Tips for Teachers: 7. Subject leadership

Jun 6, 2023 | Blogs

Tips for Teachers: 7. Subject leadership

Jun 6, 2023 | Blogs

Subject leadership can be a very challenging role and one that as a likely middle leader will see you pulled between the demands of senior leaders whilst trying to balance the needs of staff.

It is also a very different beast in primary and secondary schools. In secondary, it may be that you are the head of a large department with many staff but with everyone focused usually on one subject, whereas in primary, you will be leading and coordinating one or more subjects across the school and you may not be a specialist in the subject you lead.

So, in no particular order here are a list of possible tips, ideas and questions you may want to consider:

Understand the role of a subject leader

Your role is crucial to securing and sustaining improvement in the subject you lead. You will be responsible for guiding teachers in your department or staff across school.

Know the school curriculum in the subject you lead

You need a solid grasp of the what, how, why and when things happen in your subject. Have oversight of curriculum coverage and ensure it meets the needs of the National Curriculum. Do you have clear end points and is there clear planning to build to these?

Audit resources, curriculum and teacher knowledge

Find out more about how the curriculum has been constructed to check it has been sequenced progressively. Are your colleagues confident in teaching curriculum content? Check they have the required subject knowledge and subject-specific pedagogical knowledge. Are there sufficient and appropriate resources available to deliver the planned curriculum?

Professional development

Both of yourself and others. How are staff supported in developing their subject knowledge and skills in planning and teaching sequences of lessons? Are you a member of a subject association? Where do you go to improve your professional development? Ensure you keep up to date with what is happening in your subject – this will help you to support others.

Action planning

Be realistic about what you are able to achieve both short and longer term. Evaluate what you have achieved this year and what are your priorities for next year. Don’t try to implement too many new initiatives at once. Fewer done well have a chance of becoming embedded rather than many.


Plan this out over the year. Think carefully about key dates for when the monitoring will take place and don’t forget to avoid ‘pinch points’ in the school calendar to ensure staff are not overloaded. Plan a range of monitoring techniques to triangulate the data collected and ensure you plan time for yourself to evaluate and feedback your findings to senior leaders and colleagues.

Lead by example

One of the best ways to implement new initiatives and ensure they become embedded is to adopt the strategy first, this way you are able to check on its success and know the challenges and difficulties involved. You will then be able to guide staff as you ‘scale up’ across a phase, year group or department. Take a look at the EEF’s ‘A School’s Guide to Implementation’.

In summary, your role is to ensure the curriculum is working for the pupils in your school. Do the pupils make good progress and are they able to acquire and apply key knowledge and skills which builds on prior learning and moves progressively to agreed end points? Think about the current strengths of your subject and the areas that might need some development. You may also wish to consider reading the Ofsted research review of the subject(s) you lead.

Don’t forget to check out the many ways Schoolaspect can help with the above.

This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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