About cookies

The NCETM site uses cookies. Read more about our privacy policy

Please agree to accept our cookies. If you continue to use the site, we'll assume you're happy to accept them.


Personal Learning Login

Sign Up | Forgotten password?
Register with the NCETM

What is the role of the MSL?

Created on 27 May 2010 by ncetm_administrator
Updated on 08 April 2013 by ncetm_administrator


What does it mean to lead?

The core responsibilities of a Mathematics Subject Leader (MSL) are summarised in the introduction to the Excellence in Mathematics Leadership (EiML) materials.

In order to be effective, MSLs need to be able to answer the following key questions:

  • How well are we doing?
  • How can we do better?

A helpful starting place to answer these questions is using the self evaluation examples under each of the following headings:

Activity: How does my role fit with others in the school?

Refer to What are the different leadership styles? Dig Deeper: Taking a Lead.

Consider the Leadership Team in your school and reflect on the different styles using the headings in the Myers Briggs/ Jungian / Hey/McBer leadership model:
  • Directive Leadership
    'Tell': forced compliance
  • Visionary Leadership
    'Sell': highly purposeful
  • Affiliative Leadership
    'People first, task second'
  • Democratic Leadership
    'Everyone is involved'
  • Pacesetting Leadership
    'Do as I do - I'll do it myself'
  • Coaching Leadership
    'Try this'.
Draw a diagram to show how your role as MSL fits with your other roles within school. Is there a hierarchy or level structure to your roles? 
Draw how you see them fitting together.

Now add the Senior Leadership Team. Where do they fit?

Discuss your diagram with the Senior Leadership Team to identify what is expected and where your roles and responsibilities fit into the team.
Further work on developing your personal leadership style is available in the Dig Deeper module How can I develop my style?

Place your diagram from the activity in your Mathematics Subject Leader file, and use it to discuss your roles and responsibilities in school. Compare this to your job description and outline any areas for discussion.

Record your thoughts about leadership in your school in your Personal Learning Space.

What does the Williams Review say about leading mathematics in the primary school?

It is stated in the Williams Review that in order to meet the needs of every primary school there is a need to have a mathematics specialist in every school....

‘The Mathematics Specialist would be drawn from within the existing teaching force. This teacher will in effect ‘champion’ mathematics in the school and act as mentor and coach, as well as being an outstanding classroom teacher. A model is presented which initially targets weaker schools and which leads to national coverage within ten years.’

The Williams Review identifies some specific areas which the mathematics specialist will need to be confident to support

  • a detailed understanding of the big ideas and connections in mathematics including a clear understanding of concept building across the primary phase and beyond
  • a high level of experience in problem posing and problem solving
  • a detailed understanding of logical reasoning
  • clear processes which evaluate children’s solutions accurately
  • a recognition of pupil misconceptions
  • observation of groups and individual pupils
  • an enthusiasm for using and applying mathematics
  • wide experience in mental and oral mathematics.

In addition, the Mathematics specialist will need to support colleagues to:

  • asking appropriate questions,
  • discussing different but equivalent representations
  • analysing pupils’ work: is it correct? Can it be generalised?

In order therefore to fulfil this role the characteristics of the potential Mathematics Specialists might include:

  • good and secure knowledge of mathematics
  • good teaching skills
  • good range of assessment strategies for informing their teaching of mathematics strong inter-personal skills
  • good analytic, critical and reflective skills

The NCETM Self-evaluation Tools are useful for identifying areas of pedagogy and content knowledge that are secure and those that need further development.  These are extremely useful therefore for personal use and for staff development.

To explore the area of your own CPD further, you will find some useful resources in What CPD do I need?

Use the Self-evaluation Tools and then make notes in your Personal Learning Space.

Mathematics Subject Leader

‘The NCETM’s survey also suggested that it was mainly subject leaders who took part in external training, with the assumption that they would cascade the training to their colleagues through staff meetings and INSET days. This confirmed that the mathematics professional development experienced by many teachers depended, in part (though not wholly), on the knowledge and expertise of their own mathematics subject leader.’
Williams Review p 14

These findings lead to the review’s emphasis on there being at least one person available within a school to ensure that best practice acquired through Continuing Professional Development is transmitted in effective ways.

‘...it was also clear that both subject knowledge and pedagogy were central in CPD planning.’

Key recommendation:
The Williams Review therefore recommends that there is a Maths Specialist teacher in every primary school within the next ten years and also that there is a Mathematics Subject Leader with expertise to lead INSET that focuses on subject knowledge and pedagogy.

Are you a leader?

How confident are you on a scale of 1 (not at all confident) to 10 to lead INSET that focuses on subject knowledge and pedagogy? You may wish to use the Self-evaluation grid to support your leadership.

What is CPD leadership?

Refer to the Leading CPD module for further guidance and support with leading CPD in your school.

What are my responsibilities?
There is likely to be a huge variation between schools in terms of the expectations for the Mathematics Subject Leader.

This may be dependent on a number of factors:

  • the experience of the Maths Subject Leader
  • the current mathematics achievement levels of the school
  • other subject responsibilities.

In primary schools all class teachers have subject responsibilities – sometimes they have responsibility for several subjects. The breadth of expertise that is required therefore is inherent within the core responsibilities of the every class teacher. Whether an individual gains sufficient depth of understanding of Mathematics is dependent of the amount of time that can be found to support this development. 

Find your job description and discuss with your Senior Leadership Team how it mirrors the expectations in the Teachers' Standards.

Taking it further - looking at your workload
Complete an activity analysis in order to make decisions about the most effective use of your time.  





Comment on this item  
Add to your NCETM favourites
Remove from your NCETM favourites
Add a note on this item
Recommend to a friend
Comment on this item
Send to printer
Request a reminder of this item
Cancel a reminder of this item



There are no comments for this item yet...
Only registered users may comment. Log in to comment