Head of Department
Posted 26 June 2004 - 11:20 PM
Iím not actually a Head of Department! My college opted to give my post the title ďCurriculum LeaderĒ which is designed to give me a broader scope than just the management of the teaching of history but allows me to look at the role of history within the whole collegeís curriculum and develop the subject in many different ways.
What is the Head of History responsible for? (A very scary list!)
∑ Long and short term planning for the departmentís future.
∑ Overseeing all teaching of history (including the work of non-subject specialists)
∑ Updating and maintaining schemes of work
∑ Writing and revisiting department handbooks.
∑ Checking records for SEN and more able and talented students (some areas call these ďGifted and TalentedĒ).
∑ Maintaining records of all student attainment data (including end of Key Stage 3 figures).
∑ Making class setting decisions.
∑ Organising budgets and bidding for funding or seeking extra funding for projects or additional resources and making the choices as to what money is spent on such as text books or videos etc. (someone within my college has been using my copying code so I amassed a fearsome reputation for my copying over 24,000 pages in 8 months and got stung accordingly for the lot!)
∑ Planning for events such as prospective parentsí evenings, options night choices, rewards and celebrations evenings etc.
∑ Setting targets and overseeing professional development within your department and taking responsibility for performance management of those within your department.
∑ Promoting the uptake of history at GCSE or KS5.
∑ Linking with primary feeder schools if appropriate.
∑ Being prepared to delegate workload!
∑ Meeting with various managers to discuss department matters.
∑ Discussing whole school issues with colleagues and feeding back to your department.
∑ Various admin tasks.
∑ Arranging the reporting of pupilsí attainment.
∑ Meeting suppliers and placing orders.
∑ Reviewing exam performances.
Wow! Thatís really only about half of the things Iíve got to be thinking about over the course of the year. Itís an exhausting job being Head of Department and thereís not a lot of training to prepare you for taking the first step into management. In fact itís largely how hard youíre prepared to work combined with the support of colleagues and senior managers that dictates how successful you are in your first few years as head of department.
Posted 26 June 2004 - 11:22 PM
1) Review your departmentís standing. Do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) analysis. What needs to be done? Look to build upon the successes and chat with managers and colleagues to see what needs to be done and get be prepared to act on other peoplesí suggestions. BUT also be prepared to listen to your students as they will give you a taste of your departmentís standing (I think this is essential as I learned before I started that 98% of students hated studying history at my current place and I had to find out why) Are the GCSE boards and subjects appropriate?
Ofsted reports and internal reviews might be invaluable in providing some guidance as to the major areas for development as these will be the focus for future inspections.
2) Set yourself realistic targets. Iíve suffered because I tried to change everything in the year Iíve been in my current post but reading the last Ofsted report it was apparent that what was needed was major surgery, not gradual change. So try to set yourself some targets, fix what you can fix easily as soon as you get the chance, look at what needs to be changed urgently and make your plans accordingly. Go for long term goals but give yourself achievable successes so you feel youíre making progress and can prove it! You wonít be able to rebuild a department in your own fashion overnight and youíll need to review spending priorities and texts. If schemes of work or handbooks are good only change what needs to be changed, delegate responsibility for reviews and look to share the duties of planning.
3) Iíve met with my management team to discuss what these plans were, to find out what extra funding I could have, who might provide extra help and advice and to make life easier for myself. Theyíve been invaluable in reining in some of my wildest notions but have suggested things Iíve never considered before. Iím half way through changing the text books we use to thinking skills related studies to prepare for GCSE related work during Key Stage 3 (As recommended by Chris Culpin) as a result.
Posted 26 June 2004 - 11:22 PM
5) Keep the office staff happy! Smile! It doesnít hurt! Buy them chocolates and wine at the right times. These people are the lifeblood of your school. If you can get them on your side then you will get little favours and help when you need it (the office staff at my place are amazing, organising my visits, insurance, forms, ringing parents for me etc and I even take them on field trips) and no one likes a sourpuss! The cleaner in your room at the end of the school day is just as important because they can be a real friend when youíre finding things hard. (I bet someone is going to criticise me for adding this bit!). Get student monitors to help you in the basic sorting and cataloguing and maintenance of your resources.
6) Have systems in place and know they work and that you can trust people are using them appropriately. So if there are behaviour problems then you might have to take on responsibility in sorting them out. I have letters on the school ICT system to praise those whoíve worked well and to request parental involvement if they wonít behave. All I have to do is give in a list of names and itís all done! Think how easy this is and how you might use the office staff in similar situations.
