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Leading a Subject for the First Time

Explore where to get started with subject leadership. From monitoring for the first time to collecting data and information, we've got the resources to help.

Our most popular resource

Monitoring Start Point: Initial Information Exploration

New to leading a subject in a school or setting and unsure where to start when monitoring? This pack walks you through how to rapidly gather information about your subject so you can plan to make relevant changes and improvements. Designed to be time-efficient and work around your classroom commitments, this pack supports busy subject leaders who have no current insight about their subject to quickly get a handle on it.

Your key subject leadership questions answered

What is a subject leader?

A primary or secondary school subject leader, also known as a curriculum leader or subject co-ordinator, is a teacher whose role is to lead a specific academic subject within a school.

The primary responsibilities of a subject leader include:

  • The development and review of the curriculum for their specific subject to ensure it’s current, relevant and aligned with national curriculum standards.

  • Collaboration with other teachers to ensure a cohesive and progressive learning experience for pupils.

  • Staying updated to provide guidance and support to other teachers in their subject area, facilitating professional development for teachers.

  • Overseeing the assessment processes related to their subject, including the creation of assessments, analysis of pupil performance data and implementation of strategies to address areas of improvement.

  • Involvement in managing resources such as textbooks, teaching materials and technology relevant to their subject.

  • Working to maintain and enhance the quality of teaching and learning in their subject, conducting monitoring activities and fostering a culture of continuous improvement.

It’s likely that all national curriculum subjects in your school will have a subject leader, and some members of staff may lead more than one subject area.

Help! I'm leading a subject for the first time!

We’ve all been there - don’t worry!

One way to start thinking about monitoring and subject leadership is to consider teaching and learning at its most basic level:

  1. Staff plan lessons to teach subject matter that builds on pupils’ prior knowledge.

  2. Staff teach the pupils about the subject in a lesson.

  3. Pupils learn the subject matter (knowledge) and how to apply it (skills).

  4. Pupils demonstrate their acquired knowledge and skills through their work, e.g. books.

  5. Staff use what the pupils have/haven’t learnt to plan again and the cycle repeats.

Your job as a subject leader is to find out if all of the above is happening and how effectively it's happening so that where there are areas to improve, you can help to improve them.

How can I start monitoring if I'm a new subject leader?

We've designed our Initial Information Exploration pack for this exact scenario, but in short, you're going to need to get to know your subject (and school if you're new to the setting) and consider exploring the following areas and methods:

Leadership and management: School priorities, Ofsted, staff voice

Intent: Curriculum policies and statements, National Curriculum coverage, timetabling

Implementation: Teaching and learning in action, learning environment, resourcing

Impact: Pupils’ work, internal and external data, pupil voice

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