Moving up the ladder: Applying to leadership positions

When you’re looking to move up the leadership ladder, you will need to shout a bit louder about your qualities. Headteacher John Rutter offers his advice on what to do – and what not to do in SecEd.

Undeniably you may have the experience and the knowledge to move up the leadership ladder but, without being able to sell yourself a little bit, this is unlikely ever to happen.

We teachers are fantastic at self-deprecation but when it comes to talking about our successes, abilities and qualities we can be as lacking in the necessary skills as the pupils we teach. As a headteacher I see lots of application forms and meet lots of people wanting to move on in my school and, occasionally, I despair at some things that are written and sent to me, or said to me in person.

So, in the hope of saving myself, my leadership colleagues and, most importantly, you the time expended on poor preparation when looking for a senior role, I offer you my top tips for completing your application and for creating a good impression before you get invited to interview – this information will help get you there (but then it’s all still down to you).

The perfect application form

Do not cut and paste from a previous application (it is remarkably easy to spot). Tailor your words to the particular circumstances of the school itself. Remember – the person reading your application will have a few dozen other urgent things on their desk to do today so will be looking for any excuse to reject you out of hand.

The personal statement or covering letter is your chance to wax lyrical about your qualities and experience. It is important that this is aimed at the specific job description and includes knowledge of the school you are applying for from your background reading.
Most importantly, talk about the impact of your teaching on the learning of your pupils, your receptiveness to innovative methods and how keen you are to look outwards beyond your school for effective practice. 

For senior management roles you will also need to outline the whole-school initiatives you have been involved in, your supreme people management skills and how you have engaged with the wider school community including parents.

The school visit

One way, I have found, to improve your chances of getting through the door is to contact the school and, if you live close enough for this to be practicable, to ask to come in for a visit.

If you can’t visit at least phone with some pertinent questions. It puts your name in the mind of those who you would like to offer you a job and it will also help you to decide if this is the school for you. It could save you a lot of time and effort for all concerned.

Read more tips for advancing your career Moving up the ladder: Applying to leadership positions

Please tell us your thoughts in comments or via Twitter ~ Tamsin

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