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My learning experiences - transitioning to senior management

12 Jan 2021 | Ruth Seabrook Making the transition from Head of Partnership to a senior leadership role for the Secondary PGCE programme at the University of Roehampton, Ruth Seabrook shares her thoughts on Advance HE's Transition to Leadership course she attended and the benefits gained since.

Having recently taken on a more senior role in the programme, I discussed the possibility of doing some additional CPD to assist with the move into senior management. The Advance HE course was suggested and having looked at the content and having now gone through the programme I think it was one of the best courses I have been on, but more importantly one that was very flexible (especially as half way through we went into lockdown and it went virtual) and moulded to suit each person’s requirements.

One of the main reasons I liked the course was that the participants were from a huge variety of universities all doing very disparate roles and with only a couple of us actually in teacher education. This meant that whilst you had similar backgrounds in higher education you couldn’t focus in on the minute details of your own sphere of experience but were challenged and inspired by others who had very different practices and challenges to you. This allowed much broader and insightful discussion, allowed access to wider spheres of experience and therefore much more learning potential.

Whilst we were able to meet up in London, there were very rich discussions able to take place both within the confines of the course but also during breaks, which really added to the quality of the experiences. Once lockdown happened we continued with this via webinars and although it was different, the experience was still very valuable.

One of the most insightful aspects of the course for me personally was the initial coaching session that we took an active part in and one person volunteered to be coached. I had always thought I had a good grasp on coaching, delivering mentor training, but my eyes were truly opened to the power of coaching versus mentoring in the demonstration. I was truly astonished how, with so little knowledge of the person, background and problem, and only a few measured questions, the coach had enabled them to discuss fully the problem, come up with potential outcomes and a solution to the problem within ten minutes.

I integrated elements of this into our training, for example emotional intelligence (Goleman 1998), which has been very well received by mentors, who sometimes struggle with mentor/mentee relationships and want more form training than just the procedural gumph.

Some of the activities we undertook allowed deep reflection, looking at our own management styles, our personality traits, how we influence and lead others.

Some of the activities like the Institutional challenge project really helped to focus my thoughts and fit around our strategic plan for the new Ofsted Education Inspection Framework (EIF) the new Early Career framework (ECF) for newly qualified teachers (NQTs) and the new Core Curriculum Framework, all new to ITE and in the process of being rolled out across the country. I was able to focus time on this, discuss with managers and carefully think strategically about these could be implemented and how we mapped out the Curriculum.

Without the spotlight on this in the course I think our implementation could have lacked focus and been much less successful – Obviously we await the Ofsted feedback on this!

I really welcomed the readings, with supplementary resources for wider participation. I made the time (and you really must) to engage with this and other resources given, which helped to deepen understanding and I felt well prepared for the meetings, discussions and able to make the most from each session.

An outcome from the course was to join our Senior Leadership group, where strategic planning, the business plan and other really interesting aspects are discussed at a much higher level. I feel ready now to take the next step and this could work for you too. Now, before I ask a member of our team to do something, I think about my tone, the activity and how I should approach them. I try to support and encourage more and lead in a manner that I would like to be led. I have always thought of myself as supportive but taking the time to reflect on this has been worth its weight in gold. (Goleman 2000)

The course leaders were superb, very approachable, willing to be flexible and very engaging in their delivery, using humour and real-life situations to make elements of the course very realistic – especially in lockdown.

If you are looking at gaining exposure to coaching, discussing real world management and leadership challenges and hoping to take a look at your inner self – then this is the course for you.


Ruth Seabrook is Principal Teaching Fellow, Senior Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (HEA) and Head of Partnership for the Secondary PGCE at Roehampton University. Her background is in Design and Technology Education and she has written chapters for several books on aspects of this and mentoring. She has worked with a number of other Universities as guest lecturer on PGCE programmes, External Examiner and works closely with SCITT and SD Providers of ITE.


Goleman. D. (1998)  What makes a leader? IQ and Technical Skills are Important, but Emotional Intelligence is ‘The Sine Qua Non’ of Leadership. Harvard Business Review pp93-102

Goleman D. (2000) Leadership That Gets Results Harvard Business School Pub Myers Briggs Foundation

Transition to Leadership will explore your personal leadership, your team leadership and your change leadership style. By understanding your own resilience and how you can influence and inspire others you will learn new approaches to manage difficult situations and enable institutional change to happen. Find out more and book your place here.


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