A brief look at the roles and responsibilities of the Senior leadership team in Primary Schools

All Primary Schools will have a Senior Leadership team or Senior Management team as they are sometimes called.

So how are they comprised and what is their purpose?

A Senior Leadership Team (SLT) will vary in number and structure dependent on the size and nature of the school in question – but primarily will comprise.

  • Headteacher
  • Deputy Headteacher
  • (Key Stage Leaders)
  • Core Subject Coordinators (inc Planning and Assessment)
  • (SENDCO)
  • (Year group Leaders – very large schools only)

The use of brackets indicates that these inclusions in the SLT may or may not be present.

So lets try and get an overarching statement that sums up what the responsibilities of this group should be.

Firstly lets have a look at what they have to consider

  • The school and grounds as a building and safe working environment for staff and pupils
  • The school and grounds maintenance and possibly future development
  • The interior fitments and equipment maintenance and replacement
  • All educational equipment maintenance and equipment

Basically everything that makes the place tick along each day and ensures that it will tick over in the future – its quite a list and often goes unseen and taken for granted.

  • The organisation of staffing within the school
  • Classroom and class organisation
  • To ensure  teaching and learning provision and standards in line with the current educational curriculum and national levels of expectation. (now that’s a broad statement that encompasses SO MUCH!)
  • To provide up to date staff professional development which enables staff to carry out their roles and responsibilities within the school whilst at the same time providing career development and opportunity.
  • The SLT will organise the schools preparation and response to inspections, assessments and other external requests and requirements made of the school.
  • To work with and keep informed the School Governing body.

You get the sort of picture that we are setting out here – there’s the practicality of running the bricks and mortar both in and outside the school building whilst also ensuring the educational provision for the children.

Its a big job and the SLT is a major part of all this.

But lets look at the level of involvement of members of the SLT across the whole school.

Broadly speaking it look like this

  • The HT has 100% knowledge and oversight of what is happening in the whole school
  • The DH will have approx. 90-95% inside knowledge and involvement in what is happening
  • SLT members will have 80-85% knowledge and specified involvement in the school.

As I have said the structure of the SLT will vary in number and roles dependent on the size of the school – however members will be selected based on experience and current roles. This is not to say that an appointment to the SLT cannot have a development aspect to that particular person but the HT/DH must have identified advantages both current and future that the member of staff can bring.

Lets have a look at a job description for a SLT post.

Job Title: Member of the Senior Leadership Team
Salary: Teachers’ Pay Scale (plus TLR)
Job Purpose: To make strategic evaluations of teaching, learning, personnel, finance and premises issues as a supportive and well-motivated team member.
Duties: The SMT member will:
• contribute to establishing the core values of the team and their practical expression;
• contribute to management decisions on all aspects of policy, development and organisation;
• monitor and evaluate pupil achievement and attainment throughout the school and have the   ability to demonstrate impact through the use of data;
• liaise with the governors, when appropriate, to facilitate their overview of school management;
• assume responsibility for the management of the school in the absence of the Headteacher and the Deputy Headteacher;
• lead by example as a teacher and as a manager;
• support subject leaders in the development and implementation of curricular initiatives;
• attend SMT meetings as required, and report back to staff when necessary;
• Lead on key areas of the curriculum as agreed with the Headteacher and/or Deputy Headteacher.

Its quite a list and if you look closely you will notice that many are open ended and seem slightly vague – this is because many areas concerning membership of the SLT are both flexible and variable and really can’t be quantified – its an ever changing picture in school but the SLT has to manage and adapt to everything that is “thrown at it!”

Management Styles:

There are 2 overarching styles of management that can be employed by the HT or DH with SLT colleagues.

  1. The lead or coordinator may be inexperienced or new to the particular role. In this case the HT may wish to be more “hands on “. This will result in a step by step approach where the overall plan of action is broken down into steps and stages. The HT will then agree with the Coordinator/leader that they will report back as each step is completed. This can then be evaluated and the next step agreed  – this ensures the HT has an overview of every stage and an opportunity to guide and steer as required.
  2. In the second example – the lead or coordinator is more experienced and can (in the opinion of the HT/DH) be assigned a task which they can get on with and report back at the end.

In both examples SLT members will be required to keep the SLT up to date with proceedings at meetings.

However one thing that is a definite will be your SLT curriculum responsibility. I wrote about the role of the CORE subject coordinator in another article and the extent of these curriculum responsibilities are wide ranging. Core subject coordination will only be given to those members of staff who have both experience and success in management of other areas of the curriculum and who, in the opinion of the HT and DH are capable of taking on the CORE subjects.

It is vital that the coordinators for these subjects are members of the SLT due to the direct accountability of the school in these areas. We are all aware of just how the test results and league tables reflect a schools performance in this way and as such the weight of these factors must be carefully monitored and tracked by the SLT.

By ensuring SLT members coordinate these subjects means that the SLT is constantly informed of standards, areas of concern, assessment methods, teaching and learning standards and any changes in requirements that may be made nationally. By being in possession of these facts the SLT can discuss and respond to any challenges’ the school may face and decide on appropriate action to be taken. Lead coordinators are also responsible for keeping governing bodies up to date on such areas – perhaps in not so much detail but nevertheless up to date.

I am personally in favour of having a lead SLT member for Planning and Assessment. These are again vital areas in the school and form the foundation of curricular provision and pupil tracking / success. In my opinion – as it is such an important area, it requires 1 person to oversee all integrated structures of planning approach and assessment systems. This will ensure a seamless continuity which both informs the current situation and allows adjustment for the future.

So that’s my brief overview of the Senior Leadership Team in Primary School – I have not gone into great detail about the responsibilities of members of this team and certainly only given a passing mention to the HT and DH who have further responsibilities outside of the management group and within specific roles within the school.

The Senior Leadership team is a vital management foundation in any Primary School. Its success or failure relies entirely on the commitment, experience and hard work of each team member and their unity as a team. With every member understanding, fulfilling and contributing their particular skills and responsibilities it becomes the vehicle around which a successful school can be both built and operate.




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