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How To Seamlessly Transition Into A School Leadership Role

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Making The Jump From One Leadership Role To The Next As we approach the end of the academic year, many of you will be thinking about new roles that you will be taking up in September. Many of those roles will have a noticeable increase in leadership responsibility. Whilst a natural transition for some, stepping up to leadership can be underestimated in its complexity and often support provided can be insufficient or ineffective. It is claimed that nearly half of transitioning leaders underperform in the first 18 months.

Whether your next teaching role is your first foray into education leadership, or if you have undertaken a fresh new career change in a new environment, make use of my 5 tips for successful job transitions to help you to hit the ground running straight away.

1. Reflect On Your Current Role

Depending on your own circumstances, the choice to leave your last teaching job may have been either an easy decision or a hard decision. Whatever your reasons for leaving, it will be helpful to reflect on your own practice as an educator in order for you make the best possible impact in your new position.

Educators are natural reflective practitioners, so I recommend that you to take the time to evaluate your successes in your current teaching role, recognise and appreciate what you have achieved through the experiences and opportunities that your role has brought. Doing so will help you to gain a full understanding of the skills and strategies you have developed and help you to identify which are most useful to you moving forward.

In addition to this, it's equally as important to determine what you might need to develop further. There is a well-quoted phrase that 'what got you here will not get you there' which highlights the need to develop the skills and strengths that will be needed for success in your new role. Take into consideration areas of your pedagogy and leadership skills needed in your new role and identify 3 skills and strengths to work on through your transition.

A firm understanding of yourself as an educator sets you in a very good frame of mind for when you undertake a new leadership position. So make this your first priority when you transition from one job to the next.

2. Celebrate Leaving

A leaving do may not be every teacher's cup of tea, but they serve an important psychological function in helping us to let go of the past and to move forward. Saying goodbye to talented and trusted colleagues acknowledges the ending of a positive phase of your career and helps you to bring a role formally to a close. It enables a celebration of your achievements that have allowed you to move to a new role, encourages acknowledgement of what you will miss and focuses you to think about what were the best parts of it, and yourself, that you want to take with you into your new role. In short, it prepares you for the change and transition that lies ahead and helps develop the resilience, confidence and self-belief that you will need to create the impact that you will be hoping for.

3. Plan and Prepare For Your First Term

Every teacher will tell you, that quality planning leads to a high standard of performance. To hit the ground running early, I urge you develop a plan for your first term in your new position. To start with, learn as much as possible about your new school. You will no doubt be aware of your school's vision and developments plans from your interview process, now is the time to revisit the commitments you made and to begin to plan how you might go about achieving these. Some research and familiarisation with operation details such as staffing structures, policies and latest outcomes and achievements could help with your thoughts and should influence your aspirations for your plan for your first term.

Once your initial research on the school is complete, it's important that you gain a full understanding of your job role. Make sure that you're fully aware of your priorities, responsibilities as well as the possible challenges you could face and how best to tackle them.

By planning for your first term you'll be able to identify some easily achievable positive impact to help you secure early wins and build trust and respect from your new colleagues.

4. Focus and Forge New Relationships

A new role will involve a myriad of new people who will be crucial to the school's success as well as your own, so it's very important to identify the key people in your new role and build strong relationships with them. Building these strong relationships will lead to your stakeholders being fully engaged and immersed in your vision, making your job as a school leader enjoyable and progressive.

As a new Head Teacher, these will include your leadership team, governors (especially the chair) and your PA. For other leadership roles focus on your leadership peer group and your team of staff.

5. Keep Your Balance and Maintain Your Wellbeing

Leading a school, a subject or a year group is an incredible privilege especially when you have a direct influence on the lives and education of students and staff. But, with this responsibility comes a great deal of demanding work and it's important that teachers maintain their work-life balance, physical and mental health as well as how other people around them can be of support. Don't be too hard on yourself in these early days especially if you have taken on a challenging situation.

To improve your wellbeing, take into consideration your own levels of physical activity, how often you spend time relaxing and enjoying a moment of solitude. There's a number of fantastic wellbeing resources available such as The Wellbeing Action Plan, so do ensure that you are taking into consideration how your role may have an effect on yourself and what you can do to manage it.


Lorraine Couves is a Performance Consultant, Project Manager and Change Lead who enjoys facilitating ideas generation, problem-solving and organisational development. With over 15 years' experience of educational organisations, she has helped to drive strategic change leading to improvement in outcomes, Ofsted judgements and in financial sustainability.

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