Friday 14 November 2014

Developing Subject Leadership

The school where I teach was put into Requires Improvement in February 2013. One of the areas that required improvement was subject leadership. As a team of staff we worked extremely hard on this and the school was awarded 'Good' when OfSted revisited in June 2014. In this inspection, the team commented on the strength of our subject leadership. I'd like to share a few ways in which we set about improving the effectiveness of our subject leadership.

As a staff team, we decided on some key tasks that would make our subject leadership more effective with the main focus always being how to raise standards in our subjects.

1. Attending Local Cluster Meetings - luckily there are 6 primary schools within a short distance of our school. This enabled us to meet termly to discuss and share ideas. These meetings were not attended by headteachers which allowed staff to speak freely. They proved extremely useful as we were able to set our own agendas, focussing on what we needed most.

2. Regular and robust monitoring - All our coordinators undertook regular monitoring of outcomes in their subject. We didn't bother monitoring planning (what's the point?) or doing lesson observations (again, what's the point?). Where standards were good or better, that staff member will not be monitored for an extended period of time. Where there is an issue, follow up monitoring focusing only on the specific issue takes place 2 weeks later. This was difficult for some staff at first but soon became easier when the realisation that it was happening in all subjects, dawned.

3. Improving our own subject knowledge and knowledge of good practice in the subject we were leading. As subject leaders, we took it upon ourselves to seek out ways to improve subject knowledge and practice e.g. OfSted subject pages, subject association memberships, becoming active on Twitter. The cluster meetings also helped with this.

4. Interviewing children about our subjects. This provided valuable information and changed the way many staff approached the teaching of some subjects.

5. Closer examination of in-school data - this was most relevant for Maths and English Coordinators. We use a data tracking system called iTrack which as coordinators we had to become very familiar with this. It raised lots of questions that could then be investigated by coordinators. Termly analysis of such data enabled coordinators to have a clear picture of standards in their subject across the school.

6. Raising the profile of our subjects - as coordinators, we worked hard to find opportunities to enrich the curriculum. For example, our Art coordinator organised for an artist to come in and work with our Year 6 children, with excellent results. Our Science coordinator achieved PSQM Gold in only one year. Our school has recently won a national award for its international links.

7. Useful action planning - We limited our subject action plans to one side of A4 (with the exception of Maths and English). This was to make sure they were focussed, manageable documents that could be reviewed quickly as the year progressed. The objectives for these was decided from the previous year's subject report. The action plan would then be used to devise a calendar of actions for the year. This ensured that we were undertaking regular coordinator activity. As we worked on leading our subjects, we kept activity logs. This meant that when OfSted talked to coordinators, they had lots of evidence to draw on and the conversation was often led by the coordinator rather than the inspector.

There is no magic answer as there never is in our job. However, starting with some of the things mentioned above will help to make an impact.

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