Becoming a First Line Manager

Written by Gillian Harvey, a freelance writer and columnist who is regularly published in women’s lifestyle titles, as well as Guardian newspaper and other national press outlets.

Once you have gained teaching experience, you may begin to look at ways in which you can progress your career, perhaps aspiring towards a managerial role. But what skills do you need as a first line manager?


Management skills

As a lecturer you should already be demonstrating many of the management skills required. “With further education (FE) you are balancing academic subjects and vocational subjects, employability skills and access to job opportunities. Teachers have to work to support students in their goals – either employment or higher education. By catering for a range of needs and adapting their approach, teachers are already demonstrating management skills,” explains Sabeena Shah, Curriculum Leader for Access and Adult Provision at Barking and Dagenham College.


Completing a self-audit

In order to develop your role, you need to demonstrate a degree of self-awareness. Before you consider your training and development needs, it is important you identify your starting point – where you currently are – and consider what you need in order to progress. This may even be something you have covered as part of the appraisal process.

Questions to consider:

  • What skills do you currently have?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?

To help you with this process, the Education and Training Foundation (ETF) has developed a self assessment tool enabling users to carry out a self-assessment of their knowledge, skills and understanding against the Professional Standards. The tool supports users in creating a CPD plan outlining further areas for development.

  • In order to plan specifically for your own development, you may also need to consider:
  • What is your chosen management area? Are there any other areas you could consider?
  • What opportunities are likely to be available to you within my current institution?

What are the barriers to career progression (for example, few opportunities, competition, lack of qualifications) and how might you overcome these?


Soft skills

As well as expertise relating to your specific role, you will need to develop:

Effective communication skills: As a manager, you will need to liaise with staff in a variety of roles. Being able to communicate with and relate to members of your team will be essential.

Organisational skills: You are likely to have a teaching workload in addition to your new responsibilities. Being able to organise your time effectively is essential if you are to perform both roles effectively.


In-depth knowledge

In addition to developing effective communication and organisational skills, you will also need to develop in-depth knowledge of your specific area of responsibility. For example, as a course team leader you will need to ensure you are up-to-date on the latest research and guidance in your particular area. You may also be able to take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of more experienced colleagues, or contacts in other educational establishments.


Additional experience

When preparing yourself for a managerial role, you may need to gain experience in areas for which you have no particular experience currently. This could involve offering to assist current managers with some of their daily responsibilities, shadowing and observing those in a managerial role, or attending departmental or other relevant meetings to gain insight.


Support and guidance

Most institutions will be happy to offer support for those wishing to broaden their

horizons. It's worth speaking to your line manager about mentoring opportunities within your establishment.

You may also want to consider taking advantage of the following services:

  • SET's mentoring service and online Introduction to Mentoring Programme, as well as face-to-face network meetings and access to SET's online forums.
  • Access to SET's online research library - powered by EBSCO - comprising a journal collection of more than 1,300 education journals, 530 e-books and monographs and 2,300 education-related conference papers.
  • The Professional Standards Research Map, which is a tool linking to articles and summaries for the 20 Professional Standards, enabling users to effectively access relevant information.

CPD needs

Having carried out your self-audit, and identified areas you need to address, you now need to consider any opportunities for formal training.

CPD opportunities may vary, but institutions recognise the value of enhancing staff skills and understanding through additional training. In addition to longer-term management courses, there are many online webinars and courses that are flexible and easy to access and cover subjects, such as digital and data management and leadership skills.


Further information

The Excellence in Leadership, Management and Governance (ELMAG) portal, commissioned by The Education and Training Foundation, is a hub of information drawing together information on opportunities for leadership and management development, including peer support, structured programmes, resources and assessment tools.

ELMAG has developed a course finder to enable users to identify relevant training opportunities.

Information about online courses can be accessed at Foundation Online Learning.

FE Advice provides an information and advice service for those working within the sector.