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Uncoperative Department

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by twirlywoo, Apr 17, 2018.

  1. twirlywoo

    twirlywoo New commenter

    Ok. I'm not really sure where to start. I returned to my department a year ago from maternity leave. I have been HoD for 6 years and never had problems previously. My maternity cover was a member of the department who was a maternity cover herself but was taken on full time when that member of staff did not want to return, as her husband found a job abroad. My class cover was taken by a NQT.

    Here is my issue. The acting Head of Department was poor - if I had not come back when I had then things like controlled assessment would not have been completed (as it was it was rushed through in the 2 weeks before deadline with no time for moderation etc. with students taken off timetable), issues of maladministration etc. Not enough work was completed by the 3 Year 10 groups, meaning I had 5 topics to complete during the last 2 terms. The NQT was mentored by the HoD so did exactly as she was told and all her classes were in the same position. The old acting HoD had been placed on an action plan in October as classes were not progressing, there were too many parental complaints, behaviour was poor, and one child soiled himself during the lesson as he was not allowed to leave (despite a medical condition). This has now been escalated to competency procedures. I am being held to blame for this teachers teaching by the NQT+1 who is the sole other member of my department, but also by 2 other members of staff who we share an office with, and started during my maternity leave and therefore do not know me.

    I am at a loss as to what to do as it is not my fault but working conditions have become unbearable because of this. Both members of the department refuse to do anything additional outside of the classroom such as revision sessions, which means I have been left with the sole responsibility of catching up both GCSE and A Level classes, running individual intervention sessions, writing schemes of work etc, as both of them have said that I am HoD and that is my job. While I am happy to do this I have no support in the department and everytime I try to implement something I am met with refusal. It has led to department meetings having to have a member of SLT present, due to the accusations that they make and their refusal to be part of the team. The NQT+1 is a good teacher so other than informal action plans I have been told their is little I can do. Our GCSE and A Level numbers are the lowest they have ever been (29 have opted for the subject for September, and when asked why the students say their teachers are not supportive, as the other 2 members of staff send any issue, question about work etc. to me whether it is lesson work or not. I hate going into work and it is impacting on my home life. I spend very little time with my family as I am spending all of my time sorting department issues. Our office is a very petty environment with things such as lesson work, resources etc going missing even though I know they were there the previous lesson. I have spoken to my union rep, but because one member of staff is already on competency procedures I just need to stick it out but I am not sure for how much longer I can do that. But I do not want to let the pupils down at a crucial time in the year. Does anyone have any suggestions for ways to move forward with my department and other members of the office. It is not my decision for capability procedures to be implemented. We have a Faculty Head and her line manager as well as the Head are all involved but yet it is me getting the brunt of things.
  2. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    This situation sucks and I'm very sorry to hear everything you've been through. While none of this seems like your fault, it sounds like you have taken sensible steps (getting SLT and the Union involved) - however it's not going to fix itself. Ideas:

    - Get SLT to absolutely ring-fence your Y11/Y13 gain time so you can do curriculum development then. Shunt everything not vitally urgent out of the way until then.

    - Try to establish a rule for meetings that the past is the past. Talk about what needs to be done, not why it hasn't. Stick to the rule itself, and politely but firmly shut down anyone who begins a sentence with "well, while you were away..."

    - Take in treats/cakes/etc to meetings/the office. It's really hard for people to be rude to you when you're offering them a home made brownie.

    - Alternatively, stay out of the office. Work in a classroom/the staff room/the library.

    - Take the NQT+1 (who I'm presuming worked with you before you took maternity leave) out to the pub and let them have a good moan at you. Sounds like they have abandonment issues (did you mentor them during their NQT year?) and need to get stuff off their chest. Take your new baby: let them see how petty they're being given how much work you need to do both professionally and personally.

    - Is the NQT still there? If so, maybe do the same with them.

    Good luck! And remember - this too shall pass!
    sabrinakat and SundaeTrifle like this.
  3. hs9981

    hs9981 Established commenter

    That was a streak of bad luck. :confused:
  4. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    If I am reading your post correctly you have two other members of the department, one of whom is going through competency so is not only your responsibility in managing them. The other is in their second year of teaching, had an underperforming HOD during their first year and will be lacking in confidence if you have come in and had to tell her that her teaching had not been done properly (though no fault of her own). I would suggest that you have a one on one meeting with her first to clear the air, make clear that any issues with classes were not her fault, and develop an action plan for the rest of this term.

