The flawed system of promotion in education


I’ve never understood why, when people that are good teachers are promoted, they spend less time in the classroom.

Why is it when you have a good teacher, people seem to assume that they want to be promoted to a ‘higher’ position? What if you just want to teach? Get better at teaching? Have direct classroom impact with students? What sort of career is that?

Don’t assume that all teachers want to move ‘up’ and ‘out’ of the classroom.

I’m mourning the loss of the AST role. It was perfect for people like me. Good in the classroom. Wanting to stay in the classroom. Wanting to share, coach and support those with their teaching. Trying out new ideas. Working strategically with SLT. Working with students for most of the day. For me, the students are the best part of the day. They’re funny, resilient, interesting. They challenge me but in a non-challenging way. They want me to care. They want to learn. I want to teach them, not sit in meetings.

So why is it, in education the further you climb the ladder the more your time can be spent moving away from this?

Yes I know that senior leadership is about significant impact on the students and many leaders spend a lot of time with students but why are senior leaders given more duties that focus less and less on our core business of teaching and learning? (Organising buses, sorting cover, being ‘on-call’, manning isolation etc) I understand that being more visible develops relationships with students but you’re paying people a lot of money to phone a bus company or a supply agency when their skills are not in making phone calls.

So,if you’re not really fully using the skills of an excellent classroom practioner in leadership the following  questions could be asked…

….Do you need to be a good teacher in education to be a good leader in education?

….Do good teachers make good leaders?

…Why do we promote good teachers to leadership when the skills from teaching are important but not enough to make a good leader? Are we confusing what is necessary with what is sufficient?

My next issue with leadership in schools is about training and support. Qualified teachers go through a year of training to teach. How long do you train to be a middle leader? A senior leader? Yes there are courses but you tend to ‘do’ these then get the job. Where’s the on the job CPD? How many schools have bespoke middle and senior leadership CPD? Mentoring? Coaching?

In teacher training you’re observed numerous times with feedback on how to improve. You then have an NQT year to embed the skills. Does this happen to middle and senior leaders?

And my final issue with the leadership system in education; Why is it that when you move into senior managemnt you’re often given  random subjects to teach when you’re being paid to focus on whole school strategic goals not planning lessons and learning content for something you’ve never taught before? Yes I know the whole ‘you should be able to teach anything’ mantra but why? Why would you do that to someone that you’ve actually employed because they were a good teacher of X and has the skills to do job Y and then make them teach Z. It just doesn’t make for the best kind of leadership, nor the best learning experience for the students.

So ASTs won’t be coming back  but should there be a role for teachers in schools to be paid and have the time to do the classroom based stuff that can also make a difference, but for those that also don’t want to be organising cover at the same time? Or am I just wishful thinking?


6 thoughts on “The flawed system of promotion in education

  1. None of our SMT teach at all and some haven’t taught for years. Really irks when they keep sending directives on teaching which are unpractical and unrealistic-even more so since we got an OFSTED 4. I’m leaving at Christmas..

  2. I am more concerned with the perception in some schools that you can’t be a good teacher unless you are ambitious and want to lead. What if someone wants to stay in the classroom a few years and get to grips with teaching? If you are not young, ambitious (read self promoting and pushy) then you ar not valuable in many schools.

  3. Sounds to me like ineffective/lazy people are being promoted to leadership if they’re then messing around with buses and admin.
    Don’t secondary schools have admin teams for things like that?

  4. I’m really interested in this aspect of our profession. I’ve been teaching almost 25 years and didn’t chase ‘early’ promotions as I loved being in the classroom and wanted to get better and better at delivering stimulating, enjoyable and challenging lessons. That said, I was promoted to Asst Head of Sixth Form in my 4th year, a post I really enjoyed but gave up 3 years later when I moved schools (for a lesser, mainscale role) in order to broaden my school experience. I am ‘ambitious’ in that I believe I have energy and capacity, intelligence and tenacity to do more – but I haven’t always been able to find the role that’s best for me.
    My role now is Head of Professional Development, (a position equal to Head of Maths/English/Science in TLR terms) which allows me to pursue the staff development and CPD areas that I really enjoy and feel I can add value to. It’s a great role and I work with a team of Professional Tutors. My time allowance for this role is small – 2 hours per week – for a role that often takes 10 extra hours, or more, to deliver. My additional pay is, of course, recompense for time and energy put in, and this is fine.
    Now in my 40s, though, I find I am welcoming more opportunities to pass on my knowledge and expertise to others, in my own school and through the partnership projects we undertake. Many schools have converted AST positions into AHTs with other responsibilities added – ours hasn’t – and this leaves me with something of a problem in that I work with AHTs from other schools whose timetables are more flexible than mine, and whose teaching load is less, meaning that I can’t engage in some projects the same way they do. I have recently been told that I have been accepted as an SLE in our area – this is a role I’m looking forward to tremendously – though I’m already worried about missing my own classes if I need to be in another school for some of my time.
    Then, there’s the issue of pay progression, and the way that pay increases for primarily ‘teaching’ come to an end after a few years, even when one’s teaching skill and ability to deliver ‘results’ are still improving. So for someone who has skill, capacity, expertise, experience and a love of the classroom, where is there to progress to in career terms? I still want a career, and career progression, not stagnation – it might be a senior role, it might not – and it would be nice to picture the next 15 to 20 years not being exactly the same as the last 10….. I feel quite strongly that some sort of ‘senior teacher’ role needs to be developed. That’s part of the reason why I’m interested in the College of Teaching idea – to see how strong, experienced teachers can still be developed, and also to build younger or less experienced teachers into that role, within a career structure that such a College might be able to help us to put together.
    I’d be interested to hear the experiences of others in similar positions.

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