Middle Leadership Mastery

A toolkit for subject and pastoral leaders

By: Adam Robbins


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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 222mm x 182mm
Pages : 192
ISBN : 9781785835346
Format: Paperback
Published: May 2021

Written by Adam Robbins, Middle Leadership Mastery: A toolkit for subject and pastoral leaders aims to enhance middle leaders' expertise so that they can make informed decisions and communicate them effectively to both staff and students.

Never has there been a more crucial time to improve middle leadership.

For many years school inspections have focused on data-driven outcomes and the role of senior leaders in driving school improvement; recently, however, the focus has shifted to curriculum and middle leadership. This has left middle leaders under increased pressure to be able to justify their actions and decisions.

Furthermore, to make the best decisions possible, middle leaders need to have a nuanced understanding of the consequences of their actions. In this pragmatic book, Adam aims to boost their role-specific expertise to help them achieve that goal – and offers them a preferable alternative to learning from their mistakes.

Instead of relying on generic leadership theories, Middle Leadership Mastery gathers perspectives from psychology and cognitive science to share evidence-informed guidance on a wide range of topics – from supporting staff and students in crisis and managing wellbeing, to quality-assuring teaching and curriculum design. It also sets out a holistic view of the role of middle leaders – covering people management, teacher development, teaching and learning, decision making and pastoral issues.

In doing so, the book offers new insights into the tasks and responsibilities that middle leaders take on in their day-to-day work and shares a series of practical tools, approaches and strategies that will support them in effectively implementing their own plans and ideas.

Adam draws on his sixteen years' experience of teaching in a deprived area to illustrate his points with stories and anecdotes from the front line, demonstrating how middle leaders can better understand their context and deliver the best outcomes from a variety of starting points.

Suitable for both established and aspiring middle leaders in primary and secondary schools.

Picture for author Adam Robbins

Adam Robbins

Adam Robbins is a science teacher and lead practitioner in charge of whole school CPD. He supports middle leaders in all subjects to develop their teams. Adam is also the managing editor at CogSciSci, a grassroots organisation aimed at bringing the findings of cognitive science to the classroom, and is often invited to speak at international events on issues of teaching, learning and pastoral matters.

Click here to read Adam Robbins' blog.


  1. Within a well-structured text, Adam Robbins promotes his breadth of experience linked to a focus on enhancing the skills and awareness of current middle managers who are seeking to boost both their own and their department’s performance and maintain personal motivation within the role. Readers will benefit from the author’s ideas on routines for successful lessons, creating a quality assurance process, leading staff development and leading others. At this difficult period, with the increased need for support for learners and staff and the emphasis on catch-up programmes, the sections on managing change and improving well-being are extremely useful. The excellent recap and reflect sections also offer a workable framework for short-burst staff development sessions for promoting and managing change to ensure all staff are rowing in the same direction. Overall, Middle Leadership Mastery provides a valuable, engaging and stimulating contribution to enhancing the skills of middle leadership staff and supporting them in the challenging arena of middle management. It will enable middle leaders to build an effective toolkit to reduce the burden on themselves and help them avoid personal burn-out.
  2. Adam Robbins' book is a superb guide and companion for any middle leader working in a school setting. Whereas most leadership books are full of generic approaches and strategies, this book is concrete, detailed and supported by a wealth of both experience and evidence. Whether you are looking for an explainer to assessment theory, a primer for budgeting and running meetings, or even psychological advice on staying motivated in a tremendously challenging role, this book has it all.

    Middle Leadership Mastery should, without a doubt, become required reading for any current or aspiring leader - and I'm personally grateful that Robbins has written it. 

  3. In writing Middle Leadership Mastery, Adam Robbins has produced a book for secondary school middle leaders who want to be authentic in their challenging role. It is not for anyone who is content to simply go through the motions. On the contrary, it is a book that might challenge your thinking as it raises important issues and sets them against key questions relating to middle leadership issues. Alongside this, Adam provides useful tools - and middle leaders will find things like the questions for effective book-looks and the drop-in proforma both pragmatic and appropriate. The structure of CPD insights will also be welcomed by anyone who is responsible for this area.

  4. Middle Leadership Mastery is an essential and desirable read for both experienced and aspiring middle leaders. The book is applicable to both primary and secondary practitioners and explores a wealth of role-relevant concepts to help them lead effectively across the curriculum.

