Leadership – Deaning

I’m in the early stages of thinking and researching about this, but it has come up recently the need for me to develop more skills in terms of leading in my middle management area. I am the Dean of Year 10, and have a team of 7 Form Teachers and three additional mentors who work with a select group of students. It is a hierarchical structure where I lead the team, and I report to the Deputy Principal in charge of the year group.

Some observations which have lead to me to this reflection and ultimately an action plan.

  • Being a Form Teacher is referred to as a core responsibility, but the culture doesn’t value it. Form Time is not considered contact time, and therefore little preparation goes into these daily 15-20 minute slots.
  • Administrative tasks, like monitoring attendance, are significant jobs that can take up a lot of this time.
  • The pastoral care and guiding role of the Form Teacher is a more vague role than say: teaching a student to factorise an algebraic equation.
  • I often see Form Teachers not engaging with their students during Form Time; instead time is spent preparing for the next class, or responding to emails, updating KAMAR.
  • Initiatives I have started with the year group have not had tangible follow through in most Form Classes. For example, if I collect data on a particular issue, I often delegate students to Form Teachers to follow up. However, while this is often started, it is rarely continued.

The issue here is both a culture issue and also an issue in terms of my leadership and management style. I am a doer. If given a choice between delegating and doing it myself, I often do. Obviously, this doesn’t help to encourage initiative. I have become better at this throughout the year as I develop how I delegate – but in essence I am trying to more towards more trusting style of leadership where each Form Teacher has the freedom to innovate. However, the issues above do not just go away.

As a result, through conversations with leaders in other industries and general reading on a range of blogs, I have come up with these next steps – my leadership action plan:

  1. Motion for the Form Teacher role to be an appraised role. Lack of accountability contributes to the issues listed above. Should we move to a system where we can formal acknowledge good performance and formal address poor performance this would help. Attendance data is a quantifiable measure, as is contributions to subject choice, parent meetings and progress conference day. But also this system could formally measure and create feedback avenues for Form Teachers’ innovations in Form Time and the tracking of their students.
  2. Adapt the business model of performance targets. Perhaps what has limited the follow through when I have invited Form Teachers to jump on the back of an initiative is the lack of chunking. If I was to refocus my invitations into bite sized pieces and re-frame them as being expectations , then I think the buy-in would be stronger. For example, instead of introducing some data and suggesting the conversation that can follow it up – show data, Form Teacher chooses five students, they have two weeks to have the required conversation with the learner and develop an agreed next step,  then add this to a google doc, or posted on KAMAR.
  3. Integrate reporting back into fortnightly meeting to highlight best practice and inspire collaboration. At the moment, the short amount of time (10 minutes every fortnight is a start) is minimal. Within that I plan to devote 2 minutes to hearing from 1 or 2 Form Teachers and the successful conversation, plan, support, guidance that has recently occurred. This can be a prepped soundbite. This gives more voice to what is being done successfully in the group.

These are three tangible next steps for me to concentrate on. I suggested before that there is a culture issue at play. Everything I have read about culture change comes back to the small changes. For example, Form Time could suddenly become contact time, but this doesn’t mean that it would be used more effectively as a matter of course. The steps I’ve outlined here contribute to that changing culture and I will continue to drive this forward and develop my skills at leading a team to support our learners as well as we possibly can.