So you coordinate a subject in your school – but to what extent do you actually do anything?
Let’s take a look and see what your actual responsibility should entail.
Coordinating a subject
The basic requirement of being appointed to coordinate a subject is that you are the selected person who is in charge of that subject and will oversee the smooth implementation and delivery of that subject area across the school.
Now the pattern of expectations is quite different for the core subjects as opposed to the foundations subjects and it is beyond the brief of this article to look in depth at the wide and varied accountability of core subject coordinators. However these aside, there are still the majority of the taught curriculum subjects that do not fall under the wide ranging organisational and accountability demands of the core.
Foundation subjects form the bulk of the taught subjects in school – whilst this may not be reflected in the amount of content, it nevertheless accounts for the majority number wise and as such coordinator wise!
So just how in touch do you have to be?
Well there are certain must have’s that you should be on top of…
- Does the school have enough equipment to teach the subject?
- Do teachers know what they are expected to teach in your subject during the academic year?
That’s it really!….now you’re reading this and wondering if I have gone completely mad. That’s not coordinating a subject I can hear you saying – that’s doing virtually nothing
YOU WOULD BE QUITE RIGHT
Because that is what I see in some schools that I visit….Coordinators who either –
- Have no idea what to do
- Have no interest in doing the job
- Decide as it is not a paying post then it doesn’t deserve much time or effort!
You see, Foundation subjects coordinators are often chosen simply to have “someone in charge” – The subjects are divided out as best as possible and some colleagues may have 2 or even more subjects to oversee! It’s an impossible task and of course not one that can be done with any efficiency.
But with OFSTED now deciding, quite rightly, to look further in depth at the foundation subjects; what should coordinators have in place or be doing within their role?
What should you know?
The very basics of your role should equip you with the following:-
- You know the FULL scope of your curriculum subject IS being taught across the school
- Teachers have some form of guidelines to base their teaching programme on and there are resources to deliver this programme
- There is an up to date policy (re-written every 3 years)
- You monitor achievement
In an OFSTED inspection you would be expected to know the above….whether you get asked about it or not….in my opinion this is what I would expect you to know to be on top of your subject.
The first 3 are pretty to easy when you have got them sorted out. I am mindful that most foundation coordinators will not get release time to do these things and will probably have to use some of their PPA time or spend additional time after school – however if this is not the case and your HT has given you time then that’s great!
It’s the last one that causes problems and unfortunately it’s the one that can catch you out.
How well are the children achieving in your subject…what are the standards of achievement…and questions along the same lines!
How do you answer that?
My guess is that your honest answer would be …” I have no idea!”
But how could you know, unless….
- Your school has an assessment policy that extends across all the subjects (termly tests in core and possibly end of unit tests or assessments for foundation).
- There is a marking scheme that includes grading of work.
- You go and look.
If your school is geared up towards ongoing assessment through mark schemes, gradings and end of unit tests; then all subjects including foundation will have record keeping that is full and comprehensive and will tell you, as coordinator exactly what is happening.
However if this is not the case then there will be NO records of achievement across the foundation subjects….so you will need to go and look at what has been happening.
Dependent on the nature of the subject you will either be looking at:-
- Written work in books
- lessons actually happening (e.g P.E)
- Outcomes and possible processes from the subject (Art, D/T etc)
From these observations and possibly discussions with colleagues (or a questionnaire) you should make short notes and date your findings.
Now, with these things in place, you have a good understanding of what is happening in your subject and will be well placed to answer any questions posed by either the SLT, Governors or even OFSTED.
Coordinators of the core subjects are very much in the spotlight and highly accountable at all levels. However these responsibilities place them in the SLT and are more often than not accompanied by extra pay levels and release time.
Foundation subject coordinators are often the unsung heroes in a school, their role demanding an extra level of workload with no remunerations and often no extra time to complete! Yet they provide a vital component in the running of the school and as such in the standards of education provided to the children.
Sometimes we just have to grit out teeth, look beyond the immediate discomfort and view the horizon!