Open Thinkering


The Problem with Promotion

***Update: For those who don’t know, I successfully applied to become Director of E-Learning at Northumberland Church of England Academy. Thanks for everyone’s advice and guidance!***

Decisions, decisions...

I’m loving my role as E-Learning Staff Tutor at my current school. I get to teach 16 out of 30 lessons per week whilst having time to spend with staff developing their use of educational technology.

But there’s a problem. 🙁

I don’t earn enough. Now before you castigate me as some type of money-grabbing not-in-it-for-the-kids type of person, let me (rather paradoxically) state that I’d quite happily teach for free. If I had a roof over my head and food on the table, as a single man I would give up my time to educate children. I love it.

There’s the rub, though. I’m not a single man. I’m happily married with a two-year-old son and a wife who wants to spend time at home with him. That’s where I want her to be too. Hence the need for me to earn more to keep my family happy.

So what do I do?

As a teacher in England, there’s two paths traditionally open to teachers seeking promotion:

  1. Become Head of Department in your chosen subject. This then can lead onto an Assistant Headship, Deputy Headship, and ultimately a Headship.
  2. Become Head of Year or seek out some other pastoral role. This too can lead to an Assistant Head position, Deputy Head and then Head.

I don’t want either. Heads of Department have to deal with a lot of admin and jump through a lot of hoops that would infuriate me and lead to me not enjoying my job. And on the other hand, I have never had an interest in the pastoral side of education (over and above my role as a form teacher, which I deem important).

There needs to be some type of New Labour-ish ‘Third Way’ for teachers. I can see what the suggestion is going to be already: become an AST! (Advanced Skills Teacher). Erm, no thanks. We have had a few of those visit my school. Not the type of thing I want to do at all.

So I’m left with some other options. As far as I can see, I’m left with options that take me out of the classroom:

  • Lecturer/researcher at a university (once I’ve finished my Ed.D.)
  • Freelance advisor/researcher/consultant
  • Consultant for an organization (e.g. a Local Authority)

Any ideas? 😮

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25 thoughts on “The Problem with Promotion

  1. If you so choose, blend into consulting type work, don’t jump. It can take a year or more to get it going, and can be very sporadic.

  2. Can I ask why you’re so opposed to being an AST Doug? We don’t have them in Wales, but I’ve always thought that if we did that would be a route I’d be interested in pursuing.

    I’ve had similar thoughts myself and can’t help thinking HoD or HoY would be a backwards step. I’m going to carry on working under the radar for a few years and see what comes up then!

    1. Dave, AST’s tend to work with teachers who haven’t asked for their input. It’s been my experience that they tend to have to jump through hoops, specialise in one or two things, and deal with cynical people in schools other than their own… :-(

      1. that sounds right. Part of the challenge is winning them round. I was working with a teacher last term. I asked her what she wanted to do the next week. Her response was “I thought I’d watch you teach my group” in a sort of ‘put your money where your mouth is’ sort of way. Needless to say I taught an ok but it wasn’t the sort of lesson I’d teach at my own school where I know the kids names etc.

        The other part of being an AST you do already – the “inreach” within your own school. It’s a shame the excellent teacher post hasn’t been used (under 20 advertised nationally last year) but I wouldn’t doubt you meet the age/salary requirements for ET status.

        1. I may go and enquire about Excellent Teacher status. There’s a huge barrier right there with the name – especially in British society! I should imagine you’ll have had to go through Threshold. I won’t do until after next academic year…

  3. I know where you are coming from. I’ve been (and still am) in middle management, although in a special school this isn’t as intense. I completed my NPQH with a view to moving into school leadership (part of this was competition with my sister who did the same and is now a serving head). After I completed my NPQH I started to think about what I wanted from my job and only parts of being a head appealed for example the government talks about needing more heads but has no idea how to encourage teachers to step up with their name and shame policies.

    I became an AST in preference to going into school leadership. I get time to work on projects of my choosing (just about to start up a whole school blog/news site). I also get to visit other schools (usually ones in difficulty) and work with staff. The assessment process is intense but fun. Nottinghamshire have a good mechanism for recruiting and deploying ASTs and monitoring their impact. Sometimes you get dropped in situations where you are out of your depth, in these situations the experience from management/NPQH comes in pretty handy.

    I’m fortunate pay isn’t an issue to me. I’m paid too much in a way – a move to assistant head would only be a sideways move. I enjoy what I do, becoming an AST has renewed my love for science teaching and made me realise that I belong in the classroom. I keep an eye on the job vacancies incase that dream job does come up, but until it does I’m pretty happy where I am.

    As for where you go next – keep an eye out for the SSAT and quangos like this who seem to have oodles of cash to splash around.

    1. ‘Paid too much’! Don’t let you bosses see this comment!

      Regarding quangos and the SSAT – that’s exactly what I *don’t* want to do. I really want to do something that’s worthwhile and important (or at least feels like it is!) :-o

  4. Hi Doug – an interesting post with lots of points which ring true with me also. Can I just ask why you wouldn’t want the AST route? Rob

    1. Mainly for the reasons I gave to Dave above – going into other schools where you’re not particularly wanted, having to specialise narrowly (Assessment For Learning, etc.)

