Getting the most from middle leaders

This is an adapted version of an article written by James Troop, chief executive of Teaching Leaders, which appeared in NGA's bi-monthly Governing Matters magazine.

Teaching and leadership are the two greatest factors in improving pupil outcomes and middle leaders sit at the heart of this. They implement the improvement plan you have approved by overseeing the quality of teaching and pastoral care. They also directly control your ability to monitor the progress of that plan by quality assuring and moderating the pupil progress data you see. Without highly effective middle leaders it is impossible to implement or evaluate a successful school improvement plan.

As a governing board, you review lots of data which drive overall school performance. You review leadership and management data and look at your key progress and achievement indicators. What would this review look like if you included middle leadership?

You might consider:

  • To what extent do you evaluate leadership and management beyond the senior leadership team (SLT)?
  • Do you look at the performance of results beyond reading, writing and numeracy or English and maths?
  • Do you review the variation in results between departments and year groups?
  • How accurate is the teacher assessment data you see in governors’ meetings?
  • How reliable are the judgments about quality of teaching and performance management?
  • Are you talent spotting future senior leaders?

Ofsted now looks at middle leadership in the inspection framework. The new primary curriculum and secondary data measures such as Progress and Attainment 8 will put a greater focus on results beyond English/literacy and maths/numeracy. According to the OECD, 75% of variation in pupil performance comes from within school so reducing within-school variation and increasing consistency of performance between subjects and year groups should be a key priority.

Changes to assessment without levels means middle leaders need to become more reliable and autonomous in assessing and moderating pupils’ work. The introduction of performance related pay and the move away from one-off lesson observation judgements puts an enormous pressure on middle leaders to accurately performance manage staff.

Check that your SLT is encouraging middle leaders, including by:

  • investing in professional development
  • building teamwork across departments and pastoral roles
  • developing peer departments or triads to build joint practice development and eliminate gaps
  • setting a rotating agenda which deep-dives into the curriculum and performance of different subjects and year groups at different points of the year
  • allocating link governors to key departments
  • inviting middle leaders to present at meetings

Governors can champion this through rigorous questioning of the data and reporting from your SLT, but you can also get to know your middle leaders as they are your succession plan.

Published: 03/09/2018, by Tom Fellows
Last Updated: 03/09/2018, by Tom Fellows

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