The Changing Role of the Head of Department

Topics: Leadership, Management, Teacher Pages: 12 (4455 words) Published: June 24, 2013
Managing and Leading staff: a vital element which the Head of Department must fulfil.

The inspectorate commented that ‘too many heads of department take the narrow view that their responsibility is for managing resources rather than people’ (Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools, 1997). Being able to lead and manage staff has become a vital role which the Head of Department must fulfil to create an effective and successful department. For many, however, managing staff and getting them to work together as a team, is one of the most difficult tasks they face (Busher & Harris, 2000; McClune, 2003). Therefore this paper will explore the role of the Head of Department as the manager and leader of staff within their department. It will discuss some of the issues that can occur and offer suggestions on how to overcome them. This paper will commence by briefly examining the context in which the middle management role of the Head of Department evolved and its importance in raising standards within a school. It will then discuss the creation of the National Standards for Subject Leaders as a guideline of the roles and responsibilities which a Head of Department should fulfil. The paper will proceed to look at three elements within the National Standards for Subject Leaders which a Head of Department should be implementing to effectively lead and manage their staff. The theoretical reasons for instigating these elements will be explored through relevant academic literature before discussing the practical issues which can occur when applying them, particularly within a small department. The paper will firstly address the importance of creating a collaborative working culture within a department. It shall explore some of the issues that can occur when attempting to cultivate and maintain this collaborative environment. It will then go on to discuss how devolving responsibilities and delegating tasks within the department can help to motivate and empower staff or can add to an increase in work load and stress for colleagues. Thirdly, it will address the need for sharing good practice and encouraging personal development before discussing the resistance that a Head of Department can face when using observation as a method of doing this. Finally the paper will conclude why a Head of Department must be an effective leader and manager of their staff and how this area can be improved in practice within schools. The evolution of the role of the Head of Department

The concept of the role of the manager began in the United States in the early part of the C20th (Bush, 1995). These principles were originally applied to industry and commerce but since the 1960s they were slowly adopted into the educational setting. This along with the government’s increased control over the curriculum and teacher practice with the implementation of the National Curriculum under the Education Reform Act in 1988 created a dramatic change in school management and structure (Busher & Harris, 2000). With these changes the role of the Head of Department evolved and expectations of them and the responsibilities placed on them grew. They had to try to balance a growing leadership role alongside their normal duties as a classroom teacher. They were moving from the role of a leading professional amongst colleagues to a manager of them (Busher & Harris, 2000). As a consequence of these changes the distinction between middle and senior management was blurred and their functions were not adequately defined (Glover et al., 1998). Due to this the Teacher Training Agency, which was established in 1994 with the aim of improving the quality of teaching, published the National Standards for Subject Leaders in 1998. This in itself demonstrated the growing importance of the role of a Head of Department in the attempt to raise standards and achievement within schools. Indeed research proved that subject leaders could have the same effect...

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