How to lead on teaching and learning as a middle leader? Part 1

Reading this brilliant post  from Paul Cline (@PaulCline_psy), inspired by yet another excellent post from Dawn Cox (@missdcox), made me reflect on my many years of experience as both a middle and senior leader. I led on T&L as an Assistant Head in inner London and delivered an Outstanding Teacher Programme for a teaching school before stepping back down to Head of English when moving to an international school. This move gave me a unique opportunity to engage in middle leadership but this time with the knowledge and skills gained at senior level. Here are some steps I took to ensure that everything we do is about teaching and learning.

Establish common ground

When I took over my faculty, I used the first meeting to establish common ground and identify strengths and areas for development within my new team. If you have done OLEVI’s Outstanding Teacher Programme (OTP), you will be familiar with the opening post-it note activity. I have always found it incredibly insightful to learn about those taking part.

It goes like this: start by asking everyone to write down elements of what they consider effective teaching, one element per post-it note e.g. questioning, challenge, etc. In threes, teachers compare what they wrote down. Next they have to negotiate and agree on one element. Finally, bring all the groups together and compare what each group decided on and agree on one element as a collective. 

This whole faculty activity will give you a good indication of how explicitly your teachers can identify key teaching skills, where their priorities and passions lie, which staff are passionate about research and the knowhow and who may need a little help and guidance. But also it will help you find common ground and agree on what really matters in the classroom.

Research-led vision

One of the key questions we ask as facilitators on OTP is ‘What will move it forward the fastest?’ and this is the very question I asked myself and my team when laying out my vision for my English faculty. Everything I do is driven by research such as  Hattie’s top influences on student achievement (2012). I believe in collective teacher efficacy and feedback as key progress drivers and I shared my belief with my new staff. I reinforced the idea that everything we will choose to do will be research-driven. We then discussed what it could look like within the faculty. You will notice from my account so far that there was no admin mentioned in that meeting so far. How do we tackle the admin bit?

Make meetings meaningful

We all know that the admin in school is endless and there is a tendency for meetings to turn into information giving sessions. Why not set up a weekly bulletin for your team instead? The added benefit of that is cutting down on the emails too. Ours includes the following sections:

  • Calendar with key dates and upcoming deadlines allowing staff to plan effectively;
  • Teaching and Learning section with examples of effective practice and weekly blog recommendations;
  • Phase/ Key stage sections so each phase lead can share their key messages and link key documents.

This allows our faculty meetings to be free from admin with the odd reminder of the key deadlines and gives us time to deliver short training sessions, reflect on schemes of learning or collaborate on creating resources. 

We plan meetings strategically with my deputies as a leadership team. With the Faculty Improvement Plan objectives and a calendar overview of the year to hand, we put together a monitoring and developmental calendar for the faculty and decide what we should address when. Of course, reality bites and we need to adjust our plans every now and again but overall, this strategic approach keeps us sharp and T&L-focused.


Hattie, John. 2012. Visible learning for teachers: maximizing impact on learning. Harvard (18th ed.).

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