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Where do you put your strongest teachers?

Discussion in 'Heads of department' started by PhysBee, Jun 5, 2018.

  1. PhysBee

    PhysBee New commenter

    This year is my first year as a HoF so first time designing the timetable and it's got me thinking. If you can't achieve continuity... what helps you decide where to put staff?

    I've heard arguments for strong teachers being put into top sets to inspire students to take the subject at A Level, but also bottom sets as they have the most impact there. Although, I would be interested to hear if people agree with that, I'm not saying they won't have the most impact on those students, but I'm not sure it would be the most impact for overall departmental results/student attitudes towards the subject compared with putting them elsewhere, particularly if they only pick the class up at the start of year 11. My department needs to focus on level 4 pass rate so I'll probably put them in the year 11 middle sets if there are gaps.

    Obviously, I think all staff need a balanced timetable, but I'm interested to hear what other people do with their strongest staff, NQTs, members of SLT - I have 3 and as of next year, the head has banned them from A Level due to missing so many lessons, which has led to some interesting discussions with the SLT member who does the timetable!

    Or even, where would you put random staff? I'm dreading having to fill in classes with random teachers from other departments as we are a 13-18 school and they will go straight into teaching the GCSE. My head has already said I'm probably going to have some lessons taught by PE and languages if I don't find someone to fill my vacancy this term...
  2. jago123

    jago123 Established commenter

    For me, I would balance it out. I wouldn’t have all my strongest / most experienced teachers teaching top sets. The most work would be required in the bottom/middle sets with the slightly lower ability students to ensure that they achieve a good result come the end of their GCSE’s and A-Levels.
    Your experienced teachers will probably have a track record of developing poor performers into achievers and this will be key.

    In regards to your vacancy, the resignation deadline has passed now for resigning to leave at the summer; you will only get NQT applications or applications from teachers who have resigned in hope of finding a new role or those who took a break from teaching and are looking to return.
  3. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    A lot will depend on the strengths of your existing teachers and the expected difficulty of any classes. I would avoid giving NQTs any classes known to be tricky, and this would be the first place I would deploy SLT members. If you have teachers with particular skills in teaching lower ability groups then you may want to give them a class or two which would benefit from those skills (being careful not to pigeon hole them as a low ability specialist). Equally teachers who are strong on discipline would be good with trickier groups / potential borderline classes.

    Also consider your timetable - it is easy as a HoF to fall into one of two traps. Some HoFs give themselves all the tricky groups and consequently have a horrible teaching load with no classes to look forward to. More commonly, HoFs have been known to give themselves only A level and top sets as "these groups need to be stretched by a specialist teacher."

    When timetabling I would always go through the teaching load of each teacher just to see if I would be happy with that combination of classes. If the answer was no, then I would adjust accordingly.
    sabrinakat and JohnJCazorla like this.
  4. meggyd

    meggyd Lead commenter

    I have known hods who gave values to various groups and then added timetables up as a type of equation so that everything balanced out somehow. I would put weaker teachers alongside more experienced ones with parallel groups. Slt teachers are variable. Some are very lazy and contribute very little to departments in my experience. They also miss lots of lessons due to other duties. Some are fantastic though. Approach them with care.
    SundaeTrifle likes this.
  5. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Pretty much sums up an approach I would advise. You really need to factor in 'the individual strengths', whether that be discipline/behaviour management, ability to motivate /inspire etc. Then look at the make-up of individual classes and try to get best matches. If possible 'pair up' newbies/ weaker staff with experienced hands so everybody benefits.

    And this
    JohnJCazorla likes this.
  6. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    It's good to discuss this with the team as well - they may have things they want to do (or to avoid, for that matter) which add to the factors affecting your decisions. I've had excellent teachers desperately wanting the bottom sets as they enjoy supporting the pupils and are really effective, for example - delighted to be labelled the teacher of that group! If you have to use non-specialists then any way that you can make the timetable provide support for them from experienced colleagues is helpful - perhaps they might be teaching next door to one another?
    GeordieKC and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  7. pianopete

    pianopete Occasional commenter

    We always try to get a balance of year groups etc. within the parameters of certain people doing certain A level subjects (I run English and this includes drama and media at GCSE/KS5). One thing that has helped me balance things more fairly is our move to mixed ability teaching. That way, I only have to try to ensure a balance of year groups (or key stages where timetables are lighter), rather than look at top/bottom sets, tricky groups etc. That said, I do try to play to people's strengths but also am not afraid of putting my best and most experienced people with a year 7 group or have them doing extra literacy intervention or Y11 level 3-4 catch up timetabled lessons. One other consideration is to look at the timetable for this year. Do you want the same people with top/bottom sets again or to mix it up? If someone hasn't taught Y8 this year do you want them teaching it next year so they don't lose sight of the Y8 content? Always a difficult balancing act!
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  8. Skeoch

    Skeoch Lead commenter

    I'd add that where I wasn't too worried about who did what, I'd give the timetabler the broad parameters and then let them use the flexibility to allocate staff in order to help make the timetable work.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  9. 50sman

    50sman Lead commenter

    When I was head of dept I always gave myself the difficult classes. Saved the miscreants being sent to mr saved going in and reading riot act, saved paperwork and detentions and therefore saved time

    The brightest most able students are in my view teacher proof!
  10. Lara mfl 05

    Lara mfl 05 Star commenter

    Very sensible approach.
  11. PhysBee

    PhysBee New commenter

    This is all very intersting. It seems that each year it's like solving a logic puzzel....

