Reflecting on my blog post from last week and looking at the #SLTChat topic – nurturing leaders, here are my thoughts on tacking leadership in the world of primary education.
As I discussed last week, I am in my third year of teaching. Let’s just stop there. I qualified in 2013. Already, I am the science subject leader of a one form entry primary school in Westminster. Doesn’t that deserve praise? Why then don’t I cut myself some slack? While I appreciate that everybody’s career develops at a very different rate, I can’t help but feel disappointed, especially at the start of this academic year. I wasn’t sure why. I have good relationships with my colleagues, parents and, of course, the children I teach. In my NQT year I was subject to a LA review and then an OFSTED inspection. I achieved good results in Year 2 SATs and subsequently became science subject leader in my second year along with being moderated for SATs data last year.
The end of my first year, completing my induction. This is where I think I stopped praising myself yet still expecting the world. While I do feel blessed to have supportive SLT behind me, who allow me to follow my career goals and ambitions, last year felt like I muddled my way through subject leadership. Was that really the case? I took a subject which was part of a creative curriculum that had been identified as needing improvement. If nothing else, I executed a scheme of work change and ensured that the subject was becoming noticed across the school, ensuring that science was happening each week.
Fast forward to the end of 2014/15 and I had developed enough confidence to ask SLT about embarking on the Primary Science Quality Mark (PSQM). Again, our supportive SLT agreed. Would they have really allowed me (just a teacher with barely 2 years experience) to lead the school towards this if there wasn’t any faith in me? I know it’s a rhetorical question. But still, the doubt was there. Am I really good enough?
Then, the PSQM started. I do recall feeling quite overwhelmed at the first meeting – surrounded by teachers with far more experience in classroom teaching and leadership than I do. I felt like I didn’t belong. However, the process of obtaining the PSQM (of which I’m only half way through) has been transformational. Yes, I can already see the benefits on the teaching and learning of science across the school – this is something that is well documented both by PSQM and OFSTED. But what about the impact on the subject leadership?
As I mentioned above, my first year of subject leadership felt like a muddled experience. Not this year. There is a clear framework from which to work. The backing of SLT and my conviction to ask from CPD time and plan a science day are direct results of the PSQM process. The supportive nature of the course and the wide range of materials to help me develop a strong action plan to drive science forward has had an impact on my professional outlook. Having now completed 3 staff CPD sessions, I feel energised and ready to continue to drive the subject forward. Confident in my abilities as a leader. While it does feel hard to put my finger on what has been the catalyst for change this year, I think it’s a mixture of knowing I have SLT support and the nurturing support of the PSQM hub leaders and the opportunity to talk to other professionals. This is something that I didn’t have last year. Teachers often work in isolation and forget to open up and engage in professional dialogue with others.
As I write this, I am considering widening my professional skills and expertise. I enjoy being a classroom practitioner. But, I’ve always wanted to develop this outside of the classroom and become more involved with the wider community of science education. If it wasn’t for PSQM, I’m not sure it would have happened so early. So yes, I may ‘only’ be in my third year of teaching and yes, I have a lot to learn. But my existing passion for primary science and the PSQM process are enabling me to follow through with conviction and have faith in myself in a world where teachers are constantly being criticised. If nothing else, to let others know they’re not in this alone.