Lessons in ambition as more teachers aim for the top

Mr Chips says 'goodbye' and it's hello 'Waterloo Road' as thousands aspire to the head's job

The old image of teachers with leather patches on their elbows, happy to stay in the classroom is, it seems, a thing of the past. Teachers in the 21st century are an altogether more ambitious breed – anxious to get to the top job, according to research to be published tomorrow. It shows a 19 per cent increase in the numbers wanting to become heads in just the past year.

If the findings of the survey are mirrored across the country, that would mean 180,000 teachers seeking one of the 27,500 school headship posts in the country. One in 10 expects to achieve their ambition in three years.

So it may be a case of Goodbye Mr Chips, the elderly Latin scholar of the film of that name who only reluctantly became head in wartime, and hello Max from the BBC 1 series Waterloo Road, a go-getting "superhead" fired with ambition to turn a school round.

The research also shows that teachers as a body are more ambitious than those working in the private sector – with 41 per cent of them coveting a leadership role compared with just 31 per cent of those working in industry.

Those hungriest for the top job are teachers aged between 30 and 44, where nearly 49 per cent are aiming high. However, the biggest increase in the percentage showing ambition is in those aged between 45 and 54 – where the percentage has risen 48 per cent in a year.

The findings have come in time to defuse a demographic time bomb which means large numbers of teachers in their late fifties are due to retire in the next few years.

The rise in ambition has already had an effect on filling headship vacancies – the number of posts that have had to be re-advertised has fallen during the past year, according to researchers.

The research has been carried out by pollsters ICM for the newly set-up National College of Leadership for Schools and Children's Services, which says part of the reason may be the fact there are now courses available for training would-be heads that lead to a professional headship qualification. The percentage wanting to become heads is the highest in the three years the college has been surveying teachers.

Another factor, argue some, could be that the teaching profession is recruiting some of the brightest graduates who would otherwise have gone into industry but for the recession.

Asked their reasons for seeking headships, the majority of teachers (55 per cent) spoke of the examples of good leadership they had seen in heads they have served under. Other reasons were "being able to influence children's lives for the better" (40 per cent) and the job being "well respected" (32 per cent).

John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, which represents secondary school headteachers, said: "Headship is an immensely rewarding job. There are very few professions outside school leadership where one person can make a tangible difference to so many children's lives on a daily basis. I am very pleased that more teachers are aspiring to leadership positions."

Steve Munby, chief executive of the National College, added: "The development of the next generation of heads is of paramount importance. We know headship is challenging but rewarding, and it's encouraging to see so many teachers wanting to make a difference to the lives of children and young people."

A classroom career: 'Every day is different'

Sue Walker is in the age group that has seen the sharpest rise in the percentage of teachers wanting to become heads – 45- to 54-year-olds. She had just returned from looking round a school with a headship vacancy when I spoke to her.

"It's a lovely school and I'd like to put in an application," said Sue, 50, who is currently teaching at West Alverton Church of England primary school, Devon.

"Why wouldn't you want to be a head?" she said. "Every day is different and it's just so exciting to see pupils progress in their learning."

Sue admits she did not always want to be a head. "It's only in the last five years – I'd say – that I've wanted to." She has studied for and obtained a profession headship qualification.

"I think one of the reasons is the openness you get from heads who are now working, who encourage staff to apply," she said. "It is not just management and paper shuffling. I think it is seen as a good role to have. I'd like to become a head very soon."

Richard Garner

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment
booksPhotographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years - but he says it wasn’t all fun and games...
News
i100
Sport
Aguero - who single-handedly has kept City's Champions League dreams alive - celebrates his dramatic late winner
footballManchester City 3 Bayern Munich 2: Argentine's late hat-rick sees home side snatch vital victory
News
Muhammad Ali pictured in better health in 2006
peopleBut he has enjoyed publicity from his alleged near-death experience
Arts and Entertainment
Tony breaks into Ian Garrett's yacht and makes a shocking discovery
TVReview: Revelations continue to make this drama a tough watch
News
news
News
peopleSinger tells The Independent what life is like in rehab in an exclusive video interview
News
The assumption that women are not as competent in leadership positions as men are leads to increased stress in the workplace
science... and it's down to gender stereotypes
Arts and Entertainment
Inner sanctum: Tove Jansson and friends in her studio in 1992
booksWhat was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Singer songwriter Bob Dylan performs on stage
films
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Education

Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor

£30000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent: Austen Lloyd: Employment Solicitor - Ke...

Ashdown Group: HR Generalist - 2 week contract - £200pd - Immediate start

£200 per day: Ashdown Group: Working within a business that has a high number ...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Maths Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: We are currently recruiting f...

Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher

£100 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cardiff: Science Teacher -Full Time - ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Drifting and forgotten - turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: Turning lives around for ex-soldiers

Our partner charities help veterans on the brink – and get them back on their feet
Putin’s far-right ambition: Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU

Putin’s far-right ambition

Think-tank reveals how Russian President is wooing – and funding – populist parties across Europe to gain influence in the EU
Tove Jansson's Moominland: What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?

Escape to Moominland

What was the inspiration for Finland's most famous family?
Nightclubbing with Richard Young: The story behind his latest book of celebrity photographs

24-Hour party person

Photographer Richard Young has been snapping celebrities at play for 40 years. As his latest book is released, he reveals that it wasn’t all fun and games
Michelle Obama's school dinners: America’s children have a message for the First Lady

A taste for rebellion

US children have started an online protest against Michelle Obama’s drive for healthy school meals by posting photos of their lunches
Colouring books for adults: How the French are going crazy for Crayolas

Colouring books for adults

How the French are going crazy for Crayolas
Jack Thorne's play 'Hope': What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

What would you do as a local politician faced with an impossible choice of cuts?

Playwright Jack Thorne's latest work 'Hope' poses the question to audiences
Ed Harcourt on Romeo Beckham and life as a court composer at Burberry

Call me Ed Mozart

Paloma Faith, Lana del Ray... Romeo Beckham. Ed Harcourt has proved that he can write for them all. But it took a personal crisis to turn him from indie star to writer-for-hire
10 best stocking fillers for foodies

Festive treats: 10 best stocking fillers for foodies

From boozy milk to wasabi, give the food-lover in your life some extra-special, unusual treats to wake up to on Christmas morning
Phil Hughes head injury: He had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Phil Hughes had one weakness – it has come back to haunt him

Prolific opener had world at his feet until Harmison and Flintoff bounced him
'I have an age of attraction that starts as low as four': How do you deal with a paedophile who has never committed a crime?

'I am a paedophile'

Is our approach to sex offenders helping to create more victims?
How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

How bad do you have to be to lose a Home Office contract?

Serco given Yarl’s Wood immigration contract despite ‘vast failings’
Green Party on the march in Bristol: From a lost deposit to victory

From a lost deposit to victory

Green Party on the march in Bristol
Putting the grot right into Santa's grotto

Winter blunderlands

Putting the grot into grotto
'It just came to us, why not do it naked?' London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital

'It just came to us, why not do it naked?'

London's first nude free runner captured in breathtaking images across capital