Posted 26 June 2004 - 11:23 PM
8) Enjoy your job! You wanted it! You applied for it, filled in the letter of application and wrote your CV etc so now youíve got it you owe yourself the chance to smile occasionally! Itís not easy, thereís no book on how to be a good HOD but only with experience will you get better and you will make mistakes (In my last place bought a load of textbooks that were rubbish but cheap in my first year and the school suffered financial hardships so we were stuck with them) but no one gets it right all of the time. Youíre responsible for moulding the love of history in some very trusting and not so trusting individuals so think carefully but enjoy it! (do you really think itís worth the extra £130 per month in your pay?)
Posted 30 June 2004 - 12:02 PM
Posted 30 June 2004 - 01:20 PM
Bernard Woolley: That's one of those irregular verbs, isn't it? I give confidential security briefings. You leak. He has been charged under section 2a of the Official Secrets Act.
Posted 30 June 2004 - 03:56 PM
I've been HOD in two places and it's the same in both places. How to make history popular with students, raise the appeal of GCSE, rejigging the curriculum in KS 3 to get pupils to even consider the gcse (I took over a course with 8 students this year, and 13 in my first post but raised this year's up to 26 and over half the year group in the other place)? I had to get teachers entrenched in copying and doing the questions from "In Search of History" as their scheme of work to try something different, even if it was only simple worksheets or thinking skills materials. Then it was a case of finding out what worked better, by visiting other places ( including the esteemed John D Clare's marvellous establishment) and then taking it back to try out. One major problem has been to maintain and reinforce history across the curriculum as a way of reinforcing the "presence" of the department. The largest problem was getting people to do something different, something they were unsure of and also getting non-specialists to do some real teaching, rather than here's the book, here's the page get on with it.
My real problem at my current post has been my determination to chuck everything out as it was a horrendous department of 1 and the OFSTED and council reports slated it and I think I've bitten off more this year than I could chew (as my wife will attest, it's even harder to delegate in a 1 man dept) but things couldn't be left as they were. My first job was to give Oxfam over £1000 of A level and degree standard texts that were a relic of 1993 then I cleared 4 filing cabinets of worksheets on economics, law and politics, dating back to 1983! In the end I had no materials for the year so I've had to work quickly to build this up and develop ideas. I'm not too bothered about the uptake this year, 26 is good but I want half a year group next year so the real work starts now?????
Posted 30 June 2004 - 08:04 PM
When I was offered the job of HOD in May 2002......it was Dave who I turned to for advice and guidance....I don't think he knows how grateful I am for all the pearls of wisdom he gave me......may I take this opportunity to publicly thank Dave!
Iíve been a HOD for 2 years now and it is hard work. I took over a department with an OfSTED looming. So I had my work cut out for me.
I am still very much on a learning curve Ė and I too need time management skills Ė I often work into the wee small hours only to start again 5 hours laterÖ..and by the end of term I am burnt out, gibbering wreck. (I now have bags on my bags under my eyes!)
I needed to share and sell my vision with my department. I needed to inject a range of teaching and learning strategies into the history lessons. I needed to transfer my enthusiasm to both staff and students.
I started with a short, medium and long-term plan. The first thing I did was look at the SoW. I set about writing a SoW in units. Each lesson is set out with SEN, Gifted and Talented work, extension tasks. I also offer alternatives ways to teach the same topic Ė I am aiming to do this for every lesson. I told my department to treat the SoW as a guide, to use it when they wanted ideas. I want them to have autonomy over their own teaching Ė I would hate to be told how to teach and deliver a lesson. At department meetings we share good practice. The department has generated so much new material and resources that we now need more storage space. We are now at a stage of rewriting and rehashing the SoW Ė your SoW is never finished, it is a working, living document.
After only 5 months in post, OfSTED came, saw and we conquered. I look at the amount of work we produced and still cannot believe it! The build up to OfSTED is pretty horrendous, but when they came I enjoyed it. We sparkled and shone for OfSTED and we found it a pleasant experience overall. Sell your vision and tell the inspectors how you are going to achieve it. Show them your achievements. Plan your lessons in detail and cater for all abilities Ė and above all smile and let them know how much you love your job!
Options were low when I arrived Ė 22 students (Yr 11) & 29 students (Yr 10). So I looked at how to make history interesting and sexy in year 8 & 9. Last year 80 students opted for history, this year 60 students have opted.
Raising attainment: I looked at the NC levels, target setting and marking, setting students subject specific targets, showing them how to improve their level of attainment. In KS3 year 8 and 9 I set GCSE type extension tasks, at Key Stage 4 I challenge students to write AS Level.
I am constantly looking at ways to lead and move the department forward.
But please remember that the children we teach have only ONE shot at an education and as HOD you are in charge and are responsible for the learning of history Ė make them LOVE IT!
