the Dragonfly journal

The Subject Leader: An introduction to Leadership and Management

By Steve Chapman @Dragonfly_Edu via Steve Garnett @Garnett_S

One of Dragonfly Training’s best-attended courses over the last three or four years has been ‘Developing your role as a Highly Effective Subject Leader’, delivered by Steve Garnett. It’s ideal for any teacher about to take their first tentative steps into a leadership and management role.

The sheer number of colleagues who have attended this course (around 700 and counting) has allowed Steve to work with teachers from a great variety of contexts both across the UK and abroad. This experience led to Steve writing ‘The Subject Leader – An introduction to Leadership and Management’. Releasing the book only last July, Steve was delighted to discover the book has been shortlisted for an award in the upcoming Educational Resources Awards event in March.

The Subject Leader: An introduction to Leadership & Management

Organized through BESA (the trade association for educational suppliers), The Education Resources Awards ‘highlight the quality and diversity of educational products and resources, excellent educational establishments and the most dedicated members of the teaching profession and supplies industry, all working together to encourage the very best in education. Now in their 15th successful year, what makes these Awards really different is that they focus on the resources, services and people that really make a practical impact on learning and the day-to-day work of the teachers in the classroom…’

The essence of Steve’s course on Subject Leadership, and indeed the book, is to see the role of Subject Leader as being centred around learning (although remembering cream cakes every Friday helps too!).

Steve argues that this relentless focus on achieving high quality learning results in a number of major benefits:

  •   Better behaviour and reduction of ‘off-task’ behaviour
  •   Better outcomes for pupils
  •   Improved staff motivation and self-confidence
  •   Happier stakeholders
  •   Positive impact on department and school
  •   Happier pupils
  •   More effective learners

In order to deliver these benefits, Steve’s central thrust is that Leaders need two major key skills: soft skills and hard skills.

He redefines soft skills through:

  1. Developing a coaching model with colleagues that celebrates strengths and accepts that everyone has areas for development.
  2. Accepting that long term gain might deliver a downside in the short term.
  3. Recognizing that reluctant colleagues may in fact be ‘willing but not able’ and so need support, not pressure.
  4. Developing an open and transparent leadership style.

He redefines hard skills through:

  1. Instituting a cycle of review where everyone is clear when it is going to happen.
  2. Encouraging everyone in the team to reflect honestly about what has gone well and where things could be better.
  3. Focusing reviews on a combination of data analysis, work samples, pupil feedback and lesson observations.
  4. Focusing on learning and outcomes and not personalities and teaching styles. If the first two are good, the second two don’t matter!

By breaking it down into two fundamental areas, the role of Subject Leader may appear less daunting. Indeed, focusing on these two areas will serve you well no matter where you are on the leadership ladder.