Head of Department

As well as being teachers, heads of departments are administrators and managers. They are also mentors, especially for probationary teachers. Difficulties with classes or individual pupils, and coping with a complex curriculum can often make life difficult for a teacher coming to terms with a new job. More positively, teachers can help with careers guidance, too.

Each major subject area has a head of department and education services are located in every type of local authority except district councils.

Work Environment
This is mostly the classroom, though some outside work is common. There will be meetings to attend, inside and outside of the school. Depending on the subject specialism, the head may be called upon to organize field trips. A biology or geography teacher, for example, could be involved in national and international expeditions, while a history specialist may arrange visits to museums and historic sites.

The standard working week is 20 hours class contact time plus a variable 20 hours administration. As well as standing in front of a class during the day, a head of department must attend parents' evenings or, occasionally, meetings at the civic building. He or she is almost totally driven by deadlines.

Daily Activities
The main task is teaching and marking of work assignments. But the department head has extra duties: managing teachers, technicians, handling financial issues such as costs of equipment, field trips and staffing (supply teachers to fill the gaps left by illness, for example) and chairing meetings which may amount to two or three a week.

Education is in a constant state of flux and teachers need to be guided through the developing demands of a complex curriculum.  In addition to leadership training through expeditions, for example, a departmental head will be involved in other special projects such as devising new schemes of work designed to meet national curriculum criteria. There are local inspections from schools advisors to prepare for, too. It is up to the department head to take a lead on these matters.

In the midst of all this managing, heads of department must avoid the danger of losing sight of the heart of the job - to help pupils fulfill their potential and prepare them for life, including achieving the best possible examination results.

Skills & Interests
These qualities are essential:

  • administrative and management skills; 
  • attention to detail; 
  • project management ability; 
  • confidence;
  • ability to get on with people from many different backgrounds;
  • communication skills;
  • problem solving skills;
  • a mature and stable temperament;
  • caring for young people and believing in their capabilities.

Entry Requirements
Relevant degree and possibly a post graduate qualification or a professional teaching qualification.  Previous management experience is not vital, but can help.  Continuing professional development via teaching and management in education courses is essential.

Future Prospects & Opportunities
There is a wide range of opportunity in teaching itself. The higher up you get the more competitive it becomes. After head of department, the next jobs are head of faculty and then head teacher. Generally, people have to move to gain promotion and experience is a factor in getting a better position. This will often involve more people management responsibilities.  Work outside local authorities is possible, such as in business, universities, training institutions, the civil service and the media.

Further Information & Services
All local education authorities
Teacher Training & Education in Wales www.teachertrainingcymru.org
General Teaching Council for Wales www.gtcw.org.uk
Graduate Teacher Training Registry www.gttr.ac.uk
Education jobs www.eteach.com

You may find further information about this area of work through Careers Wales (www.careerswales.com/) or in your local library, careers office or school careers library.

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