ leaders, but school teams will always appreciate being led by someone who delivers consistently good lessons, already supports others in developing their teaching and learning and has the skills required to successfully behaviour manage a range of students with varying needs.

If you are new to teaching use your feedback and colleagues to develop your understanding of teaching and learning further. Ensure that you feel comfortable and competent in your current role before looking to gain further whole school responsibilities.

2. Research

What area of leadership are you interested in?

You may see yourself as a future SENCO, assessment coordinator, Head of Department the list goes on! Research these roles look at current job advertisements to see the roles and responsibilities attached the these careers and whether it is something that you would like to pursue.

Complete further reading there are lots of blogs and high quality books on school leadership particularly ‘High Challenge, Low Threat’ – Mary Myatt and ‘Leadership Matters’ – Andy Buck.

Research will assist in guiding your leadership journey and ensure that you are well informed when it comes to looking in continued professional development associated with the leadership role that you are interested in.

3. CPD

Does your school have a leadership development programme for aspiring middle leaders?

This is the route that I chose. The course took a year and equipped me with the skills and knowledge I needed to apply for leadership positions and show my strengths within my school.

You could apply for DfE recognised qualifications such as the National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership

4. Support

Do you currently have a professional coach to guide you on the next steps of your career?

If not get one! Your coach can be your line manager, a trusted colleague or even someone that you have previously worked with. You coach should spend the time allowing you to realise your own professional potential and guiding you towards your chosen career path.

If you currently do not have a coach to support your development, female leaders can sign up for external coaching through the DfE Coaching Pledge.

5. Commitment

The majority of school leaders, particularly those in middle leadership roles, have a substantial teaching commitment to balance alongside their other duties. For me, being the Head of Key Stage 3 in a school for students with Social, Emotional and Mental Health has proved one of the greatest challenges.

As leaders we often find ourselves rising up the ranks because of the skills we’ve developed and demonstrated in the classroom. When we enter a pressurised leadership role, however, this is the first thing that can slip in quality.

It is important to be prepared to commit even more of yourself to your job once you have a leadership role; if you are lucky then your school will allocate appropriate non-contact time to fulfill your leadership role – but this is rarely sufficient.

6. Compromises

Your priorities will shift from what they were as a full time class teacher, as I highlighted in my post 10 Tips for Middle Leaders. Middle Leadership is one of the most challenging roles within a school because, as the job title states, you are in the middle which is why these leaders often feel in limbo between their teaching and leadership roles.

You will be both accountable to the Senior Leadership Team and the staff that you lead, managing both of these responsibilities will take time to master.

7. Networking

Meet with other teachers and middle leaders both on CPD training and Teach Meets, also use Twitter for CPD and networking, take a look at Top Educator Influencers on Twitter for more information on who to follow.

SEN Coordinator Matt Grant writing in The Guardian advises that leaders should attend “conferences, courses and network meetings where you can take time out with other school leaders, reflect on the issues of the day – and your approach to addressing them – and just share a moan or two. Allow yourself to be reassured that everyone is in more or less the same boat – and we’ll get there in the end.”

8. Don’t be afraid to aim high

Ex-Head Jill Berry also writing in The Guardian advises that, “If you can see yourself in the role of a headteacher, and it’s a challenge you think you will relish, go for it. It is the best job in the school. It isn’t easy, but it offers you the opportunity to make a difference on a scale unlike any you’ve known before – and that’s a difference to pupils, staff and parents.”

Middle leadership brings about many new challenges but it is an exciting next step, if you feel that you are ready for this step make sure to read around and do your research. Whatever else you do, remember that middle leaders need a supportive SLT if they are to fulfil their potential!

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