I’m just finishing my part in the first of a series of  ‘learning walks’.

The Local Authority inspectors are starting us off.

They’re in today and tomorrow to observe lessons and work with Heads of Department and Senior Leaders to see ‘how learning is progressing’.  I’ve done some observations of science and maths and am about to sample some Year 7 books to see how pupils have recorded their learning.

It doesn’t sound too scary to me as a teacher. Even if  I know my lessons and books aren’t perfect (as they’re not) I always welcome the chance to reflect and discuss the teaching and learning going on in my classrooms.

So why did we have a science teacher who had to go home yesterday because the thought of the learning walk had stressed her out? 

Did she stop to consider that the thought of her not being in today stressed me out!?

There have been several horrific incidents involving knives in my school’s local area.   We’ve had a few scares with pupils bringing knives into school and a pupil being cut with what we think was a blade but as we haven’t been able to find the perpetrator I cannot say for sure.  

Pilot searches

We’ve bought some hand-held metal detectors, one for each of the senior leadership team and planned a pilot scanning of one class   Friday Period 4 the four of us (including Sarah our fantastic bursar, more of her another time) walk into the Year 9 class, scanners akimbo …….   We’ve learnt a few things from the pilot and are ready to extend to carrying out locker searches at the same time.   

Pupil perception

I think the kids were mainly delighted that they were getting out of half an hour of Maths (the fact is we’d chosen this lessons because it had a supply teacher in it). One they’d got over their delight they then started talking about what could be next … big arches on the way into school ……. frisking pupils as we went about the corridors (I’m actually going on a ‘how to search’ course next term.)   Has anyone else got experiences of this sort of thing?    Got any tips on how to handle the parents? I’m sure they will be up in arms about the fact that their dearest son or daughter was scanned in public by male teachers (as Sarah and I were on bag and invigilator duty) and made to empty their bags out in front of the rest of the class.  

I know that they’ll have already forgotten the reasons why we’re doing this, the incident with Brian and other incidents happening in and around our local area.

It’s a fine line between scaring pupils and parents and helping them feel safe.  Any thoughts greatly appreciated.

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?