National standards of excellence for headteachers

The Department for Education publishes National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers. These replace the National Standards for Headteachers 2004. They are set out in four domains:

  1. Qualities and knowledge
  2. Pupils and staff
  3. Systems and process
  4. The self-improving school system

The standards are intended as guidance to underpin best practice and to be interpreted in the context of each individual headteacher and school. They can be used to inform the appraisal of headteachers, but for this purpose they serve as:

  • a background document to help frame a broad overview of leadership in the specific context of the school;
  • a starting point for the identification of specific objectives for the next stage of the school’s continuous improvement journey; and
  • a help to identify areas of development where the headteacher requires support and improvement.

When the standards are used to inform objective setting, the objectives must be tailored so that they are relevant to the context of the individual school and headteacher. The standards should be used aspirationaly and developmentaly. Actions for the headteacher can be agreed with these aspirational standards in mind, but will need to be in the context of where the school is now and what is needed to move it to the next step of improvement.

Effective management of headteacher performance

A nine month research project into the effective management of headteacher
performance in maintained schools and academies reported in January 2014. The researchers declare that “effective oversight of the headteacher performance management process is one of the most important roles played by the governing body in the overall governance of the school.” They find that effective headteacher performance is characterised by ten features.

  1. It is integrated with the school development plan.
  2. It has a secure annual cycle of objective-setting and review together with interim monitoring.
  3. It is underpinned by sound relationships – characterised by openness, trust and integrity – among all those involved.
  4. It involves the setting of meaningful and challenging but achievable objectives for the headteacher.
  5. It strikes an appropriate balance among internal and external accountability, development and reward.
  6. It makes use of a wide variety of data from a range of sources to inform and underpin decision-making.
  7. It is evaluated and adapted over time to meet evolving requirements of individual circumstances and shifting organisational needs within a dynamic context of governance.
  8. It is appropriate for the stage of development of the school and the headteacher.
  9. It is viewed as part of an ongoing and wider process of working with the headteacher and all members of staff to ensure high levels of performance.
  10. It is integral to the development of overall governing body capacity to meet the needs of the school.

Spicer, David Eddy, et al. “Effectively managing headteacher performance.” (2014).

A model for primary school leadership

Freedom to lead: a study of outstanding primary school leadership in England comes from the National College for Teaching & Leadership. It sets out a model which begins by identifying ten basic tenets of outstanding primary school leadership:

  1. All children can succeed.
  2. Primary schools determine life chances.
  3. Background should not limit outcomes.
  4. Successful primary schools do the right things consistently well.
  5. Almost all primary teachers can be good or better.
  6. Teaching which focuses on clear learning objectives, effective instruction for all,
    the steps needed to make progress, feedback and assessment, is essential to
    children’s good progress.
  7. School leadership is key to raising standards.
  8.  The most effective school leaders readily model good teaching.
  9. The most effective support for teachers comes from other expert practitioners.
  10. The quality of the curriculum makes a significant contribution to the children’s
    interest, engagement and learning and thus to the outcomes they achieve.

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