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What makes a great Head of Department?

(37 Posts)
EnglishHOD Tue 30-May-17 09:54:34

Name changed for this so as not to out self!

I'm moving schools in september - same job, bigger department, lots of new staff.

I've got a pretty good idea what I'm doing in terms of curriculum, but haven't line managed this many people before. I want to set the right tone from the start so am interested in views: what makes a good head of department? (Or a bad one?) What do you like about your HOD? (or don't!)

Thank you!

OP’s posts: |
MaisyPops Tue 30-May-17 09:59:08

Always consider the impact of decisions on teachers with a full timetable.

Hear what people think of their existing department before making changes. A new HOD in a local school walked in and made loads of changes with no consulatation and people ended up very unhappy.

Avoid getting caught up in cliques and departmental bitching and keep one eye open because some people will cosy up to you to get what they want from you.

noblegiraffe Tue 30-May-17 10:06:36

Have your department's back. Spurious parental complaints, stupid SLT initiatives, workload. At least try to protect your department from them, and if you can't, tell your department that you at least tried.

Reply to emails.

Thank them for their hard work at difficult times, and cakes in the office help.

spankhurst Tue 30-May-17 10:07:30

I'm a HOD; just had a professional review and the positive comments from my department were about being supportive and interested in them. Listen to other people's views and be firm but kind if you need to reject them for some reason. And yes, don't steamroller in with your 'vision' without getting the lay of the land.

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Tue 30-May-17 10:13:02

Reply to emails.

Respect the range of experience you have in the department and listen to their opinions. Properly listen and take them into consideration. If you have to make an unpopular decision, explain why rather than trying to pretend it's actually all fine and popular.

Let people be heard during department meetings.

Have your department's back but keep them in the loop about what is going on so they know the score.

Be seen to be pulling your weight in the department.

Don't try to blag it. Ask for support and advice if you need it from the department.

EnglishHOD Tue 30-May-17 10:23:12

This all sounds like stuff I can do smile

Ok, so in my current job I didn't change anything for my first year then slowly started implementing changes where needed. In the new department, I think more needs doing and there will be new staff who need more direction. No steam rollering though. I promise!

How about first day - INSET - when I know less than most of the department but will be expected to lead dept meeting? Just ask lots of questions?

OP’s posts: |
MaisyPops Tue 30-May-17 10:29:29

Bring cake for the first meeting.

Ask what's currently in place. Maybe do a SWOT analysis as a department.

Have a decision ready on what's being taught when for gcse though. Don't leave that to chance. See if you can get in before to get some info but that needs to be in place before you start

TheOnlyLivingBoyInNewCross Tue 30-May-17 11:13:28

Yes, yes to asking what's currently in place. Who has what responsibility within the dept? What are the issues/concerns/needs you need to be aware of within their responsibility area?

LockedOutOfMN Tue 30-May-17 22:48:03

Agree with what the previous posters have said. Be the advocate for your department in the school and fight for them. Listen to people, bring biscuits.

Spend at least your first term watching and listening before you make any major changes.

Rosieposy4 Thu 01-Jun-17 14:07:17

Bring cake to all meetings, not just the first one 🎂👍

BizzyFizzy Thu 01-Jun-17 14:09:57

Trust your department. Treat them as equal professionals. Learn from their varied experiences.

Don't be like my HOD.

Mistressiggi Thu 01-Jun-17 14:09:59

Set a good example by leaving promptly some nights - show them that workload should be manageable and not overwhelming.

Acopyofacopy Thu 01-Jun-17 19:05:56


Our weekly department meeting was abolished because there were "too many meetings". This has taken away any chance of discussion within the department, as we don't have a break or lunch together. It's crap. sad

larrygrylls Thu 01-Jun-17 19:09:48

Some really good advice. Just remember that true leadership is about taking the flak for your department, not throwing them to the lions. And, if there is a problem with a teacher, try to manage it constructively and professionally.

