Subject coordinators series: getting started

At the beginning of the year, members of staff within my school’s cluster got together for an INSET day on highly effective subject leadership. As the coordinator of both Maths and ICT, I was very pleased about this. Even better, it was actually very useful and I have been meaning to share the main points I took away from it ever since. When I got down to writing up my notes though, it turned out to be a bit of a large blog post so I’ve split it into a series of posts about subject coordination. This first one covers some main points to get you started:

  • There are four key areas of the Ofsted inspection framework; start by reading them through as both a class teacher and then from a subject leader perspective. How would you judge yourself as a subject leader?
  • Get familiar with the lingo: be clear about the differences between achievement, attainment and progress so you can talk about them in relation to your subject: 
    • Progress: the progress children have made, from their starting points, in their learning
    • Attainment: the academic standards reached by children, usually shown by SATs test results and the like
    • Achievement: a sort of combination of both progress and attainment; it takes into account the standards of attainment reached by children and the progress they had to make to get there. (If you have a more succinct definition for this, please share it in the comments!)
  • There are two main things an effective subject leader does well: a) judge the quality of teaching in their subject across the school and b) judge the standards achieved in their subject across the school by children. So, are you doing both of these things? And where is your evidence that you are doing/have done both of these things? We’ll go into more detail about creating an evidence base in the next post though. N.B: I would also add a point c) here – take appropriate action based on your findings from a and b.
  • There are two new docs on the block that you should be familiar with: Ofsted School Inspection Handbook and the Subsidiary Guidance. The five key changes to be aware of in these docs are: the impact of pupil premium, governance, data dashboard, performance management and the impact of partnerships. With those changes in mind,:
    • What are you providing for your governing body with regard to your subject area? How do they know what you’re up to? Invite them in, give them progress reports, just keep them firmly in the loop.
    • Is pupil premium being used to target the progress within your subject? How?
    • Have you looked at your school’s data dashboard information? You must. What can you glean from it? Any trends? More about data in a later post.
    • How are you working with other schools and outside partnerships to develop your subject area? Get together with other coordinators of the same subject within your cluster and consider how you can work together – plan joint CPD and deliver it to the whole cluster at once? Moderate? Observe lessons together? Do whatever helps all your schools, but the point is partnerships are important so make those connections.
  • Where are you with your new curriculum? What will you need to provide? Some subjects are going to look pretty different come September 2014 so look ahead and make plans for that transition.
  • SMSC: every lesson that is observed has a section on this – how does your subject support SMSC? What evidence can you provide?
  • Budget: do you know the budget for your subject? How are the priorities for spending within your subject linked to the school development plan? They should be.

These questions and points really got me thinking about my role as a subject coordinator and what things I was doing well and what I needed to work on. What else should subject coordinators be mindful of?

Look out for the next post, which will look at creating an evidence base and what to put in your subject coordinator’s file.


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