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12 questions your middle leaders should be able to answer

Are your middle leaders ready to answer testing questions that might be put to them by outside agencies? Whether it’s a local authority adviser, an Ofsted inspector or anyone else seeking to find out more about the effectiveness of middle leadership in your school, there are some key questions it’s worth everyone being prepared for.

While it's impossible to provide a definitive list, these 12 questions provide a good starting point for any middle leader who wants to be well prepared for such an exchange. Head teachers can use this list as a support tool for their middle leaders. The tips covered here have proved very useful to members of NAHT Edge, our union for middle leaders.

1.    What are the strengths in your subject / area of responsibility? How do you know this?

Tips: Be prepared to identify 2-3 key strengths, don’t try to cover too many. Make sure they genuinely are strengths and that you have the evidence to back-up your claims e.g. data or evidence you’re your monitoring activities.

2.    What are the key areas for development / weaknesses to address?

Tips: Don’t try to hide any obvious areas for development – it is better to be honest and explain what you are doing to address these. Again, pick the top priorities here rather than embark on a long list.

3.    What have been your key priorities for improvement in recent years and what impact have these actions had on pupil outcomes?

Tips: Consider what you have already done to improve standards and be prepared to articulate the strategy as well as the positive impact it had e.g. “I introduced X, and as a result attainment went up by y%”.

4.    How well do pupils achieve in your subject / area of responsibility?

Tips: If there is national data available, make sure you use this i.e. be prepared to talk about how attainment and progress of pupils in your school compare to the national picture. Make sure you point to both current data of pupils still in the school as well as historic data.

5.    Are there any discrepancies in achievement between different groups of pupils?

Tips: It is important to be aware of any particular issues there might be for specific groups of pupils. Do certain groups appear to achieve better or worse than their peers? A focus on SEND, those eligible for pupil premium, higher attaining pupils, gender and ethnicity are all important to consider.

6.    What work are you doing to close any achievement gaps, especially for those eligible for pupil premium funding?

Tips: You will be expected to be aware of any gaps that might exist. Closing the gap between disadvantaged pupils and their peers remains a major national priority so be prepared to talk about your work in this area.

7.    How do you assess learning and pupil progress in your area of responsibility?

Tips: Since the end of national curriculum levels there is a renewed emphasis on leaders being able to articulate how learning is assessed and, critically, how any information is used to help improve the progress pupils make. Remember, there is no one correct way to do this – you just need to be able to articulate how your school do this in a clear and coherent manner. What you do with the data is more important that how you collect it so try to focus on this.

8.    How do you monitor standards in your subject / area of responsibility?

Tips: Remember that monitoring takes a variety of forms e.g. pupil conferencing, lesson observations, book sampling, data analysis etc. How do you use this information to draw conclusions and, critically, what do you do as a result?

9.    What is the quality of teaching like in your subject / area of responsibility?

Tips: Be prepared to talk about how well your subject is taught. Where is it taught well / less well? Are there particular strengths or weaknesses in terms of teaching? Be prepared to be quite specific here e.g. “number and place value is taught well, but we are working on how we teach problem solving effectively.” You may need to be specific in terms of the quality of teaching across the school e.g. “Teaching is strong in the upper school, but not yet as strong in the lower school.”

10.    How involved are you in improving the practice of colleagues in your school?

Tips: Have you been involved in mentoring new teachers / coaching more experienced ones? If so, consider how you have helped improved their practice? What would you do if you identify an issue in terms of quality of teaching?

11.    Is there a CPD plan for your area of responsibility?

Tips: Be prepared to talk through how you co-ordinate, plan or lead training for colleagues in your area of responsibility. Is there a plan in place and does this link to your wider improvement plan?

12.    How do the senior leaders in the school support you in your role? Do you receive CPD as a middle leader?

Tips: Consider how you work with senior leaders. Do you meet regularly? This is not the time to launch into a list of complaints about lack of support from senior leaders – probably better to have these conversations separately!

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Page Published: 28/02/2017