Page 12 - Independent Schools Magazine
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Making the Move to Middle Leadership – To be a HoD or a HoY?
Senior Deputy Head (Vice Master) at Bedford School, Daniel Koch, discusses a decision which faces many staff as they contemplate moving up the management ladder...
When it comes to career progression in independent schools, many people have the idea that one goes either via an academic or a pastoral ‘track’.
I’ve never been overly fond of this terminology for a few reasons. Firstly, because in a school there are few if any jobs that are purely academic or purely pastoral. Secondly, because the idea of
an ‘academic track’ presupposes that from a Head of Department, one must then seek to become
a Director of Studies or Deputy Head (Academic); whilst from a Head of Year position the only way forward is via an Assistant or Deputy Head (Pastoral) post. By this logic every Head would be fairly inexperienced in either academic or pastoral matters, depending on which ‘track’ they had taken through their career. However, it is true that for a teacher wishing to make a  rst step into middle management,
it is normally via an application to be a Head of Department or a Head of Year (or, in some schools, Head of House). The decision on which to apply for should not be based on whether one considers oneself to be an ‘academic’ or a ‘pastoral’ person; but rather on
a good understanding of what the roles entail and the skills one needs to be successful in them.
Although on the surface
the roles may appear very
different, I think it is helpful to
consider the similarities  rst.
First and foremost, both are
leadership and management
roles. They both carry the
responsibilities of inspiring
pupils (and colleagues) whilst
building positive relationships
with them; and implementing
strategies to prevent or deal
with poor performance. Heads
of Departments normally line manage a number of subject teachers whilst Heads of Year
(or House) normally manage a team of tutors. Both HoDs and HoYs will hold a high degree of accountability, and it will be to them that parents and colleagues will turn  rst about problems that arise in their areas. They will receive emails about situations
in which they may or may not have had any direct involvement; and will be expected to resolve dif cult situations effectively. Both positions demand oversight of a larger number of students than a classroom teacher would have; and both will be expected to have systems in place for tracking the progress of pupils and for helping those who are struggling. Delegation is key
in both roles, but so too is the organisation and thoroughness
of the post-holder. Both HoDs and HoYs must have systems
to monitor multiple class sets
or forms; ways of dealing
with and  ling emails and keeping records; avenues to communicate concerns up to senior management, and the proactive dispositions needed to think creatively and implement solutions. Although the responsibilities can be signi cant, both of these positions can have similar (and worthy) rewards. Namely that children in their department or their year may
be helped to succeed because
of some of the work they
have done, the strategies they have implemented, and the environment they have actively sought to create. Finally, the motivation should be the same for applicants to both roles – getting the best of pupils.
Naturally, there are differences between Head of Department
and Head of Year roles as well. One key difference, of course,
is that while Heads of Year
tend to focus on the all-round performance of one year group (or one house within the school in the case of Heads of House), Heads of Departments’ main
role is to foster enthusiasm and achievement in a particular subject to pupils of all age groups. A Head of Department should have enrichment activities, clubs, societies, visiting lectures, trips, and more that appeal to Sixth Formers and to Year 7s; quite often there will be two or three separate clubs or societies (e.g. Junior and Senior) in a well-run department. Heads of Year will tend to have less to do on this front, but often will have more in terms of emails and meetings because of the great variety of problems that come across their desk – everything from behaviour and discipline issues, to sensitive disclosures, or motivating pupils who struggle in more than one subject.
Another difference is that in terms of measurable outcomes, Heads of Departments are more able to quantify the impact of their work in terms of results and value added. It is easier to see year-on-year trend lines in a department’s performance, and easier to identify what explains the differences. For Heads of Year, it is a sign of success if
the year group does particularly well, and a Head of Year can rightly take a share of the
credit when their interventions have helped buoy the grades. However, it is harder to attribute the grades directly to a pastoral leader than it is to an academic Head of Department. That said, I would argue that for both Heads of Department and Heads
of Year, much of what they achieve in a year can hardly be quanti ed in grade outcomes alone. Both HoDs and HoYs can contribute signi cantly
to academic performance (or underperformance), but can also both have immense impact on building con dence, self-esteem and positive behaviours in the boys and girls they work with.
Ultimately, my feeling is that most truly great Heads of Department would also make great Heads of Year and vice versa. There are, of course, some who do shine particularly in one of those roles that might  nd the other less enjoyable, and for that reason I think there is no need
to do away with what can be a helpful distinction between them. The great advantage of having both Heads of Department and Heads of Year in a school is
that it provides an overlapping network, and, between the
two of them, students should feel supported and well-led. Their working together well is what ensures that no student falls through the cracks. Both
are highly in uential to the overall success of any school
and therefore encouraging and promoting candidates with the drive to take on the challenges is of the utmost importance.
Daniel Koch leads Bedford School’s pastoral and extra-curricular programme. He was formerly the Head of
Sixth Form at South Hampstead High School in London and a Head of History at Worth School in West Sussex.
12 Independent Schools Magazine
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