    In the longer term, you can use performance management as a tool to help you develop the department. Give them targets which link to running revision classes, developing materials for the course etc. Make sure they can access appropriate CPD (internal or external) to allow them to improve their confidence.
  5. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    I am not sure that you can direct anyone to do revision classes out of their timetabled lessons and link this to targets. Running lessons after school and at lunchtime is voluntary.
    pepper5, Pomza, henrypm0 and 3 others like this.
  6. twirlywoo

    twirlywoo New commenter

    I appreciate that running sessions is voluntary but when their PM target is linked to progress scores and currently their class is under-performing and they only taught one of 6 modules in a Year, you would think that they would be more concerned with not achieving their targets and going through pay progression. And 2 nights a fortnight we have to be in school until 4pm anyway so we can finish as 2pm on a Friday, so in my opinion that is directed time.
  7. twirlywoo

    twirlywoo New commenter

    But thank you to all of your suggestions. I do bring cakes into the office on a Friday but they are never eaten so I take them over to the staff room. As for the social aspect at the moment I simply do not have the energy. They frequently have couples meals at each others houses or go out (as I have seen them when out with my OH and been completely blanked). While this does not bother me the being ignored does. It does not take 2 seconds to say hello or good morning to someone or reply to someone else. Ignoring them and pretending they are not in the room is petty and childish.
  8. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    directed time is not down to your opinion, it is directed by the HT and should be published to each member of staff in writing at the start of every academic year. Maybe they never had any input into the targets so regard them as imposed and achievable?
    Pomza and caterpillartobutterfly like this.
  9. hammie

    hammie Lead commenter

    incidentally, the cake thing is over rated in my experience. Too many schools expect the last drop of blood then think that a bag of donuts makes it all good. It can just feel like an insult if done in the wrong way.
    pepper5, Pomza, BetterNow and 5 others like this.
  10. SundaeTrifle

    SundaeTrifle Occasional commenter

    Are dept meetings scheduled? For the last couple of years they have been scheduled into directed time at our place. If not tell in advance how frequently they will be. Before a meeting send out an agenda. Put SOW as an item on it. It sounds as though they have not stuck to it during your absence and you cannot be held responsible for that or the dept results this year. I know this is no consolation when you care about the achievement of your dept.

    Put coursework deadlines in SoW and monitor.

    Your return to work is throwing the dynamics of the group. Keep professional, everything you are doing is for the right reasons. I agree you cannot ask people to work beyond their directed time, but you do expect them to meet teaching deadlines.

    If they will not contribute towards preparing resources for the dept, can you ask for extra money for purchasing them? We all have a lot of work on atm with both A level and GCSE changing at the same time and this is meaning we have to also change KS3. Asking for protected time when exam classes leave is good.

    I’m not convinced revision sessions do any good. Sometimes students use turning up for revision sessions as a replacement for doing their own revision, but they are great when a student who has done some work comes and tells you what the are stuck on.
  11. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    controlled assesments , done properly took an hour and a half ( in the subjects I was involved in), tops, so requiring longer is likely to indicate maladministration itself. How can there be "no time for moderation"? - surely the school gives specific time off timetable for that, with your lessons covered?

    this is a management issue, why is this individual being blamed?

    good for them, they should be totally refusing

    good for them, they shouldn't give a **** about "PM targets" "progress scores" "pay progression" - all of this type of twaddle is completely random, statisticlly invalid and meaningless, and taking it seriously or caring a stuff about it is the route to destruction.

    Thats not up to you to say that.

    I am going to be completely frank here.

    Just the whole tone of your post riles me.

    I have been a teacher for many decades. I have suffered under managers like you. I have learnt to refuse to play these games, particularly the expectation that i will run round in circles to meet "pm targets" that I would quite frankly be stupid to take seriously. These days I deliberately never even read them. I have no idea what my targets are, nor any wish to know. I have learnt that behaviour policy comes from the school management, there is nothing an individual teacher can do, and it is totally destructive to "blame" individuals.

    A head of department who expects me to agree to do extras outside my timetable, who thinks I am going to jump through hoops to meet PM targets, and who thinks bad behaviour is the fault of the teacher will get no cooperation from me, and I wouldn't eat her cake, either.
    pepper5 and henrypm0 like this.
  12. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    Reading between the lines of your original post I wonder what kind of system was put in place to cover your maternity leave? Were people paid properly and given time to complete the extra work?
  13. caterpillartobutterfly

    caterpillartobutterfly Star commenter

    Can you ask for a meeting with your line manager to discuss your worries, concerns and frustrations?
    Go with a list of all that is a current headache and ask their advice.
    You might find that merely taking about them, will solve some of the problems. Ideas from someone else might well easily solve others in ways you couldn't see before. Hopefully your line manager might be able to shed some light on why things have been so difficult on your return and then you can understand where your staff are coming from, which in turn will help with solving the problems.
    Remember your line manager is there to help, advise and support you when you need it. You aren't expected to know everything.
    pepper5 likes this.
  14. schmedz

    schmedz Occasional commenter

    It sounds as though it was a difficult time for the NQTs as well when you were on maternity leave. With their lack of experience, they are of course unable to understand the ridiculous standards to which YOU are being held and must feel very stressed and under pressure themselves having had such a chaotic HoD for the majority of their teaching career.

    Agree with Sundae and tb above regarding prioritising and keeping focus on achieving what needs to be done. If your colleagues know that you are wanting to support them and deal with their frustrations (moving forward to the new academic year), but you are all having to focus on the practical tasks and necessities first, perhaps this will help?

