Developing Subject Leaders in our Primary Schools

I can remember my first subject leadership role like it was yesterday. I had completed my Newly Qualified Teacher (NQT) year (now replaced by the two year Early Career Teacher induction) and had been asked to lead History across the school. I had enthusiasm and excitement for my new role in abundance, as well as an amazing mentor, but did feel apprehensive about embarking on such an important role in my second year of teaching.

For many colleagues that I have the pleasure of working with, the reality is many primary teachers begin their journey into leadership with subject leadership, often in the earliest stages of their careers. The role contributes to a distributed structure of whole school leadership, with class based practitioners having a real and direct impact on the standards of teaching, learning and achievement across the school. Having oversight of a subject beyond their own year group, supporting and developing colleagues and undertaking curriculum development can be very rewarding and impactful for the teacher but will often require different skills and knowledge from their class based role.

Despite the potential for whole school impact and personal development for teachers, the role does not come without it’s challenges, many of which are not experienced by colleagues leading subjects in secondary schools. By the very nature of primary practitioners teaching all curriculum subjects, it is not unusual for subject leaders to be asked to lead a subject that is not a specialism and often with a full time class teaching responsibility, it is not always easy for schools to offer subject leaders release time. With primary schools differing in size and context, some schools may see primary teachers wearing ‘multiple hats’, leading more than one subject alongside their teaching responsibility.

Discover – Effective Primary Subject Leadership

Members of primary senior leadership teams, who themselves would have experienced a range of subject leadership roles in the earlier stages of their careers, recognise and acknowledge that, whatever the context, it is important to invest time into flexible and creative approaches to support the professional development of teachers in their roles as subject leaders. This is supported by a review of evidence on the impact of teacher professional development (EPI, 2020), which found that ‘high quality CPD has a significant effect on pupils’ learning outcomes’. The same report also identified that increased ‘availability of high-quality CPD has been shown to improve retention problems’.

SSAT’s Effective Primary Subject Leadership Programme provides aspiring or existing primary subject leaders with the opportunity to develop their knowledge and understanding of the subject leader role and equip them with the skills to develop a subject within their own schools. Over the course of the 5 module programme, subject leaders will understand how to develop their knowledge of their subject in practise, and identify and plan future improvements. Subject leaders will also gain confidence in communicating to others and supporting the development and expertise of colleagues.

New for 2024, schools can now become an accredited SSAT delivery partner for the Effective Primary Subject Leadership Programme

As delivery partners, schools receive all materials and content to ‘train the trainer’ who can then personalise and contextualise the programme content to meet the needs of their team. This approach provides flexibility in delivery and time scales, as well as the potential to generate new income streams by opening up the training across your networks.

To find out more, speak with Senior Education Lead, Laura Burton, to learn more about the Effective Primary Subject Leadership programme and which delivery model will meet the needs of your subject leaders and school.

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