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What do senior leaders expect from a Head of Geography?

I think that being a middle leader is one of the hardest but most rewarding roles that I have had in my teaching career.  You have the chance to make a considerable influence on the lives of so many young people through the curricular that you design and through the development of the teachers in your department.  But at the same time, you have to meet the many varied and competing deadlines expected of you by senior leaders.  Having clarity about what is expected of you is essential if you are to be able to lead effectively.  Here are five areas that I believe are essential to be an effective Head of Geography.

Modelling great teaching

I expect my Head of Geography to be a great teacher and model consistently great lessons.  I want them to be hyper modelling (exaggerating teaching all pedagogy we want early career teachers to master such as scanning for compliance or having an established set of classroom routines for climate and learning, if they can’t see it they can’t copy it).  I want them to be a ‘geek’, to be the fountain of knowledge, to be constantly updating their subject knowledge.  Finally, I want them to build a culture of teaching and learning in their department.

Subject knowledge, curriculum and lesson design

I expect my Head of Geography to design well sequenced curricular that considers the knowledge and skills taught from Y7 to Y11/Y13.  They need to consider opportunities for interleaving, retrieval practice and the consolidation of content so that it is learnt and not just taught.  Great curricular enables students to remember.  Medium term plans need to include low stakes testing, repetition and dual coding that supports long term knowledge retention. Heads of Geography must support their teachers to ensure they have clear, detailed expositions, planned out questioning and opportunities for students to independently practice what they have learnt.

Coaching and co-planning

Teachers need expert subject knowledge so that they can close the achievement gap for their students.  As a Head of Geography you need to have a clear plan to support them.  I would expect you to be an examiner so that you can support your teachers on the teaching of examination techniques.  You need to coach your teachers and to do this you need to know them.  You need to be in their lessons, you need to have a plan for learning walks – when are you going in?  What are you looking for?  The same for book looks.  Having a clear purpose is essential.  Finally once you have collected all this data you need to coach them to improve, you need to plan with them to help them script their exposition, questioning, instructions to ensure that they have maximum impact when they are in the room.

Data interpretation and triangulation

I expect my Head of Geography to know their data, to know what they are going to do as a result of it and to not make excuses for it.  I want them to collect and triangulate data from three places. Firstly, assessments, to use question level analysis and to identify areas of strength and weakness.  Secondly, the books, to see what they tell you about the quality of work overtime and the teacher’s approach to feedback.  Thirdly, what do you see on learning walks and lesson observations.  Once they have this data they can build a picture of typicality and from that a plan of next steps.

Holding people to account

This is such a key expectation for me as a senior leader.  Once a Head of Geography has developed their vision and turned this into a plan, I expect them to communicate it clearly to the teachers in their department.  From this moment onwards it is down to the Head of Geography to hold their teachers to account.  The quality of their department is a representation of them.  They have the incredible opportunity to create a collaborative culture, to drive their passion for the best subject on the curriculum and achieve great outcomes for the young people taking geography. 

Laura Stone