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New HoD advice

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by mathsenthusiast, Mar 7, 2016.

  1. mathsenthusiast

    mathsenthusiast New commenter


    First post! I've just been appointed as Head of Maths in a small, but increasingly successful school. I have inherited quite an aged (fine), but unenthusiastic/innovative/inspiring department. The Headteacher has given me pretty much carte blanche to change the department and bring in change - really exciting opportunity!

    My first question is this; as an incoming HoD, what information would you want and what would be the first changes you'd make? I'll be going to the school some point over the next two weeks to pay another visit and start gathering information. What questions should I ask, and what information should I gather? I have a fair few ideas myself, but am interested to find out if the experienced lot have any good/non-obvious ideas!

  2. fineliner

    fineliner Occasional commenter

    As you haven't yet taken up the post for which you have been appointed, I think you should be careful about making judgements (I assume you meant uninspiring and not very innovative) about your future colleagues. One person's unenthusiastic is another's diligent stickler. My advice is that you should watch and listen so that you can try to understand the situation before you decide what you can do about it. Above all, know your own mind, and don't let the judgements of others overly-influence the way you think. If you are going to be a leader, you need to lead, so get practising your inspirational, enthusiastic and innovative teaching.
  3. melmmow

    melmmow New commenter

    Great advice from Fineliner! Biggest success as an HOD is knowing your staff! Not only their strengths and weaknesses in the classroom (look at their previous lesson observation data), but also their personal backgrounds, their motivators, passions and their triggers. This will allow you to develop your emotional intelligence as a leader.
    Ensure you know everyone's current responsibilities in the department, are these playing to their strengths? Every member of staff (even NQT) should have a responsibility, this not only supports you, but enhances both the department and the CPD of each staff member to develop their leadership skills and fulfill the standards and appraisal.
    As Fineliner said, watch and listen, make your own mind up about staff, this will take time and you may make mistakes, but, this is part of your CPD too! ;)
  4. Thomiam

    Thomiam New commenter

    I am in a similar situation. I have spent some time in the department getting to know the staff and their strengths. I've had a look at department data and SOL. I have a copy of their current development plan. I have been writing my own plan for improvement based on all of these but don't plan to do anything too major in the first half term as I don't want to upset any of my new colleagues. Good luck in your new role.
    loodle1 likes this.
  5. Star_Teacher

    Star_Teacher New commenter

    Some excellent advice. I would also urge caution with regards to changing anything straight away, I would even go so far as to say, don't change a thing for at least the first half term (first full term if you can get away with it). It is important to get to know your team and the rhythm of the department/school. Once you have seen how it works and experienced the pros and cons in the school/department you are then in a strong position to be able to create positive change.

    Having been at the receiving end of a new head of department coming in and telling everyone how things were going to change, I would not want to inflict this on others. It had a negative impact on the department rather than the idealised positive impact desired.

    Having said all of this, we all learn by experience. Good luck and I cant wait to hear how it all goes next year!
  6. bobdrivesahgv

    bobdrivesahgv New commenter

    My first task as joint HoD was to watch what was going on, look in depth at the data, listen to each teacher's input about in-class matters (usually behaviour) disrupting learning, look for evidence of consistency in marking, then have a chat with all, followed by a chat with SMT, before changing anything.

    I kept an open mind and came to the conclusion that things were working quite well.

    We're now focused on boosting subject delivery at KS5 - too much reliance on too few people.
  7. CaptGrimesRetd

    CaptGrimesRetd Occasional commenter

    The best advice I was given:

    1. Find something your colleagues don't like doing and suggest they stop doing it.
    2. Improve their working conditions, even if it's only a new kettle and a biscuit tin.

    I know it sounds cynical but it works.
    install, loodle1, sabrinakat and 2 others like this.
  8. smileyanna1

    smileyanna1 New commenter

    Congratulations! I inherited a similar sounding department 3 years ago, and would certainly echo the advice not to change too much, and to find out how things work first. There are some things in place at this school that drive me mad, but that is the way they have always been, and they do actually work with the team that I have so they are battles I am not going to pick!

    I would, however, come up with one or two things that you know will have a positive impact on their lives - mine was equipment and timelines - when I visited I clocked that all the exercise books, text books, reference books and stationery was just chucked on the shelves in the 'office' (cupboard), and then it was taken into classrooms as and when people wanted to take it. Sometimes returned, often not! It had also been highlighted that teachers were being issued SOW and working through them at their own pace, skipping topics or dwelling on topics as they saw fit.

    I spent time over summer sorting and organising the shelves, and getting equipment boxes in every room with enough rulers, compasses, protractors, coloured pencils, glue sticks etc. I then made sure all the teacher chairs in the classrooms and 'office' were nice chairs (and matching - I asked if I could take some from a meeting room that was rarely used), because most of them were falling to pieces. I then did timelines for all years with topics clearly given an allocated amount of time and tests in strategic places.

    Then they could see that things were going to change, but that it wasn't going to be scary!

    On your visits I would ask the line manager what they felt the major issues were, then you can start thinking about that. I would obviously ask for SOW, department handbook (if one exists) and policy documents. Find out responsibilities in the department (official and non-official). Think about what your strengths are - what do you do well? Make this your first change, organisation? displays? resources? - look around and see what you could make an instant difference to. Try and find out from your team what their strengths are and what they think works / doesn't work in the department (without promising anything!) Make sure you can access the site over summer and spend some time thinking about your vision for that department and start making baby steps.

    Good luck!
    mrtomo likes this.
  9. englishteach101

    englishteach101 Occasional commenter

    Definitely don't plan to change things before you know how the land lies, you don't want to inadvertently upset your staff before you get there, you're going to need them.

    When I went in recently as a new head of faculty, I did many of the things suggested above, find something that the staff are unhappy about and try to change it. Get to know the staff above all and find out what's working, celebrate success. I wouldn't be writing a plan until you've been there for a few weeks as all is not always how it was portrayed at interview. I was told that a member of the department was failing before I arrived, told all sorts of tales about poor performance etc. and when I arrived, it wasn't the case at all, simply the outgoing head of faculty's axe being ground. Luckily I'd not formed any opinions, otherwise I could have set up a very poor relationship with a key member of the faculty from day one.

    Good luck with it though, sounds like a great opportunity!

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