This study explores the leadership role of the Head of Department (HoD) in the teaching of Mathematics.It focuses on the perspectives that the educators hold about the leadership role of HoDs in the teaching of Mathematics in two Gauteng primary schools.The study was framed by the following research question: What perspectives do educators hold about the leadership role of the HoD in the teaching of Mathematics in primary schools? A qualitative case study was employed whereby data were collected in two primary schools in Gauteng Province. To examine the relevance and clarityinterview questions used, a pilot study wasat first conducted in which one HoD and one teacher were interviewed.For the actual study, ten individual semi-structured interviews were conducted with four HoDs, two principals and four teachers in two township schools in a Gauteng district. Documents such as monitoring instruments of HoDs were also collected and analysed for purposes of triangulation.
Key findings were that HoDsnever received any formal preparation to lead the teaching of Mathematics. They learned about the role by participating in professional development activities offered by outside actors, upgrading themselves, assisting the Education district department in facilitating workshops for teachers as well as serving as acting HoDs.They provided leadership by monitoring teaching and teachers’ work,checking lesson plans, doing class visits, checking learners’ books and assessment tasks and doing follow ups.Challenges that were identified in relation to the leadership role of the HoD leadership in the teaching of Mathematics includedHoDs’ lack of Mathematics knowledge (SMK) and pedagogical content knowledge (PCK), lack of teaching resources, teachers’ lack of knowledge of the new curriculum, a heavy workload, overcrowded classrooms, demotivated teachers, teacher absenteeism and too much paperwork.The perceived strategies that were used by HoDsto address challenges includedthe following:engaging in discussions with teachers in an attempt to collectively find solutions, substituting absent teachers, taking work home, using the expertise of other teachers through delegation, leading by example by presenting lessons for teachers, making learners their first priority followed by paperwork as well as engaging with some stakeholders for support.
The following were the recommendations: there should be more clarity about what is expected of HoDs.Sufficient time should be allocated in order for HoDs to be able to balance their leadership duties and teaching effectively;current as well as prospective HoDs should be trained in both the subject in which they are expected to provide leadership as well as the generic leadership part of their job.HoDs should involve Mathematics teachers in the development of the monitoring tools since Mathematics teachers are familiar with a sensible blend of tools, methodologies and approaches that can meet the needs of their learners.HoDs should also be developed on what they should look for as they monitor teachers’ work.In that way they may be able to effectively use the results of their monitoring to support teachers.A final recommendation is that the workload of HoDs be reduced through the allocation of administrative tasks to school administrators and appointing paid HoD assistants such as subject heads.