After while in the profession (a while being a three years methinks) many teachers will seriously be considering where their career is heading. It is easy to forget even a new TLR is a small % of a teacher’s pay but it’s not so much the money it’s the status and the next rung of a ladder. So if you are thinking about being a Head of a Department here are some reasons why you definitely should do so :
You are going to be helping others, not just the NQT or PGCE students but your own colleagues. In fact all of them young and old; enthusiastic and grumbly (and sometimes both) nothing better than helping though.likewise children, you might be HoD but you will be helping children, your classes and other classes.
You might be able to pick and choose the courses for your curriculum subject. You are too sensible to change everything all at once but in the nature of education, changes will come and instead of being told what to do, you can do the telling. But you won’t make any quick decision, you’ll do the research, the thinking and the presenting of options and then consult, listen and get to a decision you are confident about and as for colleagues, for the most will agree with you and then run alongside you. Don’t contemplate the alternative.
You will have a few new challenges, the awkward member of staff, the supply teacher needing work and needing to find their way around your Dept. Oh and you’ve been teaching long enough to know it happens on the day you already have a lot on – welcome to the world of HoD.
You will have a budget and you don’t want it overspent as a shiny new HoD but you want to hear those pupils saying ” that helped us to learn using ….” in your lessons and you want it to make a difference to staff and hear they are pleased. Oh and the odd parent who will pass praise too.
You will have to learn to use data. You might be good with your own data but you move on now from concern about the data for your classes to the data for the subject, and teasing out what that data and other stuff means. This opportunity, like others will need a mentor and coach and someone senior to help. A new and closer relationship which can be a great spur in your career.
You will probably be doing appraisals and certainly observations and expected to support and challenge in a professional way. this is a great way to help maintain and raise standards. But also something of a warning here, with responsiblity comes accountability. So think how you will use all the tools ( data, observations, work scrutiny, your educational nowse and your own methodology etc) to hold yourself and then others to that account. Do it in the nicest way, because you will know the staff (soon) and who (a) does the job and worries or (b) who doesnt do the job and seems not to care. You might have to sort a colleague through a difficult patch personal or professional, whatever the crisis your school needs those children taught, your input is invaluable.
You might well feel the need for some added training, you have probably learnt what not to do from some people but knowing what to do isn’t easy. Pick your CPD carefully and plan with a senior colleague over a few years, you can’t expect to be the finished HoD at the end of the first term. Spot or seek those other great middle leaders and get some coaching from them.
You get to do some innovative things, but check out which will work, do your research, do some pilots or trials and in this you’ll learn the art of delegation, but do not use that phrase “it will be good for your career”! Teachers know when they are being dumped on, treat them as intelligent beings, not as daft pupils. In fact learning to treat colleagues properly is a vital and lifegiving aspect of this new job.
You’ll get some surprises – make sure they are not critical by checking your systems. Entered for the right exams, studying the right spec, doing the correct texts. Yes, you will need to start “checking up” on colleagues maybe an unexpected call from a parent for good or for ill. You will also need to expand your own repertoire – you might not have taught SEND pupils or the whole Y13 course, or spoken with governors.
You will get some “influence” which is , in fact, all that leaders really have. So lets say some new idea comes along ( and can be from lots of places DfE, government, TES, a book, a blog, SLT etc) will you embrace it fully? will you ignore it fully? Assuming it’s not statutory, how will you work out what to do with this apparently clever initiative?
you get to lead meetings! Ha, you recall how you have moaned about those meetings full of business, or boringly wasting time? well you are in charge now. You want them to be focussed, upbeat, short? Great that’s your call but “stuff” has to be done – after school meetings, INSET time, twilights. Of course with a boot on other foot, you now also attend meetings. My advice: watch and learn. ( check my blogpost wednesday period 6)
One tiny warning if you move schools as a HoD I think it’s one of the most tricky moves in education, expectations will be high and it’s a whole new school with new systems and new children. Plan to be gentle on yourself, take as much time as you can to learn about the children and show you can teach, then bring on the HoD stuff.
I think it’s a great role in school, the start of a wider influence (Middle leader) and learning to manage and lead a team. You become a role model, you’ll probably attend middle leader meetings and in time be expected to contribute, to the direction of travel for your school, appointing colleagues, working with governors, solving problems and maybe defending your subject and considering wider school issues you had never considered. You might get a bit more money, a new title and a small corner for an office. Oh and you’ll soon see why senior leaders think of middle leaders as the engine room of the school.Go for it.
Instutute of Education London on middle leaders
Teaching leaders on Why middle leadership?
The Guardian Making the most of idlle leaders to drive change in school
National Professional Qualification for Middle Leadership (NPQML)
Sec-Ed Three keys to middle leadership
From Professional development: leadership for learning for middle leaders
5 thoughts on “8YBA Head of Department”
Reblogged this on The Echo Chamber.
Thanks for this, John.
I also wrote this for the Guardian Teacher Network: ‘Stepping up: what makes a great Head of Department’ if it’s of any use/interest to anyone reading this post.
Thank you Jill. Very helpful link. Keeping adding to this site via staff interviews and guest blogs.
Three years is quite a short amount of time to start applying for Head of Department positions though I would say. Start by taking on some smaller responsibilities and master those before going straight in for the kill. It is not something that needs or should be rushed.
I think you make a good point, I might rewrite that bit to rebalance. More along lines of don’t start thinking about it before three years. Your point to pick up small tasks is well made. However in some schools recruitment and retention issues might cause a “needs must” over appointments, not ideal but of necessity. Thanks for taking trouble to comment, appreciated.