Session 335: Subject Leadership

Thursday 5th January 2017

Being the subject leader of the curriculum area that you love can be a real blessing for many educators, as they are able to develop a deeper appreciation and understanding.

Following on from a popular #UKEdChat poll, the first UKEdChat chat session of 2017 explored the positive and challenging aspects of leading a subject in a primary or secondary/FE setting.

On Twitter, the session asked the following questions:

  1. What is your subject/curriculum specialism at your school?  What do you feel are they key components of leading a subject area?
  2. What aspects of support from school management are required to successfully fulfil the role of subject leadership?
  3. What are the best means of external support that you receive for your subject specialism, and what does that support offer you as a teacher?
  4. How does subject leadership of your subject compare to other subjects in your setting, and are they all given equal support?
  5. What are the greatest challenges and/or bureaucracy involved in leading a subject in your specialised area?
  6. If budgets were not a problem, and support was assured, how would you develop your subject specialism in your school?

Did you miss the session?

Continue the debate by scrolling down to the foot of the page to add your comments.


The discussion began by participants exchanging the key components of leading their subject. Many people spoke of understanding where the staff and pupils were in their learning/training. Many tweeted about building relationships to foster cooperation, with empathy and an understanding of workload being mentioned by a few. In was interesting that seemingly no one mentioned material things as key components that enabled them to do their job.

The discussion moved on the how the leadership team can/should support subject leaders. Again, empathy and workload were mentioned, as well as communication being key, but also a common problem. There seemed to be a feeling that people at all levels made unhelpful assumptions which would not be issues if communication was better. There was a lengthy side discussion about the monetary rewards subject leaders should be given, which developed into a conversation about the different in subject leadership at primary and secondary schools. There was also a debate about whether TLRs or higher wages from those leading a subject meant that they should expect to work longer hours at home, and in turn, whether ‘unpaid leaders’, particularly at primary level, should be expected to put in long hours at home to lead their subject.

Next, UKEdChatters discussed what external support they require. Time and freedom to work were the most cited things. Other things included engaged staff, pupils and parents, budgets which grow rather than contract. There were also many subject specific suggestions which can be seen in the tweet archive.

The chat moved on to talk about whether subjects, and therefore their leaders, are given equal status within schools. There were arguments on both sides of this, but most people thought there was a core group of subjects which are given higher status due to testing and league tables. It is interesting to note that some of the international participants mentioned that subject status varies a great deal from country to country.

The final question asked participants to imagine how they leadership of their subject would be different if they had unlimited support from senior leaders and funds. There were no mentions of golden calculators or diamond encrusted globes. The ideas were poignantly mundane. There were PE teachers asking for a suitable place to do PE, maths teachers wanting enough calculators, and teachers from all levels wanting to visit places on school trips to further the understanding and horizons of their children. Would leader could do more…?

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The Editorial Account of UKEdChat, managed by editor-in-chief Colin Hill, with support from Martin Burrett from the UKEd Magazine. Pedagogy, Resources, Community.

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