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Subject Leadership in Primary Schools

What is a subject leader?

A subject leader is someone in the school who takes on the overall management of a subject. The greater importance attached to the wider curriculum by Ofsted recently has meant that the leadership of all subjects is now much more highly scutinised by inspectors.

It is absolutley not expected that subject leaders in primary schools need to be world experts in the subject they are leading! Indeed, in some small schools, teachers may be required to manage more than one subject area.

Ideally of course, the subject leader will have a personal interest or passion for the subject they lead. However, this is not essential to being a good subject leader. Let's look then at what the role of a subject leader is.

Subject Leader chatting to colleague

What is the role of a subject leader?

As we have already established, the main role of the subject leader is to manage the teaching and learning of a particular subject in the school. The role can be summarised in four main points:

1. To ensure that all pupils in the school make progress in the subject area across all year groups. The subject leader should be confident that this is happening and that age-expected standards are being met.

2. To make sure that the teaching of the subject area is of a high quality across the whole school.

3. To ensure that there is a clear curriculum in place that has been well thought through and matched to the needs of the children. It should satisfy the requirements of the National Curriculum. The subject leader needs to be confident that this curriculum is being taught and that planning is in line with it.

4. To make sure that resources required to teach this curriculum are available to be used.


What questions do subject leaders need to have in mind?

The role of a subject leader can be further broken down into Intent, Implementation and Impact. These terms, coined by Ofsted, will never be graded seperately in an inspection. However, they are really useful terms for subject leaders to have in mind when thinking about their subject leadership role:


- Does our curriculum meet the requirements of the National Curriculum?

- Does our curriculum ensure adequate coverage?

- Are all teachers in the school aware of the expectations of the curriculum?

- What action planning needs to take place to ensure improvement within the subject?

- Are resources available and easily accessible for teachers to use?



- Is teaching of a high quality?

- Is teaching in this subject progressive and allow children to build on previously acquired skills, knowledge and understanding?

- What assessment needs to take place in the subject?

- How can I best use financial and human resources to impact on standards?

- How can I promote my subject and be a champion of it for both teachers and pupils?



- How effective is teaching of this subject?

- What is working well in the subject and what needs to improve?

Why is subject leadership important?

Subject leadership is really important because it ensures that all subjects in the curriculum are championed and well managed.

If a subject in a primary school is well led, there will be a clear, relevant and progressive curriculum that ensures all children in the school make good progress and that age-expected standards can be met.

What makes an effective subject leader?

There are, of course, many aspects to being a good subject leader but here are some key things to think about:

Subject leaders need to have a really good understanding of the curriculum for their subject. They need to have thought clearly about how the curriculum meets the needs of the children in their specific school and should be confident that the curriculum is progressive so that all children can make good progress across the years.

Subject leaders should also talk to pupils! By speaking with the children themselves, they will gain an insight into what is happening in their subject across all years. Gaining this Pupil Voice is really useful (not to mention great evidence to show Ofsted if they come for a visit!) Luckily, here at PlanBee, we have developed a useful set of questions to help you with collecting pupil voice...

Subject leaders should be approachable. There will be some members of staff who might need extra support with implementing the curriculum maybe because of subject confidence, for example. Subject leaders might go in and model the teaching of a lesson or support the struggling teacher with their planning. Being an approachable, supportive person is essential!

Subject leaders need to be given the time they need to actually do their role. Teachers are busy enough as it is, and unless school leaders give subject leaders the time they need to do their role effectively, the effective leadership of subjects will not be possible. In your subject leadership time:

- Consider visiting classes to see what is happening in your subject - try to coordinate people teaching the subject when you have your time!

- Collect pupil voice. Speak to children from across the school - this will give you are really good understanding of what is happening in your subject.

- Use the time to have a good look through the resources - do you need to order anything?

- Look at work - do a scrutiny of books and see what is being taught and how well children are learning.

- Have a look at planning if it is available - is teacher's planning alligned to the curriulum?

Ofsted deep dive and the subject leader

When Ofsted inspect primary schools they will carry out a 'deep dive' in Reading and one or more foundation subjects. Normally a deep dive will also be done in Mathematics.

The purpose of a deep dive is to gether evidence of the curriculum within a certain subject. It will include:

- Talking to subject leaders about the curriculum.

- Making joint visits to lessons.

- Talking and observing pupils.

- Discussion with teachers.

Basically through all of this, Ofsted are looking to check that what the subject leader says about the subject marries up with what school leaders, teachers and pupils all say.

Subject leaders need to ensure they have thought about the curriculum carefully. They need to be able to show the curriculum has appropriate coverage, content, structure and sequencing. Subject leaders should be confident that the curriculum is being implemeneted effectively and should not leave some pupils behind.

As part of their deep dive, Ofsted will talk to subject leaders to establish the extent to which there are clear start and end points, whether the subject is broken down into appropriately sized chunks and sequenced to build toward the end points and also the rigour of planning (where appropriate).

How is PlanBee useful to subject leaders?

Want a scheme that provides complete curriulum coverage, progression across year groups and ensures consistency? Here at PlanBee we have a huge bank of resources, all created by experienced former teachers, across a wide range of subjects.

Subject memberships are available which is an ideal way for a subject leader to ensure consistency across the school. Reasons for subject leaders to choose PlanBee:

 Provide complete curriculum coverage from Year 1 to Year 6 for your subject area  

  Embed a consistent approach to teaching and learning across your subject area

 Get access to pre-prepared knowledge and skills progression documents with our Curriculum Packs

 Easy-to-use plans, slides and resources ensure teacher confidence

"PlanBee has been a brilliant resource for our school as it has enabled all teachers, of ranging expertise, to teach Design Technology to a high standard. The slides and planning are extremely detailed and equip teachers with the relevant subject knowledge and vocabulary.

PlanBee’s teaching sequence provides children with the full Design Technology journey, including the explicit teaching of skills, planning and designing, carrying out the project and then evaluating and analysing the final product. There are also challenge resources provided to deepen the learning further for higher attaining learners."

Rectory Farm Primary School, Northampton

Curriculum Packs

Are you class-based, a curriculum leader, a head of year, or a phase or senior leader? We've made these Curriculum Packs to help with long-term, year-round planning for every primary year group. For many of the subjects, you'll find Curriculum Packs for the whole school and just for individual key stages.

For Maths, we've broken it down into smaller year group packs as well. For teachers looking to ensure excellent progression and coverage of National Curriculum objectives for their year group, there are even multi-subject Curriculum Packs for Year 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6!

To complement the Curriculum Packs, we have developed a FREE Knowledge and Skills Progression Document which clearly shows which schemes from our enormous library cover which objectives from the National Curriculum. This will be extremely useful for subject leaders should they be asked how their curriculum meets the requirement of the NC.

SUBJECT MEMBERSHIPS - Access to all the reources in your subject area for a whole year

 Provide complete curriculum coverage from Year 1 to Year 6 for your subject area  

  Embed a consistent approach to teaching and learning across your subject area

 Get access to pre-prepared knowledge and skills progression documents with our Curriculum Packs

 Easy-to-use plans, slides and resources ensure teacher confidence

FREE Subject Leader Pupil Voice Question List

Subject Leader Pupil Voice Worksheet

FREE Ofsted Deep Dive Question List (for subject leaders)

FREE Knowledge and Skills Progression Document

(Useful for Subject Leaders)