Diary of a subject leader
Real issues in the life of a fictional Subject Leader
I woke this morning to the voice of Sir Malcolm Rifkind. No I don’t have a weird ring-tone, he just happened to be talking about the issues around a new government taking office. I’m pretty bored with the election already, and it hasn’t even started yet. However, the point Sir Malcolm was making returned to haunt me.
I’m on my school leadership team as an AP and my responsibility is maths. One way that I am responsible is through my own teaching, and that happens only three periods a fortnight – less than if I were a Main Scale Teacher. So when I need to do things that heads of department and senior leadership have to do, I need lots of cover. Every day of my timetable requires me to teach at least four out of five lessons. Similar to many schools in many areas, due to our status as penultimate in terms of education funding from central government, we face serious financial restrictions. We focus on CPD taking place within our school and we learn from each other, we can never have more than three teachers absent on a given day – so even arranged inset can be cancelled. Despite this, I think it’s not been too bad.
Later this morning when I was checking my pigeon-hole, I found I had a circular from the SSAT about a maths network meeting. Unusually, it was a poor photocopy and had a note written from my head – “I think you should be going to these”.
Well, as a matter of fact so do I, but there are other more important events I would like to attend, but already know I neither can afford the inset, nor be freed-up to allow me to go. The regular flyers I receive float into the recycling bin: I just know we haven’t the time or finance. In short, it is a luxury we cannot afford.
However, I should be thinking about going, and in a way, I feel I have been sucked in. Far too much of my daily activity is about coping with the situation in front of me. Too often that is about dealing with a student who will not comply or engage with a community that focuses on learning. The only time I do lift my head up is in the holidays, and that I resent, and my family certainly resents it. It does make me think about the purpose of my role, and what I need to do to force a change in my role so that I can make a greater change and be able to look strategically at the learning that could happen in maths.
And what has all this to do with Sir Malcolm? Well, he was talking about the difference between new ministers of state dealing with strategy and policy. He quite succinctly stated that policy is what you will do today, and strategy is what you want to be doing in six months’ time. He also warned of the dangers of the policy squeezing out the strategy in terms of just being able to cope. And if you do fall into that trap, Sir Malcolm suggested that you would be in office, but not in power! Well, I don’t actually have an office, and as for the power...