Should SLT teach their fair share of the awkward squad?

A very simple opening gambit from me: I believe that senior leaders should regularly teach a decent number of students who are challenging in terms of both behaviour and educational needs.  That’s not to say I believe that senior leaders shouldn’t have a mixed timetable with a nice bit of sixth-form here and there, nor that classes should be allocated irrespective of individual strengths and specialisms.  However, to me, it’s all about taking on a fair share.  Have a think about some of the toughest kids that you and your colleagues currently teach (and, actually, have taught over the years): they’re pretty much the sort I have in mind.

Teaching students who are part of – in Mary Myatt’s words – the awkward squad is important for a number of reasons, but one stands out in particular: doing so enables senior leaders to gain a deeper understanding of the everyday challenges faced by teachers with full (or fuller) timetables.  And this has many knock-on effects.  For example: constructing class lists, allocating teaching and support staff to groups, and deciding upon rooming arrangements becomes a more delicate proposition when the impact of some of those decisions will later be experienced first-hand.  Equally, when it comes to making some of the weighty pastoral decisions, like defining the severity of sanctions or deciding on how to allocate resources to support members of staff, first-hand experience will help senior leaders to make more rounded decisions.  And, of course, there’s also this: teaching is often hugely draining and sometimes hugely frustrating.  And that can be easily forgotten from behind an office desk or amidst a carousel of *very* important meetings.

So, if you’re a senior leader, here’s my challenge to you: take on a difficult KS4 class for which you’ll be held to account at the end of the year or, if that can’t be done, do a regular KS3 cover slot on a Thursday or Friday afternoon; at the very least, take some of the big hitters into your existing classes.  I’m sure there’ll be a list of reasons as long as my arm why this might be difficult to do, but it can be done – so what’s stopping you?

Thanks for reading –




4 thoughts on “Should SLT teach their fair share of the awkward squad?

  1. I totally agree Doug – it also means you get to know the awkward squad personally, which makes a big difference when you see them in another context. Last year I had an Y11 class where I had excluded over 1/3 of them over the years for various reasons and if I hadn’t taught them, and got to know them as young people, then that would have been my only experience of them!


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