    Have you met with them individually to discuss their concerns about their workload/expectations? This doesn't have to be 'socially' (in fact, possibly better if not!) but schedule a meeting during the school day and try to listen first (difficult when you have perfectly reasonable expectations that the students are properly 'caught up' and supported). Perhaps some of their reluctance comes from the fact that they lost respect for the acting HoD and are transferring this to you?

    I feel for you, and sincerely hope that neither have the attitude of dunnocks above. You're really up against it, if so!
  15. dunnocks

    dunnocks Star commenter

    I'm sorry if you don't like my attitude, however it won't help the OP to sugar coat the response, not tell her how she might be coming across, and not tell her how many staff would be feeling about and reacting to some of the things she is saying. And be morally in the right to respond like that.
  16. CWadd

    CWadd Star commenter

    You need to talk to your line manager, pronto.
    pepper5 likes this.
  17. schmedz

    schmedz Occasional commenter

    Sounds more like a personal attack rather than a suggestion of how she 'might' be coming across.

    I guess I don't like your attitude, because I don't understand it. Judging from your 'riled' reaction, I I feel like we've read completely different posts by the OP! She has described a whole lot of petty behaviour by the staff, under-performance by the acting HoD and the resulting fact that students had not covered enough course material. Although controlled assessment/moderation 'should' operate more time efficiently with cover/time provision by the school, clearly that hasn't actually happened in this case. It's a highly stressful and unusual (hopefully) situation for all involved - a 'team' of teachers could help deal with the mess, but individuals determined to only do the bare minimum of their role (and actually engage in behaviour which undermines others in the team) makes OP's position extremely difficult. And in 6 years of HoD experience, she's not had any previous issues.

    The pettiness of work/resources going 'missing' and the toxic atmosphere OP has returned to are probably the most disturbing aspects. She has already said she is happy to step up to the plate with regard to the extra sessions (despite the students' lack of course content knowledge not being her fault) and comes across as frustrated that the other staff on her team don't seem to be as invested in the pupils' success as she is. She also mentioned that two other staff who share the office BUT ARE NOT IN HER DEPARTMENT are throwing in their opinions on her competence despite never having worked with her before (or indeed, presumably, having any need to be involved in a department that is not their own).

    Of course it's not compulsory to give any free time to help students' revise nor mandatory to do anything above and beyond the job description, but I disagree that in this situation it is 'morally right' to refuse. Rather, it is legally and technically right to refuse.

    I agree PM targets/progress scores etc... are a load of rubbish, but am more concerned that the teachers don't seem to be particularly interested in improving the outcomes for their under-performing and under-prepared students. Having my own children go through a school where so many staff offered extra revision sessions that there were almost too many, I'm always surprised and disappointed when it doesn't seem that other teachers care that much. Having always been fortunate to work / lead departments with mutually supportive colleagues, I find the alternative pretty depressing.

    Perhaps the students are a bunch of lazy, disinterested terrors who wouldn't bother turning up to extra sessions anyway. Perhaps their behaviour would have been just as terrible under the OP's instruction as the previous staff member - but we've all taught with staff who are better at behaviour management than others, so it is conceivable that an individual's lack of ability to manage a particular group plays some part in it.

    None of this helps OP sort her problems, but OP, you have my empathy for your very difficult situation. I hope some of the strategies you're trying are working and that you feel able to enjoy your family life again soon.
    dts and sabrinakat like this.
  18. koopatroopa

    koopatroopa Senior commenter

    Coming back halfway through what has been a troublesome year has made things very difficult. I would just struggle through to the summer as best you can but be ready to start next year with plans and systems in place which will make workload and stress easier for everyone. If people start with clear guidelines and timetables for assessments it will be far more relaxed than the last minute confusion you describe and when your colleagues see things working they will engage with you.
    At the moment they probably feel like you were off and they ran around shortstaffed and under supported and then got the blame despite their efforts. That's bound to breed resentment.
    I'd also look at making up an FAQ sheet for the kind of thing they are sending pupil to you with. Make the point that it's for pupils but that they should really be able to answer these questions too.
    Don't put up with incivility. You don't have to be friends with co-workers but they should offer basic manners and respect. Be nice the first time and just assume they didn't hear you but if you have to pull them up on it two or three time you need to have a quick meeting about everyone's obligations to contribute to a positive and effective working environment. Don't bring cake until the atmosphere changes. Be polite, brisk and professional and leave it at that. You need to make it clear that what you expect is part of their working life, not a favour they owe you on a personal level.
    dts and SundaeTrifle like this.
  19. Mrs Grumpy

    Mrs Grumpy New commenter

    What's your headteacher like? And your line manager? Things couldn't - really have got to this state without "the Powers" knowing it! Are you trying to cover up for the situation that has arisen, and therefore putting more stress on yourself.
    Forget cakes and pep talks, try and look at the situation each of the others "thinks" is extant. From where they are, what does it all look like?
    And get on with the job. That's the best thing to do. Time will pass, and people will change / move on / grow up / etc.

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