Do you have to be a good teacher to be a good subject leader?   I did a lesson observation on an acting subject leader and gave him some ‘satisfactory’ grades. He did not like that at all.   In one sense that’s understandable, nobody likes to be labelled anything less than ‘good’ or ‘excellent BUT he said that he didn’t think he could be a credible subject leader unless he was good in the classroom. I didn’t agree but it got me thinking about myself and some other subject leaders I know.  

Crisis of confidence

I remember when I first become a Head of Maths; during one of my many crises of confidence (in my first year) the Headteacher told me that you didn’t have to be an excellent teacher to be a good Head of Department but you definitely couldn’t do it if you were one of the worst.   We’ve got some subject leaders who are pretty bad in the classroom (in terms of behaviour management as opposed to subject knowledge) and they’re amongst the worst subject leaders we have.   

The Senior Team dilemma

The dilemma is – does the school take the bull by the horns and tackle the issues head-on (in the way that you might for a classroom teacher who’s struggling) or do we have to be a little more sensitive to avoid the subject leader feeling embarrassed and creating a lack of self-belief in their role?


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