subject leader in primary schools

Ten Top Tips for Being an Effective Subject Leader in a Primary School

There are a few different routes into subject leadership. You may be a subject leader because you have a passion for that subject, a wealth of experience in that curriculum area and your higher qualifications are in that subject. Or you may be the subject leader because you were the last one into the staff meeting when the roles were given out. And no one else wanted music. Or you may be a teacher in a small school, balancing four or five subject ‘hats’ whilst teaching a mixed-age class.

Whatever your route and exact role I’ve tried to come up with a subject leader’s ten top tips (as this seems to be the traditional number with these sorts of articles).

So, in no particular order, here are ten tips for being an effective subject leader in a primary school…

  1. Plan your monitoring cycle for the year now. Right now. Well maybe finish reading this first, but then do it. We know time flies by once the children are back. Put the key dates in the diary for when you will be monitoring your subject.
  2. Try to incorporate a range of monitoring techniques. You’ll be following school policy and practice, but try to include book scrutiny, talking with children, learning walks, etc. to gain a full and rounded view of what teaching, learning and outcomes look like in your subject.
  3. Consider these questions. How do you know what progression in key skills, knowledge and understanding look like through the age range of your school? Try putting a sample of children’s work out on a long table from the youngest to oldest year groups. Is progression clear? Why? Are there any gaps or overlaps between year groups?
  4. Don’t forget Early Years if you teach an older year group and the school has Early Years children. You are the subject leader throughout the school. The subject may be called something else with the little ones, but they’ll be doing it or getting ready to do it. Find out about the curriculum and attainment on entry and attainment by the time the children leave. How does this fit with the rest of the school?
  5. Prioritise the limited time you have to fulfil the subject leader role. What will really impact the children’s outcomes? Anything else can wait - maybe indefinitely.
  6. Promote your subject. Not in an ‘in-your-face-every-staff-meeting’ kind of way, but mention the good practice occasionally, let colleagues know you’d like to share some great aspect of their work and make sure the children know that your subject is valued through display, rewards and celebration.
  7. Check colleagues are confident and comfortable with curriculum content for the coming year, especially if they have moved into a new year group. Have they got the resources they need? Have they seen what the children did last year so they can get the starting points right? Do they have any CPD needs? Do they have some really good practice to share perhaps?
  8. Monitor the application of basic skills in foundation subjects. Beware the ’12 o’clock drop’ in standards i.e. how does children’s work in their English book or maths book compare with work in their geography or science books?
  9. They say it’s lonely at the top, but it can be lonely in the middle too. So join a subject association and make links with other subject leaders in your MAT, LA or in other settings nearby. Share good ideas and keep up-to-date with research and best practice. And ask for support when you need it.
  10. Ask the children what they think about your subject. They are smart and they tell it how it is. They will tell you what helps them learn in a subject and they will tell you what they don’t understand or enjoy. Use this information wisely.

Continue the conversation on subject leadership in primary schools…

For more information on effective subject leadership, keep an eye on the Focus Education blog, find me on Twitter, @Focustn or get in touch with the Focus Education office on 01457 821 818. If you would like to enquire about inset consultancy within your school, get in touch via our booking form.

Resources for Subject Leaders

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