Join us
Royal Geographical Society (with IBG) welcome sign

Become a member and discover where geography can take you.

Join us
A male teacher standing in the countryside, writing on a clipboard. There is a lovely rural view behind him with green fields and trees.

Becoming a Head of Department

Middle Leaders contribute significantly to the success of the school and to the progress of individual pupils

These training materials aim to support you to build your own leadership capacity, and help to focus on the key aspects of leading a curriculum area.

As such, the aims of these training materials are to:

  • Further understand the core purpose of subject leadership
  • Reflect on where you are currently at in terms of this core purpose
  • Consider the concept of a Peak Performer in relation to your professional development and the development of your department

Resources you will need (downloadable below)

  • Leading A Curriculum Area  (with slide notes)
  • Presentation guidance notes
  • Awareness test avi file
  • NCSL Thinkpiece article by Tony Bush and notes 
  • Representation of Subject Leadership and Traffic light evaluation
  • Leadership scenarios cards 
  • What Should Middle Leaders Do? template for paired/group activity
  • Leading a Curriculum Area Plenary cards 
  • Securing improvement: the role of subject leaders Ref: DfES 0102/2002
  • The Heart Of The Matter - NCSL Leading Edge Series 

Starter activity

Awareness test avi file needed.

The task is simple: Good teams rely on skillful teamwork, so count the number of passes made by the team in white. Please see the notes on the PPT slide above for further information. Discussion can follow as to the range of factors which impact on the work of a curriculum leader, and the distractions which occur. The focus must always remain on teaching and learning.

A reflection on middle leadership

The Thinkpiece article raises questions for discussion about the role of Middle Leaders, as such this activity builds on the distractions identified in the starter task. Colleagues should read the article (this could be a pre session task) and work in pairs to discuss the questions posed on the Thinkpiece notes document, a question could be given to each pair in your session. Your plenary should then identify what your group feels Subject Leadership should be about – this will link to the Word Representation of subject leadership. This is taken from Securing improvement: the role of subject leaders Ref: DfES 0102/2002. Discussion should then focus on the extract from ‘The Heart Of The Matter’ which summarises the key aspects of the role of a middle leader:

  • Teaching – Make sure that the teaching delivered by those you line manage is of the highest quality

  • Learning – Make sure that pupils achieve at least to their potential as established by baseline testing, and preferably beyond

  • Becoming involved in, or initiating, a whole-school activity related to school improvement – Help to drive the school forward

Some leadership scenarios

Leadership scenario cards needed.

Groups of ideally three people can select several scenarios for discussion within your allocated time period, but it would be useful to summarize the response and skills onto sugar paper for each scenario. These can then be displayed around the room for colleagues to discuss in a plenary to this session. Who Are Peak Performers?

Steering my team to success

This PowerPoint considers role models and the importance of values, vision and visible results. The activities aim to steer you to evaluate your current position, and paint a clear picture of your curriculum area’s future success. Peak Performers create a compelling purpose and translate this into a clear vision of success. Your team will opt-in to your vision and will make their best contribution towards achieving the goals of your department. So, be clear about your purpose, why you are following this route, and paint a clear picture of what your peak performing department will look like.

With so many changes at all Key Stages, it is essential that you communicate and develop a crystal clear purpose for your department based on clear values to which all are committed. You then need to draw a road-map towards reaching this goal. What will your 21st Century geography curriculum look like? It may be useful at this stage to consider the words that people will be saying eg your Year 9 pupils at the end of Key Stage 3, your year 11 pupils as they leave your last geography lesson, the parents at a consultation evening; your line manager when they have observed a ‘typical’ geography lesson. Having established the vision and values, you must now focus on the principles which will give you the greatest chance of success. It is all too easy to forget your purpose and replace it with processes, especially when times are so busy. Retain the focus on your core purpose ie teaching and learning of the highest possible quality from your entire team. Revisit your team vision and purpose in order that you can establish strategies to achieve them ie how you aim to reach your goals. What should middle leaders do?

What should middle leaders do?

Small groups of colleagues should work together to discuss specifically what middle leaders should be doing to achieve their prime purpose of improving the quality of teaching and learning in the classroom. The To Help You slide provides the eight aspects of a middle leader’s role; each aspect should have specific actions which will be done to ensure the aspect of the role is achieved – the following slides provide specific actions for your plenary and relate to the Heart of the Matter document. Allow time to share aspects of each presentation – you could, of course, simply give one of the eight aspects to each pair

Leading a curriculum area plenary cards

This activity aims to make the distinction between management and leadership. What does leadership add to management? Each person is given a card which is either management or leadership; they have to find the person who has the corresponding card (examples are included in the PowerPoint).


File nameFiles

File type



Presentation guidance notes


153 KB

Securing improvement: the role of subject leaders Ref: DfES 0102/2002


249 KB

What Should Middle Leaders Do? Template


89 KB

Awareness test avi file


2 MB

The Heart Of The Matter - NCSL Leading Edge Series


355 KB

Leading A Curriculum Area


1 MB

Leading a Curriculum Area Plenary cards


195 KB

Leadership scenarios cards


120 KB

Representation of Subject Leadership and Traffic light evaluation


150 KB

NCSL Thinkpiece article by Tony Bush and notes


67 KB

Download all files