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5 Key Steps To Start As A Subject Leader

Education has a knack of interpreting a person who studied, or has an interest in, a foundation subject, into… “They’ll be great at leading that!” The staff member who learnt piano at age seven but hasn’t played for over thirty years, leads music, and someone who says they did a CACHE Level 3 diploma in Word Processing at college twenty years ago, suddenly gets offered Computing.

Yes, sure, we have great leadership models and examples around us but could we teach and instruct others what they should be doing? How exactly do you develop a subject in a school or across a Multi Academy Trust?

It can seem overwhelming, such a huge step to overcome but with these few key steps when starting as a subject lead, you’ll be sure to set off on your journey with strong foundations.

STEP 1 – Curriculum.

What and how is the subject being taught?

As a subject leader this should always be the place to start. What is being done right now, and importantly is it actually happening. This sounds harsh but most educators are fully aware that foundational subjects such as Computing, Art and Music, often get left behind in favour of an extra writing session, or catching up on the Maths learning so you’re in line with your year group partner.

It shouldn’t be like this, but this is the reality. So be real with your appraisal.

Is there a scheme – if so how old is it, is it current and up to date regards vocabulary and subject matter?

If there is no scheme what a great opportunity to make an instant whole school impact! An example of a scheme can be seen at

If there is a scheme, is it really delivering a current and engaging curriculum. Are the kids learning all that great knowledge and vocabulary. Can they explain meanings and apply this learning across the subject? A lot of considerations but you know if the subject is coherent across a school if the children can talk about it with some confidence.

Is the coverage there across the whole school? This is critical. For knowledge and skills, vocabulary too, there should be progress seen throughout the whole school. The child’s journey through each key stage should be documented in your coverage documents.

What should be seen is a developed level of understanding, and building on prior knowledge and skills, then progression between each year group. Check the current scheme is doing this and flows across the whole school learning.

And here’s a master tip…

· Is there anything that shouldn’t be in it – could you save some precious timetabling time by missing unnecessary units?

Pressures on foundational subjects is always difficult, could a scheme or program of work be condensed in some way?

For this point, I agree it needs some reasonable subject knowledge to decide on this, however some of you out there may have great knowledge and so could ensure an effective and efficient curriculum.

STEP 2 – Resources

You’ll see a lot of focus in this blog is on the curriculum, and rightly so. The next steps flow off in sequence from this foundation. At the end of the day, the curriculum is what you need to know and teach. This benefits the kids most!

Are your resources fit for purpose?

So important to give teachers and educators the tools they need for the job, especially when confidence and knowledge can be low.

Early on, as soon as you have got an idea what your curriculum wants to do, do a resources audit.

Audit against the curriculum objectives and check your budget to get an idea of where to prioritise provision.

Ok, the elephant in the room… how do I ask for so much money. Computing stuff isn’t cheap!

You’re right, but… your curriculum should be reflecting the Intent statement of the three I’s statement for Ofsted and also your subject policy.

If there is no policy, once these key steps have been followed, write the policy to showcase more clearly the provision you now have in place. This will make the subject more coherent from your leadership point of view.

So, if your curriculum is informing your Intent statement, the Implementation statement needs resources to help fulfil this. When this happens, the Impact of your subject (with some CPD) will come to fruition. Your subject will be water tight if you match your policy, to your Intent, Implementation and Impact statements and have the curriculum and resources in place to clearly showcase this!

STEP 3 – Staff Voice

A simple one to do, but once you have a clear idea of your curriculum and resources in place, take a snapshot of how colleagues feel about the subject.

Consider confidence, subject knowledge, whether the scheme or curriculum is easy enough for them to follow and deliver? Do they know where to go for help?

Another master tip here…

· Ask for any suggestions – staff may have ideas of how to enrich or promote the provision. There could be some golden ideas given that you can facilitate.

STEP 4 – Pupil Voice

Just as getting feedback from staff, it’s important to get feedback from the children too. They will be quizzed on their knowledge and experience of the subject when the dreaded ‘O’ come knocking!

What do the kids know? What is their impression of the subject?

If they only talk about Beebots, then perhaps the subject hasn’t been taught fully before, or staff have stayed in their comfort zones too much.

If Scratch is continually mentioned, you could consider broadening the children’s experience of other platforms and coding programs. Some great tips for starter apps can be found here.

Consider how this reflects against what SHOULD have been taught. Analyse the gaps and consider training that may be needed.

You know your school and colleagues best, so think what are the reasons why there are gaps, how can I best serve my colleagues going forwards. This is a great leadership model.


Now you’ve analysed everything, get CPD in place to address the gaps, and give everyone a solid foundation to work from.

Don’t get carried away with the niceties of those enrichment ideas and spend the budget on those first, get the bread and butter done - staff knowing where they’re going with the subject first.

What you teach and how you teach this, has the biggest impact on the kids. Anything else is lovely fluff to make the subject cosy around school.

If you’re part of a MAT or linked to other schools, consider setting up cluster coaching groups between the schools too, this will pair more confident educators with those less so. The real hands on approach of learning from other professionals pays dividends over the long term, whilst is more cost effective as the only real cost is time for teachers to be away from the classrooms.

Once this foundation is in place, getting industry professionals and teaching specialists in to support and extend your provision will reap better value, as staff would be starting from a stronger footing.

If there is a distinct lack of able teachers to follow this model, then the sooner you can employ companies such as Computing Reddy the better. This raise the profile and accelerate staff confidence and knowledge of the subject, to help progress the strength of Computing across school.

As subject lead you are responsible for knowing what is happening in the school for your subject. If you follow these steps you can show a structured methodical approach to finding out what’s happening and more importantly how you have positively responded to these findings and so what is now in place; how you are moving the subject forwards.

You may not quite be there by the time Ofsted come knocking but if you can talk about your journey and colleagues can talk confidently about the subject provision in school, you’re winning!

Good luck – send your success stories to

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