CPD Week looks at how professional learning might support staff goals and aspirations for moving onwards and upwards in their career

Being ready isn’t enough; you have to be prepared for a promotion or any other significant change.
Pat Riley

Applying yourself

While it could be good, in a way, for schools to grow their own talent and nurture it through the years, with little wastage along the way, the fact is that movement of staff between schools is very positive for the profession as a whole. It is a way to kick-start progress across the profession, push fresh boundaries and re-invigorate staff.

One potential role for professional learning leaders in schools is to support those who are going for promotion or change both within and outside the school; this is, after all, part of development as a whole.

If you are in the position of supporting colleagues through application processes as part of their professional and personal development, these ideas will help.

  • Most applications require some kind of supporting statement. While it seems that many applicants seek a short-cut for these (it’s amazing how many read as though they were generic statements rather than being crafted specifically for the job being applied for), it’s essential that each one is original and creative, drawing closely on the person specification for the job. That is what will make short-listing panels feel that the applicant actually wants that job, rather than any job that will get them out of where they are now! It may take much longer to do this, which isn’t easy when there are so many other demands on applicants’ time, but it really is essential if the application is to avoid the bin in the first round of selection! This part of the application is the best opportunity applicants have, outside an actual interview, to convince the prospective employer that they are perfect for the job.
  • It’s essential that applications show applicants in the most positive light. That means allowing skills, expertise and experience to shine through, and leaving development needs to one side for the moment. Those doing the short-listing will make their own assessments of what they perceive to be development needs and no doubt these will be raised during any interview process. The task of the applicant is to promote the positive, realistically, backed up with evidence.
  • A major part of what applicants convey in their applications is their unique suitability for the role. Perhaps it is human nature, but many of us find it very difficult to identify our unique selling points and, when we do, we invariably miss out what others perceive to be uniquely positive about us. Some schools support applicants by offering the opportunity for talking to a trusted colleague, confidentially if necessary, about their unique selling points in a professional dialogue where modesty has no place! This will help applicants to offer not only the range of skills that the new job requires but also others linked to their unique experience.
  • It is helpful for applicants to get their applications checked over before they send them off. It is not feasible to expect one person to do this for all staff but it may be that a confidential professional buddy system could spread the load and achieve a ‘critical friend’ role most effectively.

The overall aim is for school staff to move between schools at a time that is most appropriate to them, in a way that is most constructive. Although time-consuming, the application process is a way to gather skills, experience and expertise and it can help to identify whether a change of schools is, in fact, the most appropriate direction for the applicant.

This e-bulletin issue was first published in March 2009

About the author: Elizabeth Holmes qualified as a teacher at the Institute of Education, London and is the author of several books specialising in the areas of professional development and teacher well-being.