Help! I’m a new subject leader. Where do I start?
Some hints and tips to give you a headstart when you've taken over the role of Subject Leader.
So you’ve somehow acquired the role of Geography or History Subject Leader, often not by choice. You’re not confident in teaching the subject yourself, let alone feel able to take the lead for the whole school from EYFS all the way through to Year 6.
We see and hear this scenario so often. New leads unsure of where to start but feeling considerable pressure to make their mark and develop a new curriculum overnight.
So here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Get to know how Geography/History is currently taught
Staff are often weary of change so find out what they feel confident teaching, what they enjoy and why this is.
Is it because they have good subject knowledge of a particular area or topic?
Is it that they already have plans in place?
Is it just easier for them to do what they have always done?
Do time constraints prevent research into something new?
You may find it useful to give out a questionnaire with questions like these or arrange some informal chats to start.
2. Understand what the children are learning and when
This stage may also involve a questionnaire. But this time, it would be something for the students not the teachers to complete. The results obtained can be quite an eye-opener, as what’s being taught might not always correspond to the knowledge and skills that the children are actually learning.
3. Consider the National Curriculum and where you want to be
Given what you’ve learned from the information you’ve gleaned, start thinking about the changes you want to make in your school. Devise an action plan, and start sharing this, be it new approaches, new arrangements or new resources with your peers, explaining your thinking. If your colleagues know where you are coming from, they’ll be more supportive and get on board more easily.
4. Draw up a draft curriculum
When creating a draft curriculum, as Subject Lead, you need to consider sequencing, progression and assessment. What have the children learned before and what are they being prepared for? What does a good geography lesson look like in year 2 as opposed to year 6?
Skills ladders and progression maps will help you and your peers know you are challenging children whilst also revisiting skills and building up geographical or historical knowledge.
5. Monitor and tweak the curriculum as you go
Monitoring should also be part of your action plan, so once you or another member of the team have delivered a topic/theme, take the opportunity to assess how it’s gone and what could be improved, considering feedback from both children and teachers.
As Lead, we would recommend you lead by example on this by giving updates in staff meetings etc. Sharing positive and less positive experiences will build trust and develop an openness within the team. You’ll look to highlight strengths and best practice, as well as areas for improvement.
Think about what could be done better next time, and when and how that could be delivered. It could be that the school as a whole needs CPD on delivering fieldwork. If that’s the case, addressing the need with training will be a real positive!
Give some thought to impact too. What changes is your new vision bringing about for staff? Is change happening so fast that you’re not able to support them effectively? If so, perhaps it’s time to slow things down and re-prioritise.
What support can B&C Educational offer?
As detailed above, we often hear from new Subject Leads that are overwhelmed by their new responsibilities. Which is why, we always start with a Zoom or Teams call so we can understand what your vision is, we can talk through our approach and also what the National Curriculum demands.
How we help from there can take a variety of guises! Sometimes simply supplying questionnaires to start off the process is enough. In other cases, we fill in gaps that become evident from the research undertaken. Other times, we can help develop a whole new curriculum, providing progression and assessment.
If you think we could help you, please do get in touch by email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or phone (079663 79621). We can chat through your situation and give you some options.