Diary of a subject leader
Real issues in the life of a fictional Subject Leader
Apparently, weighing the pig doesn’t necessarily make it fatter. Well I knew that, however there are times when I think that I’m the only one who does. Since the 5+ A* to C, including maths and English attainment target, became the singular most important statistic to a school, these departments are being subjected to increasing pressure to squeeze every last drop out of the ‘pivotal’ students. As a result, SLT are continually asking for regular updates on the students’ performance. So I play the game, amending the lists which are then ping-ponged to and fro at regular fortnightly intervals, inserting the occasional question mark, highlight and word ‘left’ next to student names. But does this alone make a difference?
I’ve just returned from a meeting with the Head of English and Curriculum Deputy to identify which students are likely to achieve a grade C or more in both subjects with special consideration having been given to the borderline cases. From this discussion, the overlap of students targeted within both English and maths resulted in a list of 15 names. The success or failure of these 15 students would determine whether the school was to be seen as a beacon of good practice or a cause for concern.
As I left, I was still unclear as to how we as a maths department could ensure that the targets would be met and the identified borderline students would achieve in both subjects? Should these students receive preferential intervention above that of their peers? And what would this intervention look like? And shouldn’t I be making sure that all students get good quality teaching in the classroom rather than relying on interventions?
I was adamant however that whatever strategies were to be implemented, they had to make a difference. Some would be applicable to all students, for example the tier of entry, access to revision classes, availability of resources, understanding of the curriculum and progression between grades. But this wasn’t going to be enough. The new list of targeted students required something special and the overall responsibility had been given to both the Head of English and Head of Maths.
After much discussion and deliberation, the planned strategies fell into two camps, i.e. long and short term. The introduction of Process Skills within the renewed Programme of Study, together with our increasing understanding of Functional Skills, focussed our attention on looking for commonalities between the two contrasting subject areas. This was to include ways in which transferable skills could be collaboratively developed and applied by the students. Unfortunately, this was believed to be too ambitious for our Year 11s this late on in the year. The employed short-term strategies are to consist of increased dialogue with parents, mentoring and assistance with revision. It is important for me to ensure all students get access to the same level of support. However, in this target-driven environment some are now deemed more equal than others.