    Adam Robbins clearly identifies how middle leaders can harness the responsibilities and freedom of the education system in terms of teaching, learning and assessment. And, by drawing upon key underpinnings of the new Ofsted framework, he shares various perspectives geared towards questioning and challenging existing classroom practice. Robbins presents a range of resources for managing key areas of education and explicitly identifies how to tackle some of the difficult challenges of being a leader, from time management to delegation. Throughout the book, there are a wealth of opportunities to explore and reflect upon this
    newfound knowledge, which will ultimately impact upon the children and the curriculum within our schools. Undeniably, Robbins' honest account of his experiences of leadership shine through, developing the relatability of the book's content to the everyday classroom.

    Overall, Middle Leadership Mastery is an extremely insightful and thought-provoking book which I would highly recommend to any middle leader who aspires to drive change in their subject and have a positive impact on pupils' learning.
  5. Middle Leadership Mastery provides carefully considered, thoroughly researched and referenced advice for subject leaders, and also considers pastoral responsibilities in addition to academic ones. It draws together much recent research and helpful reading, focusing on what middle leaders can learn from the findings - which, in turn, should help enable them to lead their teams effectively.

    Adam Robbins' exploration of the challenges and opportunities of middle leadership is comprehensive. His writing is especially strong on leaders' imperative to respect professional autonomy while still
    understanding their role in supporting and constructively challenging those they lead to meet the highest aspirations.

    Robbins offers examples from his own practice, but is careful to avoid any sense of prescription. He makes clear his commitment toe the central place of routines, what we can learn from cognitive science, and the complexity of assessment. He writes compellingly about the importance of leading others in such a way that they are able to learn, develop and achieve professional standards they can feel proud of.

    I particularly like what Robbins has to say about 'managing up' (helping those who lead you to get the best from you), his tips for giving feedback which is candid but compassionate, and the final section on safeguarding your own wellbeing and ensuring your job is sustainable through finding perspective and achieving a manageable and proportionate work-life balance.

    Ultimately, Middle Leadership Mastery presents a strong case for the crucial importance of middle leaders, who, as Robbins says, 'are the people who drive a school forward' and who deserve to be valued and empowered.

  6. Written in an accessible and informative way, Middle Leadership Mastery is a most interesting read. The book shares a range of practical suggestions that will greatly assist someone new to leading a subject area or year group, and it also features a well compiled and useful reference list for further reading.

    Middle Leadership Mastery will certainly be a useful addition to the armoury of any middle leader in the education sector, and I would also see a place for this book as a course reader for final-year undergraduate trainees on initial teacher education (ITE) courses - and indeed on my own PGCE course.

  7. We all know that the individual teacher makes more difference to pupil outcomes however good or bad the school is. Beyond that, the phase leader or head of department cultivates the climate in which the teacher can create good classroom weather on a daily basis. Adam Robbins' Middle Leadership Mastery is a book to help that process. Every primary school and every secondary school department should have a copy, and discussion of the approaches contained within it at staff meetings will help teachers create good classroom weather even on a rainy day or when the wind blows.
  8. Middle Leadership Mastery is first class and an excellent contribution to the school leadership literature. It is packed with a wealth of relevant research and insights, and is brought to life through Robbins' honesty and humility in relating his first-hand experiences of teaching and leading. The work of middle leaders in schools is complex and challenging - and Middle Leadership Mastery is ambitious in its aim to codify the knowledge and expertise of school leaders, which are often crowded out in a discourse dominated by tales of heroism and the cult of personality.

    Like the best leaders in our schools, Robbins manages to combine intellectual rigour with a human touch - and I highly recommend his book to all aspiring and established middle leaders.

  9. It's often said that middle leaders are the engine room of a great school: their energy, their effectiveness and their commitment are vital to any school's success. In writing this book, Adam Robbins has used his extensive knowledge to produce a superb and impressively comprehensive guide - covering curriculum design, assessment, teacher development and more besides - for anyone undertaking one of these all-important roles. 

    Middle Leadership Mastery blends an evidence-informed approach with the wisdom of someone who has learned the hard way, on the front line. The recap and reflection sections that conclude each chapter neatly capture the breadth of issues covered in the book, making it a very practical tool for anyone seeking to improve their practice or aspiring to become a middle leader in future. I will certainly be recommending this book to the many middle leaders I meet through my work.

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