School Heads of Faculty: Ideas on preparing for 2014 -15

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As a Head of Faculty your team and you have survived the year of Ofsted revisions and ever rising expectations. The summer is a good time for thinking, questioning ,planning  and researching. It gives you an opportunity to make some time to start surveying the landscape, reviewing what went well, and working out what could have been better in order to prepare for the coming academic year.

I find the keep, stop, grow model a useful approach. Identify what your faculty will keep and what it will stop. This process enables space to be created for growing changes and innovation.

So how has was last year? What were the highs and lows? Will this coming year be a golden one or are you, for example, wondering how the slimming of coursework will effect your results?

Looking forward there is much change to come. The summer break is a good opportunity to start gathering and grouping the forthcoming changes that you will be leading and managing.

Jim Collins in Good to Great unpacks why planning is so vital to success.  He asserts ‘Greatness is not a function of circumstance. Greatness, it turns out, is largely a matter of conscious choice, and discipline’.

It would be useful to use the summer to start putting together a plan and time line for your Faculty for the academic year 14-15. You can consider making your own a road map and plan, with fail safe back ups to thrive. Don’t forget – keep, stop, grow. You would be wise to be clear about what your faculty will be stopping to create the space for the growing.

I’ve grouped this article into four parts: part 1 looks at leadership, part 2 considers key stages. part 3 considers progress and attainment, and part 4 considers exams and exam preparation.


There is significant curriculum change coming both at GCSE and A level that gives lots of opportunities to refresh current practice and shape your future.

Key questions you might ask yourself include:

What exam board will you select? Which specification will meet the needs of your learners best? What criteria will your faculty use to make this decision? When do you need to decide by? Who is going to be the gate keeper for this process? It would be easy to have teachers dashing all over the country to exam board meetings so could your local teaching school co- ordinate a local event where the Boards could travel to you and pitch their offers? (An exam board Dragons’ Den – why not?!).

Performance related pay

What will be the impact of performance related pay in your faculty? There are likely to be winners and losers. This may demand different management techniques. What will be your role in making these decisions?

Teaching school

If your school is a teaching school how does your faculty contribute? Are you an SLE? Do you want to become one? You also need to lead by example: supporting and helping others develops your own expertise and knowledge.

Careers information

Schools are expected to link education with future study and employment. Do you currently have local employers in your classroom? Do you use resources from Plotr and the National Careers Service to bring real life applications and jobs into your Faculty? Are there displays – both static and electronic – showcasing where the skills and knowledge you are developing in young people will take them? If not why not?

How will responding to these questions feature in your plan/roadmap for the next academic year?

Key stages

Primary transition

Who is going to lead on KS3 and primary transition in your faculty?

It is vital that you know what your Year 7 know, understand and can do.

Under Best 8 progress is king. Are you confident that your learners are progressing in KS3 or are they marking time? Having clear oversight of this vital area is critical.

The views of young people and parents can be helpful in helping you establish development priorities. Marginal changes can make a big difference. Tim Sully

and Zoe Elder, both North Somerset based colleagues, are really insightful and practical.

Key stage 3

How will KS3 need to change and adapt to deliver the enlarging Maths and a English specifications? Will your subject need more time or find itself being squeezed? Can you deliver Maths and English creatively and well through your subject area?

Post 16

If you are lucky enough to teach Post 16 there is a new Ofsted framework coming in September.

Have a look at the existing FE Framework and the new careers statutory guidance and the EFA funding guidance for 14-15 if you want to anticipate what is coming .

Progress and outcomes

Assessment without levels

It will be critical to work with your feeder primary schools to share practice in a world without levels. Who is going to be the key link for your faculty or will this be a whole school responsibility?

Is your faculty well placed to contribute to a whole school approach to ‘progress ‘ without levels?

Pupil premium

The progress and outcomes for young people eligible for the Pupil Premium is critical to their life chances and the future Ofsted outcome for your school.

How is your faculty supporting these young people? Is it making a difference? Do your strategies reflect the steer from the Sutton Trust?

Have you had the time to meet face to face with young people to find out what is working well? What your Faculty could develop and improve in the new academic year?

Do you and your staff understand the new accountability measures? This link might help.

Exam preparation and their future choices

Pupils need you. In fact they are relying on you to guide and support them. This means coaching , challenging, encouraging . Collins in ‘Good to Great’ cites discipline and non negotiable’s as key to success…

‘A culture of discipline is not a principle of business, it is a principle of greatness’. – Jim Collins

Are all your staff ready and equipped to be able to communicate new courses, new tariffs and how this will impact on options choices at KS4, 5 and UCAS. This might help

Is your faculty using student voice to review this summer for Year 11 – what went well, what would have been even better if…? Don’t just rely on the views of your new sixth formers: the views of the young people that left could be more honest and hence useful.

A wicked question could be who cracked the exam preparation and revision for Year 11? What did they do ? Why did it work ? Can they coach and support others?

Is your faculty pedagogy preparing young people well enough for the exams and the world they live in? These are not the same thing. Have a look at the employability skills that employers are missing in too many young people.

This judgement will inform your plans for CPD, possibly incorporating a wider range of pedagogy, developments in Schemes of Work and new resources. Twitter and TES resources can be a great help.

How can you support pupils to meet the new careers statutory guidance?
Options booklets will need to be refreshed and may need more attention than usual.

Working with Parents

Being able to communicate new courses, new tariffs and how this will impact on options choices at KS4, 5 apprenticeship opportunities and UCAS are all crucial.

How can you support parents to meet the new careers statutory guidance?


Are you and your staff clear about whole school priorities and messages?

With so much change, retaining your staff’s confidence and buy-in has never been so critical. This will be more challenging in some faculties than others. There seems to be an emerging hierarchy of subjects nationally. This can create its own challenges.

How will you support your staff to gain an understanding of the changes that are coming and the skills and confidence to react and engage with a positive and can do attitude? Team work, communication and confidence will be a pre requisite for successful school year.

It is teachers in classrooms that make the difference to young people’s lives and your leadership is vital.

Marie Horton

If you need any support The Learning Exchange is a not for profit, Ofsted-praised school improvement service. I work with some great colleagues and talented school leaders, including two teaching schools and an outstanding FE College. The Learning Exchange can be contacted on 01934 427508 or by emailing us using this form

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