  5. Really interesting post Doug. I’ve been teaching the same length of time as you, I think (though you wouldn’t think it, comparing my work to yours!) and have often had similar thoughts. I’ve been HoD since September as that, to me, was a better option than pastoral (which to an extent I enjoy, and I do think is important) – but finding that I am spending more and more time doing paperwork, dealing with awkward and unhelpful people (at every level), and spending increasingly less time doing the things I most enjoy – engaging with students, and exploring interesing things that I might use in lessons.

    AST, on the surface, sounds great – but based on experience of ASTs at my school and various training events (Noel Jenkins excepted!!), not what it seems, unfortunately….

    Will be interested to hear other people’s thoughts…

  6. I must put you in touch with a friend and erstwhile colleague of mine for this conversation. He has been where you are and has faced the same decision. DM me your email address on Twitter and I’ll forward it to him with a request to get in touch.

  7. Hi Doug,

    I was in your position 8 years ago. A young family, and looking around for where I went from being a teacher in a primary school.

    To cut a long story short, I ended up in a large company working on a project supporting teachers. Since then the projects have varied a lot, and I’m working at higher levels than I ever imagined whilst teaching. I’m still using the skills I learnt as a teacher, but no longer directly working with teachers.

    If you want to continue working with teachers and making a direct difference to them, then I’d consider trying to work in a consultancy role. However, the opportunities within LEA’s that aren’t tied to various government initiatives are few and far between, and going it alone is a big jump to make (one which I’ve not yet had the opportunity/guts to make!)

    Don’t discount the private sector in your search. It might take some time to understand and accept the profit culture, but it can be very rewarding…

      1. That would be my dream job-after-next. I have an interview for Director of Maths later this week. I’m going the traditional 2nd / Head of Dept / Ass Head route. I think you’d be in with a shout for that job or something similar, but most schools want to see some management type experience before handing out Ass Head posts.

        There’s an old fashioned structure at the base of most schools with hoop-jumping required to move up the tiers. I think schools are slowly moving away from this, there seems to be an increased variety of roles at Assistant Head type level. Below this it’s much more traditional, you’ve done well to have your current role created for you.

        Perhaps a couple of years hoop-jumping is required? You’d make a great Head of Department and I’m sure you’d take pleasure in having the most ICT-savvy History department the world has ever seen!?

        Excellent Teacher status is also worth a look, I don’t know masses about it but I’m pretty sure only a couple of years experience is necesary, you need support for the role from Management and you personally need to be able to demonstrate that you meet all of the Excellent Teacher Teaching Standards (you don’t need have gone through Threshold – but will have to demonstrate the Threshold standards and more).

        Good luck with whatever you choose!


          1. Hi Doug

            I feel your pain but I agree with Dan, I am Head of a large Humanities Faculty and just become an Assistant Head too. I still teach which I love, I get a say in what happens, which is even better and I get to shape a department in the way I and my team feel it should be and I find this all really rewarding. I never wanted to go this far in my career, in fact at every stage I had always said I am happy where I was but things change and the need for new challenges is a big factor. As a CD you can limnit the amoiunt of hoop jumping by impacting on whole school policy, if you are proactive you can cut a lot of it off at the pass and focus on teaching and learning. That said there is more paper work, more pointles meetings but every job has its downsides.

            I would fully endorse becoming a HoD and the next steps too. I used to feel trapped as a classroom teacher, with lots of ideas, working hard and not getting the opportunities to implement a lot of what I wanted because of my existing HoD, those days are long gone. Go for it.


  8. @ Doug
    I’ve become a head of school here in the states. You are correct when you talk about hoops and the joy of the job is not comparable to that of being in the classroom every day with children. The advantage is you can push for radical change that makes a large impact on student learning. I don’t know if the head aches are worth it yet. I’m trying to decide. I’m hired to be an instructional leader but spend most days listening to endless parades of gripes be they from faculty or parents. The joys of our petty human nature. But then again it is still fun. Best of luck with it. I want to start a PhD in a few years and I would imagine the college route may be the way to go.

  9. I’m really, really hoping to be a University professor some day. That, of course, will require the completion of my PhD and both of my kids to be in school so my wife can go back to teaching.

    The main reason it’ll have to wait is that if I stay in Colorado, a professorship would require a pay cut.


  10. I’ve been thinking long and hard about this one too – Personally I like the AST role. I think it’d be fun but for the fact that a lot of the outreach would be dictated by the schools – so I’d be more likely to spend time teaching the basics and supporting staff rather than spreading the word with regards to ICT.
    My own conclusions were to head down the HOD/ICT route which I have started doing although the consultant idea is fun it’s tricky to get started.

    1. I’d only ever go down the consultancy role part-time, I think, Joe. I enjoy teaching too much and wouldn’t want to just be another voice who’s not actually rooted in real-world, current experience.

      At the same time, I feel like becoming Head of History could potentially mean I ‘tread water’, as I’d only really be doing it for management experience.

      It’s a tricky one!

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