    One of the issues I have is that our school is 13-18yrs so we go straight into the GCSE when they start in year 9.

    My other issue is that I am the only physics teacher, we have tried to recruit for months and failed. I had a chemist who would teach A Level physics for me but he is leaving. I've asked all of my other staff if they would be able to teach some A Level, offered external courses and a lesson a fortnight where I sit with them and fill in any subject knowledge gaps, plus the course is fully resources but none of them want to touch it. Would you say 'sorry, I have no choice, it's only for this year and I will keep trying to recuit' or would you just teach it all yourself and not force them to do something they don't want to do? I don't mind having all the A Level, but I agree HoDs should take difficult classes, plus if I get an unexpected long absence, the A Level classes are screwed so I don't know if the benefits outweigh the cons.
  12. tb9605

    tb9605 Established commenter

    That's what I'm doing next year (although I'll keep my y10 set into y11)

    This year (I'm new to the school) I was given all top sets for some reason - which was lovely, but deeply unfair on other teachers. Planning to redress this...
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  13. dts

    dts Occasional commenter

    I would be tempted to give them the choice. If nobody is willing to step up and share the A Level with you, then you simply won't be available to take the more difficult classes lower down, which will inevitably fall to the other teachers in the department. Some of them may not have considered the implications of not helping you with the A Level.
    VeronicAmb and Lara mfl 05 like this.
  14. Snorkers

    Snorkers New commenter

    I'd agree with pretty much everything that's already been said, and add that my SMT teacher only teaches Y12 - if they have to miss lessons then the pupils don't need covering, and their absences will have less impact (particularly in a linear world).
  15. ScienceGuy

    ScienceGuy Established commenter

    If you have asked other staff and they do not wish to take on Physics A level, then you do not really have any choice (out of interest, have you thought about asking Maths colleagues?). For this year I would take all the Physics but would make sure that the school started advertising for next year constantly (it may be worth offering a specific TLR as it would probably work out cheaper in the long run than the repeated advertisements).

    If your teaching load is similar to my centre's, you would still have room for a few tricky groups even if it meant you not carrying forward some of your current classes.

    NB - if any of your current staff did complain about you teaching all the A level then you can remind them that you were happy for them to teach it along side you!
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  16. Elly40

    Elly40 New commenter

    There are 2 of us in my department. As mfl teachers the French specialist has the French top sets and the Spanish specialist has the Spanish top sets. Other than that we are flexible
  17. MrMedia

    MrMedia Star commenter

    I used to ask my department what their preferences were - attaining, SEND, Key Stage, EAL, boys, etc. No promises, but when I had choices to make I was able to make better choices. Your staff will know where they are best and they will want as much of that as possible. It saves you making all of the decisions and if you are tweaking then you can say - there are winners and losers and people generally accept the odd awkward class better if they’ve landed something of their own preference.
    Lara mfl 05 likes this.
  18. PhysBee

    PhysBee New commenter

    Oh yes, I've explored every option. Maths are short of 0.4 teachers so they won't give me anyone

    I had to make the call today. I went for me teaching it all and had the head agree to keep advertising next year. Then it's difficult sets all the way.

    Talking to the guy doing the timetable and apparently we are 1.1 teachers short across the whole school an we can't afford to recruit anyone else this year. Somehow has to find the lessons by combining classes of core PE, EPQ, PSHE etc so there are 60 students in a class with one teacher, who may not be a teacher, might be admin staff or TAs helping out. I've had to use a technician for 4 lessons a fortnight.
  19. catbefriender

    catbefriender Lead commenter

    The NTCL Return to Teaching Team would be wiling to email vacancies to returners on their emailing list. Why not contact them and ask?

    There are also LOADS of Return to Teaching programme, in which qualified teachers PAY £600 to work, for nothing in schools. Why not contact them?

    Just Google
    NTCL Return to Teach and
    Return to teaching

    And you will find both about programmes although the NTCL would be the far more reputable route to go.
    PhysBee likes this.
  20. install

    install Star commenter

    Strong teachers - ask them ...:cool:
    jarndyce and Lara mfl 05 like this.

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