Can you spot the difference between deputy heads and middle leaders?


During the summer we carried out a survey to explore how education professionals felt about the challenges they face in schools.

More than a thousand people replied including deputies, assistant heads, heads of department, SENCos and other middle leaders. While examining the data, we looked at how middle leaders and our control group of deputies compared. There were some key differences in their responses, especially in the actual words each group used most often. We ran their responses through tagxedo.com to create these word clouds for a quick, visual overview on two key questions. For anyone unfamiliar with the format, the bigger the word the more often it was used.

What (if anything) currently deters you from applying for promotion?

Middle leaders said…

 

Deputies said…

This suggests middle leaders’ greatest concerns around promotion are about the lack of time and gaining sufficient experience for the role. The perceived pressures of senior roles and resulting personal concerns, such as work-life balance, are also influential, but stress is perhaps not as big an issue as we would expect.

In contrast, the overriding issue deterring deputies from promotion is pressure, whether it’s in relation to the responsibilities of headship or accountability to Ofsted. Lack of time is still a concern, but there are other greater worries.

On a more positive note we also asked another question of both groups.

What do you enjoy most about your current role? 

Middle leaders said…

 Deputies said…

The most commonly used words to describe what they like about their jobs are reassuringly similar. Both groups (thankfully) enjoy working with children and teaching. It’s interesting to see that leading and developing others are key parts of both types of role, but as you might expect those aspects of work are more commonly mentioned by deputies than middle leaders. Similarly working with colleagues was often mentioned by both groups, but more often by middle leaders.

One of NAHT Edge’s early middle leader adopters (and video star), Tom Griffiths (year five teacher and phase two leader) describes middle leaders as “the great unknown…the group of people in schools who aren’t recognised necessarily specifically for the job that they do”. It’s exactly because of this gap that we’re here to provide the support all middle leaders need – helping them to be better teachers, managers and leaders. If you haven’t already, we hope you decide to join in.

We’d like to hear from you about whether your responses to these questions are different. What deters you from applying for promotion? What do you enjoy (and least)? Members can join the debate now in our discussion forum.

(a version of this blog first appeared through my day-job at NAHT Edge)

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