Being a Head of Department

I saw a blog earlier today by a Head of Department offering advice to her younger self on how to be a good HoD. It’s generally full of good advice and important points. For me, however, the value of those good points was slightly undercut by the fact that it appeared written very much from the “leadership” perspective of being a HoD. I felt that, if I squinted a bit in places, I’d be able to see lessons on “leadership” from courses like “Leading from the Middle”, and the woeful National Professional Qualification for Middle/Senior/Junior/Bottom/Top Leaders as inflicted on so many blameless teachers. I’ve since had a PM chat with the author, and she’s a wonderful person. We do, however, disagree a bit on where the focus of the HoD role might be, and the extent to which “leadership” as it is currently perceived in the education system, is important.

Then I thought, “Hang on, I’m leaving my own HoD role after 10 years. I should offer my own collected wisdom to my successor, and to any other poor saps who think the TLR justifies all the extra contact with SLT they’ll need to have.” Not a blog on general “leadership”, because I’ve done that already, and a lovely catharsis it was too. But a blog on being a Head of Department, for those who might be taking on that role for the first time in September. Then I realised that this will be an even easier blog than normal, because I’ve already done it !

Two years ago, the wonderful Jill Berry wrote a piece on the Guardian website about what it means to be a good HoD. I didn’t know Jill then (I’d never been on Twitter at the time), and my response was somewhat sceptical of Jill’s perspective. I thought that she was describing what a headteacher thought made a good HoD, rather than what a teacher or HoD might think was a good HoD. And I launched what, on reflection, might well have been my first mini-blog.

You can find the Guardian article here. For ease of reference, I’m repeating my BTL comment here. I’ve read it again, and I still subscribe to every word I said back then! Sorry, Jill!

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Are you a Progressive or a Neo-Trad? Take the quiz and join your groupthink bubble!


Over recent weeks I have read more and more blogs and tweets on the issue of the alleged progressive-traditionalist (or neo-trad) divide in education. Some people have lined up to blame “progressives” for every ill in the world, while others have pointed fingers at neo-trads for providing cover for the wholesale Govian replacement of modern schools with 19th Century workhouses. In an interesting side-argument, I’ve seen plenty of ordinary teachers saying that they don’t identify with either progressive or traditional camps, and prefer to use mixed methods, only to be met by a blast of “You’re either with us or against us – there is no middle ground”. Which will be news to Switzerland.

So, how is a bog-standard teacher to navigate their way through this terminological minefield? How do they know who to follow on Twitter? Folks, as always, I’m here to help. All you need to do is take the following easy 20 question quiz, and you’ll soon have a clear identity. Then you can throw yourself enthusiastically into the fray without finding that you’ve embarrassingly raced to the wrong barricade.

Honest answers only, now.

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