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25th April 2008 at 01:00
Becoming head of department brings a new set of pressures

Becoming head of department brings a new set of pressures. The paperwork, in particular, can be a real shock. It's important to prioritise and decide what needs doing immediately, what needs doing in the short-term, and what can wait a little longer.

The same is true of delegation. You have to make clear decisions about which responsibilities you can pass on to others. Get those decisions right and you take the pressure off yourself. Get them wrong and life can be more stressful than ever.

This course is full of useful tips, such as using the autumn to prepare banks of cover lessons, so that you're well prepared when December comes and staff start falling sick. There is also good advice about supporting colleagues. As a new head of department you can sometimes be overcritical when observing lessons. You feel under pressure to find something to say, and so you end up going over the top.

Despite the hassles, I love running a department. There's nothing more satisfying than putting your stamp on things. I've been pushing the idea of pupils assessing their own work and that's been a big success. Even if you take over a well-run department, there's always something you can improve on.

Kate Sweeney is head of art at Aldridge School in Walsall, West Midlands. She was talking to Steven Hastings.

The details

The New Head of Department is run by Mill Wharf, an education training consultancy. It takes place in Leeds on June 27 and London on July 1. Cost pound;195. For details go to and click on leadership development.

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