Subject leadership

28th April 2000 at 01:00
EFFECTIVE SUBJECT LEADERSHIP. By Kit Field, Phil Holden and Hugh Lawlor. Routledge. pound;16.99

This is a challenging and instructive book, based on the Teacher Training Agency National Standards for subject leaders, that will encourage heads of department and subject co-ordinators to reflect on their practice.

It aims to "promote a greater understanding and application of leadership and management concepts and practices" and challenges subject leaders to influence the school improvement process and raise pupil attainment.

There are sections on subject leadership, strategic planning, teaching and learning, leading and managing staff and finally, effective use of resources - these correspond to the four national standards for subject leadership. The final section reviews recent initiatives.

The section on strategic planning is excellent. It outlines a 10-point plan to argue for the purpose and place of a subject in the curriculum. "When the image of the vision becomes stronger we can find amazing amounts of energy to achieve the new state." Heads of department will find this a powerful strategy for change.

There are practical suggestions to formulate a vision, to plan, implement and evaluate change. Teachers are encouraged to take ownership of the issues and seek solutions. Dynamic group activities encurage assessment of the school's strengths and weaknesses, identifying positive and negative influences and listing priorities. These activities should stimulate discussion about school improvement.

Gestalt psychology is used to explain how the sub-conscious can be used to change the teaching environment to match the vision. This approach suggests that when our view of reality differs from the vision, we strive to reduce the mismatch. In other words, we straighten a tilted picture. This shared vision empowers all teachers to find the solution to the mismatch. The greater the gap between reality and the vision, the greater the effort and motivation. When things are going wrong, it is worth asking if there is a clear shared vision, or not.

At times of rapid change, new initiatives can be seen as distracting. In a useful analysis of how to identify and provide for training needs, emphasis is placed on reflecting why and how initiatives are implemented. Teachers are also learners and should use this point to improve their teaching and effectiveness in the classroom.

This is a worthwhile book and valuable reading for aspiring heads of department. I expect several ideas will emerge in future departmental meetings at my school.

Greg Hart Greg Hart is deputy head of Myrtle Springs school, Sheffield

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