Supporting and Developing Middle Managers in the FE Sector

An evolving role

The middle manager role in the FE sector seems to be expanding and altering in many colleges, as they become more and more connected to the quality improvement work around T&L and performance management of staff. In my conversations with them during training sessions, I realise that they can be involved with a huge range of activities. This is an incomplete list of the tasks they are juggling:

  • Line management of teaching staff, including performance management, appraisal and professional development review
  • Everyday operational management of the provision
  • Planning the curriculum offer
  • Liaising with internal and external partners, e.g. On Apprenticeships, Traineeships, ALS, Exams Officers
  • Teaching their own classes – up to 20 hours per week in some cases!
  • Curriculum planning and review
  • Observations and learning walks
  • Data collation, review and related reporting, including Self-Assessment Reviews
  • Attending a range of meetings to represent team or subject areas
  • Project management of ad hoc initiatives
  • Managing budgets
  • Interviewing staff and students
  • Student disciplinary processes
  • Dealing with complaints and appeals from staff and learners
  • Leading slots to share T&L practice
  • Completing audits of marking, schemes of work and lesson plans
  • Running CPD sessions
  • Coaching and mentoring staff to develop

Not an exhaustive list, but exhausting to contemplate in terms of its breadth and depth. It seems to me this role is so important for the smooth running of the curriculum area and the performance of the team that it is worth devising some powerful and appropriate development for these staff. This role is very different from that of the teacher and it helps to recognise the manager skill set as something people need to develop. Just being a good teacher does not mean you can deal with the myriad of challenges within this role without support and development.

Developing Middle Managers

I think it is helpful to treat managers as individuals and not assume that all of them need the same training input. It can certainly be useful to have some core topics and skills that are identified as relevant to the managers’ roles and use these as the basis for developmental conversations. Here are some of the skills that I am seeing colleges focusing on in their development work with managers:

  • Coaching and mentoring skills for 1:1 and team conversations
  • Communication skills for motivating a team
  • Leading learning and driving T&L improvement
  • Developmental feedback and action planning skills to use after observations
  • Project management skills for leading and managing change
  • Interpreting data and managing budgets
  • Skills for having challenging conversations and managing poor performance

These skills can be developed through a variety of tailored approaches:

  1. Core training input, either online or face to face. Some colleges have a set of standard modules either bought in or written in house, which they can select from to meet needs as new managers join the organisation
  2. Job shadowing with phased handover for people moving into a new management role through internal promotion
  3. Buddying up, coaching or mentoring for a manager new to role or new to college. In some settings, this is an entitlement to development, with a number of hours or sessions outlined in HR policy
  4. Action learning sets for managers to discuss management challenges and develop their skills in a safe environment together. Using a facilitator with coaching skills can be a positive step here in maximising reflection and action planning
  5. Regular meeting structure or forum so they can share management practices, identify approaches that are working well in their teams etc. I notice that many colleges only hold management meetings to work on operational processes and neglect the reflective/developmental discussions which can support, develop and reassure managers

When a new manager joins or is promoted, it helps to have a diagnostic assessment meeting to discuss skills and expertise and identify areas for development and areas of strength that others may benefit from. This conversation could be led by HR or by the CPD team depending on the size and structure of the institution.

With all the current challenges in the sector, this role is becoming more demanding and middle managers need to be considered by those planning CPD. In some settings I think they get very little attention with skills development in comparison with teachers but there is plenty expected of them. For middle managers to feel confident and act competently in a range of situations, some relevant, well-focused, ongoing development is needed for this hard-pressed group of staff.

This entry was posted in FE, Leadership of learning, Learning Leader, Management skills, Professional Development, Staff Development and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s