Subject Improvement

Steve Adcock / Categories: General, Maths, Science

Subject Improvement

by Steve Adcock, Deputy Director of Secondary Academies

Over the years I think we’ve overlooked the role that subject improvement plays in school improvement. Perhaps in the days of retakes, early entry, coursework, ECDL etc we could use generic management approaches to raise outcomes in schools. No longer!

With increasing numbers of pupils following a general academic curriculum, and with reforms to assessment leading to longer, terminal exams, school improvement now requires pupils to demonstrate a good understanding of their subjects, an understanding that can only really be gained through 5 years of a coherent curriculum and good teaching in each subject.

It’s for this reason that subject improvement is at the heart of our approach to school improvement at United Learning. I explain our school improvement strategy as follows:

Our Regional Directors ensure that the basic foundations are in place in all schools: leadership, curriculum, behaviour and teacher development. With these foundations in place, our subject advisors ensure that subject specialism thrives in each school.

I manage our team of subject advisors who all have the same objectives:

  • Raise standards in your subject: We believe that the most important thing we can do for our pupils is to send them out into the world with a good set of grades. We therefore provide sharply focused guidance to heads of department and teachers so that pupils make good progress over the 5 years and end up with good outcomes
  • Build the capacity of teachers and leaders in your subject: For our subject advisors their team is their Heads of Department – they meet with them regularly and visit them in their schools to support their subject leadership.
  • Develop curriculum and assessment resources in your subject: As a large group of schools we are able to develop a central bank of teaching resources that ease teachers’ planning and ensure that all of our pupils benefit from a consistently challenging classroom experience.

Underpinning these is a fourth point about communication: the advisor is the advocate for their subject and communicates clearly and confidently so that headteachers and line managers know what they can do to support the subject in their school.

We’re currently recruiting a third advisor in each of the core subjects: English, maths and science. If successful, you’ll see parts of the country you never knew existed. More importantly, you will be immersed in school improvement while retaining your subject specialism, restoring subject improvement to its rightful place at the heart of school improvement.


Steve Adcock is the Deputy Director of Secondary Academies at United Learning. This post originally appeared on Steve's blog, Reflections on Schools, Teaching and Education.

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