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What Schools Need from their Subject Leads

May 3, 2019, 6:50 GMT+1
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  • Clare Elson examines the qualities and attributes SLTs should be looking for in the individuals chosen to lead on specific subjects...
What Schools Need from their Subject Leads

Subject leads help to coordinate and drive outcomes with a specific area of focus. According to Ofsted’s 2019 draft inspection framework, inspections from September will include a ‘quality of education’ judgement.

This means that subject leads will need a clear understanding of their school’s curriculum intent (‘what are we trying to achieve?’), implementation (‘how is our curriculum being developed?’) and impact (‘what difference is our curriculum making?’).

When allocating subject lead roles to teachers, it’s obviously important that each subject be matched to your staff’s skills and interests. Speaking from experience, having a passion for their subject role will help teachers take ownership of it and drive their efforts forward.

My first subject leadership role was in art. I went on to lead maths for 10 years while being a SENCo, and have also led on science, D&T, and history. Overall, I’d say I had more success in raising the profile of arts in the school – I may have led maths for many years, but not with quite the same level of confidence.

Subject leads must possess a solid grasp of their area across all year groups, not just the one they teach, and a have a good understanding of the quality of teaching across their school. Providing effective feedback to colleagues and helping them to deliver outstanding teaching, will, after all, require a secure knowledge of all aspects of your subject.

It’s also important that subject leads possess good organisational skills, since a clear action plan with key objectives and success criteria – one consistent with the school improvement plan – will be vital for leading improvements. With budget allocations usually planned at the start of the financial year, subject leads will have to keep track of when observations, learning walks, book looks and other activities will be taking place. Subject leaders need to know what their subject’s teaching looks like in day-to-day practice, and will therefore schedule regular monitoring visits to gauge the school’s relative strengths and identify next steps for CPD and improving pupil outcomes.

At Roebuck Academy we now work in faculty teams to lead our subjects, which has enabled us to monitor the strengths of all staff and develop more effective subject leads.

When asked what she looks for in a potential subject leader, our headteacher, Lynsey Young, says “Above all, I look for someone with passion, enthusiasm, dedication and a relentless pursuit for their chosen subject. Subject leadership isn’t easy – a subject leader has to be trusted to drive their subject forward through a consistent approach, so that colleagues have a clear understanding of the direction in which they’re headed.

“Your vision will be important, as will your understanding of where you want the subject to go. You also need to be clear as to how you intend to communicate these to colleagues, in order to ensure that your aims are ultimately realised.”

Clare Elson is a teacher at Roebuck Academy.