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HODs - how do you structure your department?

Discussion in 'Modern foreign languages' started by badgardener, Apr 12, 2018.

  1. badgardener

    badgardener New commenter

    As a relatively new HOD, I have the opportunity to restructure my department. At the moment we have a HOD, a second in dept responsible for tracking and student progress, and individual Heads of French, German and Spanish. However, the Spanish Head is giving up this role as of September for personal reasons and the school seem reluctant to replace the job, and are asking questions about the necessity for the other Heads of subject.

    For context, we are a large private school with around 1600 students. We have currently around 60 entered for GCSE, and 20 for A Level. The department has 4 full time members of staff and 6 part time.

    I feel that the Heads of subject are really important, I use them well, and it is so useful to have someone 'in charge' of each language, for a lot of reasons. SLT's argument is that if we didn't have the Heads, the work would still get done - which it would, because we are a really good department, but I don't think that's a good enough reason to get rid of them.

    There are questions of pay and removing responsibility of course, but that's not what I'm asking here - how do you structure your department?
  2. Eflmeister

    Eflmeister Occasional commenter

    That amount of heads in a dept with only 60 GCSE entries and 20 A-level does sound fairly overkill. What do the heads of each language do that’s different from what you and the 2nd do? What do you and the 2nd do that require you not to lead a language?
  3. badgardener

    badgardener New commenter

    Thanks for your reply.

    You're right in that the numbers entered for GCSE and A level aren't huge; however those numbers don't really have an impact on the Subject Heads' job. Their job is to write and keep up to date the SOW and assessments flor all Key Stages; putting together and printing exam papers etc. Their job has been crucial this year in implementing the new specs for each language and helping me choose resources/ literature/ films.

    Fundamentally I think that the ability to teach one language (I teach Spanish) does not make you therefore able to coordinate another. My job is to manage staff, cpd, student behaviour and engagement etc and to oversee teaching of all of the languages, including work scrutiny, learning walks, observations etc. The Second's job is mainly tracking and making sure assessment is effective, and they also carry out learning walks and are involved in work scrutiny.

    Any other comments welcomed.
  4. badgardener

    badgardener New commenter

    Oh - and as I am a Spanish teacher one path I am looking at is coordinating that language myself, alongside the HOD job.
  5. tb9605

    tb9605 Occasional commenter

    SLT are going to argue this over cost/efficiency, to which you don't really have a counter-argument. As you say "the work would still get done" without the extra leadership roles.

    If you want to retain these positions you need to argue it from a results perspective (which SLT will care about). Are your results already good/excellent? In which case tell SLT that you need the Heads of Subject to maintain those high standards. Do results need to improve? In which case you tell SLT that you need the Heads of Subject in place to drive change and improve performances.

    You'll win the argument if you can make it about results/standards - you'll lose the argument if you allow them to make it about cost/time off timetable.

    To answer your question, the staffing does seem like overkill. The best comparison I can think of is a humanities department where you might have subject leads for Geography and RE, who answer to the HoD, who also leads on History. There wouldn't be a Second in Department (in fact I've never been in a school where any department other than English, Maths or Science has had a Second). That's the weird role for me here - why can't the heads of each language do their own tracking and assessment analysis (which they present to you)?

    If you end up taking on the Head of Spanish role, then inevitably you will find yourself focussing more and more on curriculum planning, and less and less on the department overview, CPD, behaviour, etc. In the long term, this means you'll be less effective.

    If you had to sacrifice a role, therefore, I'd make it the Second.... but as I said earlier, I'd fight SLT tooth and nail on a results based argument to keep all of them.

    Buena suerte!
  6. Eflmeister

    Eflmeister Occasional commenter

    Definitely fight for all of them - nobody wants their team to lose responsibility points.

    You need to compare your dept to others in the school and see how they are organised/how good their results are. As has been said, if you can show having so many TLRs means you get excellent results then you’ll have a case. But I still think they’ll question why for 60 GCSE and 20 A-level entries per year you need a separate head of each language, a second and your own HoD role. I had about 150 GCSE and 10 A-level plus introduced Chinese upon request of the school and there was me and a second. I was HoD and Head of Spanish, and the second was also Head of French. To be fair it was a hell of a lot of work.

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