New Subject Leaders – What they wish they’d known in September last year

New Subject Leaders – What they wish they’d known in September last year

So, as we get to the end of another school year, and one in which much of my time has been spent working with subject leaders, I thought I would share some of the comments made by those new to the role as they reflect on what they have learned and what they wish they had known this time last year.

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Most schools do provide effective support and guidance for subject leaders as they first step into the role, but senior leaders might find the quotes and paraphrased quotes below useful when planning from September.

(I have selected these for their typicality and left out the more individualistic and downright odd to protect the parties involved.)

  • “I had no idea how to order resources or what my budget was. People told me they needed things in my subject, and I didn’t know how that all worked.”
  • “I’d never done a book-look before, but history was scheduled early in the year and I was just supposed to get on with it I think, until the deputy realised and said they would do it with me.”
  • “We have phase leaders as well as subject leaders and I didn’t know whether they were in charge or if something was mine to sort out as subject leader. It was never explained, but they’d been here for ages, so I guessed it was them in the end?”
  • “We could book non-contact time for subject leader work and had to ask the Deputy when we wanted to book it to see if that was okay. Other people knew what they wanted to do, but I was left to get on with it. I didn’t know where to start really.”
  • “Giving feedback to colleagues was scary! It would have been helpful to do this with someone else.”
  • “I hadn’t really thought about my subject in Early Years, just Y1 through to Y6. It was a bit of a shock in the Spring when the curriculum leader asked me what I knew about my subject in EYFS. I hadn’t thought I covered that too.”
  • “I was shown the tracking system and told to look at the data, and check if there were any issues. But I didn’t know what to look for really.”
  • “We were told the governors would be visiting and there was a governor for my subject who would meet with me. It was fine, but I hadn’t been told what they wanted or what they were going to ask. We ended up going for a learning walk and I told them about the subject around the school. I don’t know if that’s what they wanted – they weren’t too sure either.”
  • “I was shown other subject leaders’ action plans as examples of how to do mine, but they were really different from each other even though they used the same format. I needed a WAGOLL!”
  • “I found out about the subject association and joined and there was a cluster group starting up for my subject, but I found out about this from a friend in another school. Leaders in my school didn’t tell me about these.”
  • “Don’t tell the head I said this, but she definitely thinks some subjects are more important than others. I’ve started at the bottom.”

As I said above, the support for subject leaders, especially those new to the role, is often highly effective. But perhaps one or two of these quotes have given you food for thought as you plan subject leader development from September. And if our paths meet on a training course or in a school, please do ask me about the examples I haven’t included, especially if you need cheering up…

Useful publication – Subject Leadership Range

This fully updated range of publications is designed to help subject leaders in Primary schools in light of the 2019 Ofsted focus on Intent, Implementation and Impact of a broad and balanced curriculum.

Click here to see lots more resources for subject leaders

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