Where next after headship?

We all know that one of the criteria we look at when judging a school is the list of leavers’ destinations.  But what about the leaders’ destinations? Where are good leaders headed after accomplishment at headship level?

Many leaders, having run a school or several schools successfully are looking for their next challenge but on their terms.  The good news is that these days there are many avenues to pursue allowing you to capitalise on the experience you’ve accumulated, still exert maximum impact on the outcomes of young people, but also incorporate a degree of flexibility and personal control into your career whilst playing to your particular strengths and interests.

It is only when considering your options and totting up the skills you’ve amassed as a Headteacher that you realise how very multifaceted school leadership is.  You will have been in charge of Quality and Standards, Governance, Transformation and Innovation, People Development – coaching, mentoring, training and resourcing; Intervention and Improvement and the facilitation of partnerships not to mention curriculum and programme development, pastoral care and safeguarding and of course data analysis and financial control. Now you can look at specialising in the strategic area from which you derive most satisfaction and have wider impact by conveying your experience to others in a position to make an impact on young people’s life chances.

Where can such specialising take you?

Each aspect of headship can lead to rewarding full-time roles within a range of employers or on a self-employed basis.

  • Quality and Standards – Ofsted inspection, Ofsted preparation consultancy, Standards and Testing Agency advisor, Director of Quality and Compliance, Director of Education, Head of School Standards.
  • Governance – School governors, Free School governors, Trusteeships with educational charities, Board positions with Trusts, Director of Challenge and Intervention at multiple trusts.
  • Transformation – Interim Principal leading schools out of special measures, Principal Designate of new or transitioning ventures, Projects Director for educational charities and trusts, Projects Director for new business ventures – UTCs free school groups, building upgrades.
  • People and Resource Management – interim leader to mentor by department or senior management, Programmes Director for multiple school groups, HR and people development roles for academy chains, NLE, LLE, coaching, mentoring and CPD.
  • Intervention and Improvement – School improvement advisor/partner, Interim leadership support to induct new leaders, Education Consultant for LA or DfE, Director of Intervention within groups, Secondary or Primary Leader, adviser, lead consultant, director of education.
  • Srategic Leadership – CEO roles , Executive headships, Director of Academies or Schools, Director of Operations or Development, National or regional coordinator of schools, NLE, LLE, TSA Director.
  • Collaboration – Leading or participating in bid teams, Director of Partnerships, DfE adviser, TSA coordinator.

As a recruiter, I am regularly placing experienced school leaders into such roles or liaising with people in these positions who themselves have been Headteachers or senior school leaders prior to this.  It is clear that not all destinations are obvious from the perspective of the Headteacher’s office however and sometimes it can be useful to discuss your career goals with an objective outsider like myself and colleagues in Educate’s career division to establish exactly what your options are and how to get there.

Or you can select from these operational areas and develop a portfolio career.

A portfolio career is characterised by having several strands rather than one single strand to your career, doing a number of paid activities at the same time or serially, in effect turning your career into a Pick n Mix of challenges and opportunities. It can be immensely rewarding but it is not for everyone and it is worth examining at the outset your goals for this phase of your career. It may be that it is appropriate just now to help you broaden or deepen your experience to gain entry to the sort of career avenue that will lead to your ultimate destination.  Or it may be an end in itself, in that you may be transitioning towards retirement or simply re-evaluating your work-life balance and requiring more control, flexibility and autonomy with a feeling that you are the author of your own destiny.

Either way a portfolio career gives you a diverse set of skills which only serves to increase your value on the market place; it also gives you a flexible lifestyle which can become addictive and regular new challenge which keeps the excitement and motivation of education which attracted you in the first place.  Most importantly it puts you in the centre of a network of lively, interesting and useful colleagues from which surprising or intended career tangents and consequences can ensue.

Studies have shown that a portfolio career appeals to autonomous individuals who enjoy being in control of their own destiny who can manage their time easily and handle multiple tasks, thrive on new challenge and enjoy meeting new people, and are even demotivated by continuity. These people know that you are never too old to learn but also can apply the elements of past success from one context to another.

There are different patterns to portfolio career working too.  You may have roles which run in parallel, working a few days per month for different organisations.  It could be Monday doing some mentoring work within a school with new and inexperienced management; Tuesday carrying out an ongoing review of a school in category’s processes for the Local Authority; Wednesday helping prepare the education aspects of a new school bid, maybe Thursday pursuing a personal project etc. Or you may develop a serial portfolio, with 3 months spent on a task and complete project or a term or two spent helping turn around a school in special measures with as long as you want off in between such assignments.

It’s not without its downside though – you do need to be sure how much money you need to feel secure and cover your commitments and you need to know that you can generate enough assignments to meet this.  You will need to set yourself up as self-employed and maintain appropriate records. You will need a high level of organisation, efficient systems to track where you are with multiple responsibilities and will need to be able to juggle competing deadlines and priorities. But that’s no more than you’ve had to deal with as a school leader and there is plenty of help available with the mechanics of the process.

You can see organisations such as Educate as your career agent who can set you up with your next assignment or the variety of different opportunities you want. We help you utilise your time effectively,  handle the financial negotiations, remind you of your commitments and help with all the administration, leaving you to get on with what you do best.

So, as an accomplished school leader, the next stage of your career can prove an interesting journey.