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What Makes a Good Subject or Curriculum Leader?

Ofsted reminded us of the key role that a subject leader plays by focusing their inspections on the “quality of education” and in particular on the Intent, Implementation and Impact of the curriculum. A student’s education relies on the connectedness, design, teaching and results of the curriculum.

School senior leaders provide a strategic lead to all aspects of a school including the overall design for the curriculum and how the quality of education is to be monitored, but they do not provide the lead on subject specific curriculum design, including content choices and sequencing or have day-to-day leadership of the delivery of the curriculum. This is the role of the curriculum or subject leader.

Good Subject leaders need to be able to:

  • Develop and maintain a high-quality curriculum for their subject (Intent)
  • Evaluate the quality of teaching and learning, identifying strengths and development points for both the subject and individual teachers (Implementation)
  • Build a team and its capacity by supporting and mentoring colleagues, arranging quality professional development, balancing workloads and encouraging wellbeing (Implementation)
  • Assess the attainment and progress of students (Impact)

New subject leaders should not try to fix everything immediately. Here are some things to think about:

Take stock

Work out what is going well and where efforts can be best directed to secure fastest improvement. Small immediate “wins” can have a very positive impact on your teams moral.  Discussions with senior leaders, staff and students are vital but so is the evidence from the school’s monitoring systems and the subject’s results. Good subject leaders base any changes on secure evidence and calm consideration.

Plan of Action

The success of any actions relies on commitment from the subject team and senior leaders, so once a plan is being formulated make sure to test it out with others before diving straight in. Also think about those quick wins as well as the more medium term actions that require embedding. Consider how the plan can be best delivered to gain the buy-in of all or key members of staff.

Delivery of Your Plans

Make sure you stay on top of your actions even if your “day job” is busy. Take time to review with senior leaders and your staff the progress made and whether plans need adjusting or resourcing needs to be reviewed.

All subject leaders need to:

  • Promote their subject across the curriculum with senior leaders, colleagues and students alike. Good communication is at the heart of a strong subject team.
  • Be open and approachable – it’s the best way to gather information and to build collaboration.
  • Be seen to lead by example, be the first to make the changes to practice.
  • Establish a fair and well-planned monitoring process.
  • Support colleagues but be prepared to challenge poor practice.

An Online System for Supporting Subject Leaders with Curriculum Development

The Lessons Learned Subject Development Toolkit is a supported approach that school and subject leaders can use to evidence, track and improve the intent, implementation and impact of the school curriculum.

what makes a good subject or curriculum leader diagram showing evidence, review and playback stages Lessons Learned

Gather Evidence

Use our deep dive style forms to gather evidence for your subject review. Our forms are structured to help narrow your focus and guide you towards an accurate assessment, but they can be tailored to your setting and/or subject areas.

Review + Identify

Pull out the findings from each evidence gathering activity to determine the areas of strength and areas requiring development. As these have been determined from a wide source of evidence, they will help paint an overall picture of curriculum intent, implementation and impact in your subject, and should also allow you to make judgements on leadership, behaviour and personal development.

Playback + Action

Summarise your findings using our 360 review tool or on a report of your own format, which allows you to create a report that contains a visual summary of subject level judgements (in the form of a radar chart – our 360 review tool) and an actionable list for staff to work towards.

Find out more and book a free online demo with a member of our team today:


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