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School leadership – four signs you’re ready to join SLT

Jonathan Coy shares his experience of taking the plunge, and how to recognise when the time is right...

  • School leadership – four signs you’re ready to join SLT

Being a school leader is one of the most fulfilling roles I have ever had the privilege to have… It’s so rewarding to know that you have a positive impact on others.

But I took many years to decide whether I wanted to be a leader or not. So, how do you know when you are ready to take the next step in your career?

First things first, I think it’s only fair to say that being a school leader is hard work. You are responsible for a lot more than a class teacher is, and often, depending on your new role, you won’t always have a lot of time to fulfil everything you want to.

It can also be a lonely job, as there are fewer leaders than there are teachers. The step from being ‘part of the group’ to suddenly not being part of the group is hard for some.

However, on the plus side, being a leader is very rewarding. It’s exciting to see your plans come to fruition, and to help support your community, knowing that you have made a difference to a lot of people’s lives. 

Remember – no one can tell you whether you are ready or not to be a leader. Only you can decide. Take your time, seek support along the way, and ask yourself these key questions to see if you are heading in the right direction for you:

Am I being challenged?

Schools are interesting places at the moment and you are probably being challenged in many different ways, especially with Covid19. However, try to take some time out of your day to reflect on how you feel.

Do you feel that you are being challenged? Are you bored with certain aspects of the day? Do you feel like you would like to make some changes to how things are done?

If the answer is yes, it is probably time to have a chat with your line manager, and ask if there are opportunities for you to have more responsibilities and to learn new skills. 

Do I want to learn more?

Go and find out information. Ask questions, lots of them! Are there any training courses you could attend? Is there someone you can talk to about what it’s like to be a leader?

Do I have a champion?

We always talk about children having a champion around the school. However, is there someone who champions you? Is there someone who has told you that you are good at what you do, and talked to you about possible next steps for your career?

If not, have you got someone who mentors and coaches you so that you can discuss ideas and ways forward? If you don’t have anyone in your school that supports you, try getting in touch with a coach, as they will be able to help you shape your plans and ideas.

They will believe in your values, and notice the impact that you are having around the school, and be your champion!

What if I had to take the reins?

For me, it was only when I really started to take on more responsibility in school and saw the impact that I was able to create, that I realised I was ready to consider taking the step into leadership.

I started by leading in a core curriculum area. This gave me the confidence to try other areas of school leadership until I felt ready to be a headteacher. 

This is what I suggest you do first. Take on more responsibility as a leader in school to begin with, such as a core subject or key element on the development plan. Talk to your leadership team and ask if they will support you with this. 

Whatever you decide to do, don’t be afraid to ask for help or to wait until you are ready to take that next step. There shouldn’t be any pressure on you to go into leadership too soon. Whatever you decide to do, I wish you all the best. Being in education is the best job in the world!


Jonathan Coy is the CEO of HeadteacherChat and an experienced school leader. Find out more at headteachers.org, or follow on Twitter at @headteacherchat.

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