Take a broader view

16th September 2005 at 01:00
Under the threshold: More tips on how to run a department

Is everything ready?

Your department needs to be ready at any time for inspection; internally or externally. Self-evaluation is now the central part of inspection, so you must be confident in identifying your strengths and weaknesses. You must have evidence to hand to show that you meet the criteria required by the inspection. Although you may not give direct input to the school's self-evaluation form, the evidence you provide will be a basis it.

The idea behind the form is that a school does not have to run around when an inspection is announced, trying to find evidence for everything. A continually self-evaluating process means that inspectors can walk in at any time and have to hand the evidence needed to make a judgment.

Keeping up to date with recent initiatives and implementing them is important. With areas that you know need to be developed, you must be able to show how you will address them.

Don't be shy of highlighting your department's achievements to whoever is inspecting or reviewing it. They may miss some important areas that you have worked on unless you point them out.

Throughout the inspection, try to remember that teaching isn't just about conveying subject knowledge, and leading a department isn't just about completing the paperwork. To quote the latest initiative, every child really does matter. It can be so easy to get bogged down with policies, handbooks, performance- management, etc, and to forget that our ultimate aim is prove that, above all, each individual child in our care gets the broad spectrum of education and skills that they are entitled to, providing them with the best possible chance of success in their future. Always keep this in mind.

Sharing good practice

An effective school should share good practice. Offer to share resources with other departments wherever possible. If you are confident, offer colleagues the chance to come and watch your lessons. If you have an advanced skills teacher, they should be a useful conduit for enabling the sharing of resources.

Get involved in staff in-service training. Choose one of your departmental strengths and offer to do some training for colleagues on this. If one person benefits from your ideas, then all the children they teach will also benefit. Don't be shy: you stand in front of at least 30 children a day without any worries!

Leading from the middle

There are now several different courses especially for middle managers to help develop and identify the skills necessary for leadership. Leading from the Middle is a 10-month course developed for middle managers in primary, secondary and special schools. It gives them the chance to develop their leadership skills by working with a group of similar colleagues.

To get full value from this course, it is essential to be self-aware and to be able to evaluate your own leadership style, including your weaknesses.

Not an easy undertaking for some people.

If you are in a specialist school, then the Developing Leaders for Tomorrow course is specifically directed at relatively new teachers who are heading for management. Again, you need to be committed to the programme to gain its full benefit. It has now been accredited by the University of Warwick, so you can gain a PGCE and go on to complete an MA, which can't be bad for your CV.

If you use these opportunities and are open to new ideas, they can really help you develop as a manager, preparing you for further responsibilities.

Speak to your head about getting involved in these.

Moving on

If it is time for you to move on, either to another head of department job or onwards and upwards into senior leadership, you should think carefully how to hand on the reins.

A well organised department will allow your successor to be able to find everything without having to start from scratch. If you're moving into senior management, one of the most important things you can take with you is to remember what it's like to be a teacher and a middle manager, and apply this experience in your leadership.


Specialist Schools Trust runs Developing Leaders for Tomorrow courses. Log on to www.schoolsnetwork.org.ukmain.asp?page=170

Every Child Matters www.everychildmatters.gov.uk

National College of School Leadership runs Leading from the Middle courses www.ncsl.org.ukindex.cfm

Ofsted advice on self-evaluation forms www.ofsted.gov.uk

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