Posted 01 July 2004 - 03:00 PM
My vision was to create good historians (both students and staff), with a high profile department that contributed across the school, not just in the classroom. One of the first things that I did was dramatically change the curriculum. I dropped the French Revolution at KS3 and brought in Black Peoples of the Americas and the Crusades (allowing me to introduce a much more multicultural curriculum that is crucial in inner city London). I scrapped the Modern World GCSE syllabus for SHP Medicine and Nazi germany for 3 reasons - 1) I was a GCSE examiner for Edexcel for Medicine paper 2 2) The course content was slashed in half 3) The boys struggled to get to grips with some of the course units. As a consequence the GCSE grades have gone up by 10%, which is not a huge amount but hey, these things take time!
I also realised how important it was to raise the profile of the department. One of the most significant things that I have done is to establish a highly successful Black and Asian History Month in the school which involves loads of students, guest speakers and events. I always get incredibly positive feedback from pupils and staff and it has really helped in the classroom. I have also lost count of the number of assemblies I have given, the trips that have been run (alright there could have been a few more, sorry boys), the videoconferences, the competitions and promotions that have been used to make sure that everyone knows about history.
I do really enjoy being HoD of History, I still love my subject passionately and even though I also have other responsibilities (G&T, Aimhigher), I know that my first love is in the History classroom. That is where my motivation comes from.
Posted 05 July 2004 - 12:00 AM
'Whole-school improvement' does not lie in the KS3 Strategy, nor in 'knocking the children into shape', nor in a set of learning strategies at KS4, nor even in CPD for the staff, with an unyielding emphasis on Teaching and Learning - though all these elements may play a part.
Above all, 'whole-school improvement' rests on the management and organisational skills of the school's Heads of Department. When they are clear about what their duties are, and when they are of the right calibre, personality and experience to deliver, 'whole-school improvement' follows automatically.
Posted 05 July 2004 - 06:23 AM
So how did you start off as a HoD - what problems did you face?
When I first became HoD it was by accident. There simply wasn't anyone else to do the job. The department had been managed by 3 different people in under a year, had lots of non specialist teachers in the department and things were all over the place.
First thing I did was tidy up. As a team we weren't entirely sure what resources we actually had as things were litteed around the school and weren't in any particular order. We got everything together and created an inventory of the stuff.
I'd only been in the school a term when this happened and didn't teach all that much History myself at the time. I was keen to make some fairly big changes to the way that history was taught as it was all fairly old fashioned and worksheet based but didn't really fancy upsetting the apple cart too much straight away. We used the SWOT analysis approach in a departmental meeting and agreed as a team that things needed changing. Out came the bin liners and goodbye we waved to three quarters of the worksheets.
Hardest thing initially was getting non specialists to focus on skills rather than content. This took a lot of time, shared planning and discussions about what the objectives of a series of lessons were. Worth providing people with a simple summary of what the key elements are and spending some time looking at activities that are addressing these in an interesting way. If the non specialist sees things they like that clearly work, then they'll use them.
Posted 25 July 2004 - 12:58 PM
Posted 26 July 2004 - 04:31 PM
Also I recommend having a look at the Folens stuff for gifted and talented and the seminar here by Lesley Ann which is outstanding.
Dan Moorhouse's seminar on active learning is also damn good too!
I'm sure there's more that I've forgotten but I'm not in history teacher mode so my brain is more concerned with painting windows and cutting the grass
Posted 16 August 2005 - 11:07 PM
The innovating with history site has some ideas and a decent case study on leadership and it's role in developing history in the curriculum at KS3.
Then for 14-19 you could look at history matters on the same site. which will keep you informed of current developments and lets you share experience in the "it worked for me" section although this still needs to be developed a lot more
The Historical Association is a wonderful organisation for more information and for some very good teaching ideas the regulat "teaching History" magazine is worth a look at. http://220.127.116.11/home.htm
Then there's the very useful teachernet site which although not specific to history has a number of excellent links, reports and publications you can read.
However I think that one of the best things you could do is to stop off at http://www.schoolshi....uk/assessment/ and have a look at some of the excellent off the peg resources you can download on assessment, including very useful stuff on levels in pupil speak, dept policies etc. Well worth trying out.
Now for some files you can use or adapt to suit your own needs. They are NOT perfect but they are examples of some of the management docs I've been given or used myself over the recent years. I should add my apologies to those people who I have borrowed ideas from if you're not credited by name here! If you've got more you think we should share or have some ideas as to what else we could include here then please get in touch with someone from the moderating team.
Posted 01 April 2006 - 07:23 PM
I was wondering if anyone out there has any thoughts or advice for a prospective 'Subject Leader' working in a Humanities faculty where the HoF is responsible for teaching and learning. Is it a stupid question to ask if that means s/he will be responsible for the schemes of work and exam courses offered?
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