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Should a HOD be an outstanding teacher?

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by midlandsteacher, Jul 16, 2012.

  1. The title kind of says it all really. This came up as a discussion point at work and I just wondered what people thought really. I have seen HOD jobs advertised that ask for a record of outstanding teaching , but how important do you think this is? Obviously there are benefits to be able to lead from the top in terms of teaching, but is good department management more important in a HOD than their actual teaching?
  2. The title kind of says it all really. This came up as a discussion point at work and I just wondered what people thought really. I have seen HOD jobs advertised that ask for a record of outstanding teaching , but how important do you think this is? Obviously there are benefits to be able to lead from the top in terms of teaching, but is good department management more important in a HOD than their actual teaching?
  3. At the very least, teaching should be good; so, I think a good with o/s features lesson at interview would persuade a school that even on an off day you are likely to be good. You are right that being a HOD is about department management, but a lot of that management can be dealing with other colleagues having problems with students in their class etc.. Perhaps being a good and confident teacher is really what they are after? A while ago I did a lesson obs on a colleague who had requested I watched a class she had problems with. Yes, the lesson had lots of problems, and as part of the feedback discussion, I offered to teach her class for a lesson with her watching how I dealt with the issues we were talking about - you have to be at least good to pull that off with a possibly difficult class. And leading by example is, I feel, one of the most important aspects of the HOD's role.
  4. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    Amen to that Arthur. I don't see how you can lead a department without being at least good. We've all had headteachers who had zero authority or whose teaching was less than adequate, and we all know what we think of them! I couldn't possibly gain any respect from my team if it was a "do what I say, not what I do" scenario. The main role of the HOD is to direct the teaching and learning in their department, and if they haven't got a clue, the department will fall to bits. I should think ofsted observe the HOD as a matter of course so they should be at least good. That's not to say they have to be the best, and it's perfectly ok for them to say (as my first HOD did) "go and observe such and such, she's a fantastic teacher and much better than me", but the HOD has to be at least at a level that most of the team can aspire to or match.
    What else does a HOD do really? Put the budget together (anyone can do that), deal with behaviour (again, they need to have the authority to do so), make sure deadlines are met, sort out exam entries... None of that is really difficult: the difficult bit is being good at the teaching so that when you monitor and advise on the teaching of others, your team will want to follow the advice.
  5. Karvol

    Karvol Occasional commenter

    I don't think this is everything. What you are listing here are aspects of the management role of a HoD. However what is being left out is the leadership side of things. A HoD also has to have a vision of where he or she wishes the department to be and - hopefully - the management skills, charisma and strength of will to carry that vision through.
    It is this aspect of the role that I feel a large number of HoDs fall down at. If you do not do anything to inspire your department, to give them something to aim and aspire towards, then you are doing the department and its members a disservice.
  6. noemie

    noemie Occasional commenter

    But I would argue that the best thing you can aspire to is to make the teaching inspiring, exciting and solid, and if you are not a good teacher yourself then that's not going to happen. If you are naturally passionate about your subject, you will have all these ideas and aspirations for your subject, and want to keep up to date with what happens elsewhere to push things forward.
    I'm not too keen on the "outstanding" label generally. I'd rather be consistently good than occasionally outstanding but generally average (I don't believe outstanding at all times is humanly achievable).
  7. I completely agree that there are many parts to a HOD role, one of the key being able to inspire and lead the department. Do you think however that a HOD needs to be a 'good/outstanding' teacher to be able to do this? For example, do you think a HOD who has excellent management skills and vision for the department but only ever gets satisfactory observations is able to lead the department effectively?
  8. I think it really depends on the individual department. If the dept has mostly good/outstanding teachers anyway, I think the quality of the HOD's own teaching is less relevant, and the management side of things is more important. However, if it's a generally average dept teaching-wise, I think you do need a strong teacher to drive that forward.
    The needs of the department can also change over time, so it's not a question that will have a straightforward answer, IMO.
  9. staxis

    staxis New commenter

    I would turn this around a little. I would want a HoD with a record of excellent results and/or value added. If the results are excellent then the HoD must be doing something right in the classroom.
  10. A Head of Department is traditionally someone who heads up the work of that department, manages it, and is responsible for its work. One would expect them to be a good teacher in order to have reached that position, but in essence it is a managerial position.
    The title 'Subject Leader' is also used these days. This places more emphasis on the leadership role than the title 'Head of Department' does. In order to lead others they are likely to be good, preferably better, in those qualities they lead in, otherwise their authority as a leader might be questioned.
    Of course we might say this is just semantics - but titles matter.
    So I would suggest that if someone is called a Subject Leader, then they ought to be able to demonstrate the qualities that we would associate with someone who is the best in their field and therefore able to offer leadership that can improve others.
    If they are called Head of Department we might think of them as a senior member of the department with managerial responsibilities, but not necessarily the best teacher.
    What schools call their senior members of staff also says something about the school SLT and what they think this role is about. Would they, for example, expect this person to observe and grade lessons and to be responsible for teaching quality as well as pupil performance?
    In some schools they do. In others SLT would see this as their job. But it is actually reasonable for a 'subject leader' to take responsibility for the teaching in their department if they are supposed to be an expert in the teaching of their subject. SLT observers may have other subject specialisms and may not be able to make subject-specific recommendations.
    I favour the title 'Subject Leader' for the reason that the implicit expectation that this person would be an expert in teaching their subject is more likely to result in a department that is strong in its teaching, and therefore successful in supporting the achievement of pupils.
  11. I find this really interesting. In my school the terms Head of Department and Subject Leader seem to mean quite different things to yours. In my school a subject leader is someone with the smallest TLR who tweaks/writes SOWs and may suggest new resources etc but does not really do anything else that would be considered 'leadership.' However, a Head of Department has a TLR 2b, observes their team, advises on best practice, runs CPD etc and is accountable for results so would have much more of a 'leadership' role. We then have Heads of Faculty (TLR 1b) who manage Heads of Department. I would say therefore that a good record of observations would be more important for the Head of Department and Head of Faculty than the subject leader. It's interesting how different schools and roles work!

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