CauliflowerSqueeze Thu 01-Jun-17 22:37:31

Don't make snap decisions. Say "I'm going to have to give that some thought and come back to you"

Share out ability / behaviour classes fairly

Ask teachers to email you a class they would like on their TT and a class they wouldn't like and while you can't promise, try to give them something they want.

Swap around teaching rooms now and again - keeps things fresh, cuts out clutter.

TheFifthKey Thu 01-Jun-17 22:43:26

I had a HoD who was rather crap in some ways but in others was rather good - he was very much about working smarter not harder and in meetings he would introduce the item, decide during the meeting on what if anything needed to do next and out a realistic time limit on it. After years of "we'll work out the fine details later" it was refreshing. He also sent out a weekly email bulletin to all dept members detailing deadlines coming up, things we needed to know, reminders etc. Usually this was all stuff we'd had before but it was useful to have everything pertinent to our dept in one place for later reference. Don't feel you need to fill meeting time if there are other things that need doing and make sure you know or make clear who is responsible for what, and identify where tasks are falling through the cracks (so the person in charge of KS5 only teaches Lit, not Lang and so language coursework deadlines never get formally set...that sort of thing)

Alphvet Fri 02-Jun-17 19:27:50

Don't be too nice.
My current hod is too nice.
"Can we change the coursework deadline to the end of term rather than half term?" "ok"

Not making staff aware of deadlines. Not sticking to deadlines yourself!

Having clear favourites.

Assuming that women with children cannot cope with extra responsibility.

Alphvet Fri 02-Jun-17 19:28:44

Leading by example!
Don't say no photocopying exam questions then do that very thing

Alphvet Fri 02-Jun-17 19:29:45

Praise staff

EnglishHOD Fri 02-Jun-17 22:07:00

Thank you for these. They're really useful.

I'm particularly loving the cake suggestion. I'm a big fan of cake, but I'm hugely cynical when my line manager provides it so I've always wondered how colleagues feel when I do - sounds like I don't need to worry about it!

Likewise meetings - there's not a regular meeting at the moment in the department I'm moving into and I just don't understand how that works. I want to introduce a regular weekly/fortnightly meeting but was warned that staff might not be receptive to that. It sounds like most people would be if I also provide cake

Thank you again flowers

OP’s posts: |
EnglishHOD Fri 02-Jun-17 22:10:33

Assuming that women with children cannot cope with extra responsibility.
Ha! I just noticed this one. I'll never assume that. I have two young DC myself and fully understand how hard my colleagues must work to balance the different elements of their lives.

Don't be like my HOD.
Do you mind me asking what you don't like about them @BizzyFizzy?

OP’s posts: |
noblegiraffe Fri 02-Jun-17 22:14:21

I think a weekly proper meeting would be an incredible waste of time, and you'd have to be mindful of directed time. My dept meets once or twice a term for a proper sit-down meeting but we have a morning briefing (10 mins) once a week for quick information sharing.

EnglishHOD Fri 02-Jun-17 22:19:14

Yes, to be clear Noble - I didn't mean hour long meetings. I'm a big fan of a twenty minute - sometimes just one item on the agenda - meeting and cancelling when not needed, but I'm also a fan of communication. I'll take a look at whether fitting in a morning briefing might work.

OP’s posts: |
mineofuselessinformation Fri 02-Jun-17 22:23:46

Have their back on discipline issues - notwithstanding unrealistic expectations / over harsh decisions, etc.
Treat them as if they are part of your team - they are.
And all of the other things said here.
It can be as simple as getting someone a key to their classroom, or as difficult as disagreeing with slt as to what your department will do.
Definitely don't do the 'do as I say, not as I do' thing.

EnglishHOD Fri 02-Jun-17 22:30:29

Ah shit. It's just hit me that I really am starting a new job soon.

<craps self>

OP’s posts: |

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