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Review of the school leadership landscape (UK, December 2012)

Review of the school leadership landscape

(Earley, P, Higham, R, Allen, R, Allen, T, Howson, J, Nelson, R, Rawar, S, Lynch, S, Morton, L, Mehta, P and Sims, D. (2012). Review of the school leadership landscape. Nottingham; National College for School Leadership.)

The Institute of Education (IOE), together with the National Foundation for Educational Research (NfER), were commissioned by the National College for School Leadership to carry out a review of the landscape of school leadership in England, between October 2011 and September 2012. The National College asked the research team to explore the following key issues concerning the developing school leadership landscape:

  • the state of school and academy leadership in England, including its key demographic features
  • the way in which leaders are responding to change across phases and contexts and across a range of fronts
  • the extent to which leaders are successfully maintaining a strategic and operational focus
  • the identification of key challenges, opportunities faced by leaders and their responses to change in this new landscape
  • an exploration of new leadership models, trends and innovations with the potential to address current and future challenges
  • emergent and effective behaviours, skills, knowledge and capabilities of leaders in the new landscape
  • implications for the future direction and priorities of school and academy leadership and the National College.

The research project consisted of four overlapping phases, conducted between October 2011 and July 2012:

  1. an analysis of the leadership labour market/demographics using existing data sets, especially the School Workforce Census
  2. interviews with stakeholders, and a literature review
  3. a national survey of school leaders
  4. the collection of qualitative data from 8 case studies, 20 telephone interviews with school leaders and 3 focus groups

The results of the research are published in a report written by Professor Peter Earley and Dr Rob Higham (IOE) (project directors), Dr Rebecca Allen, Dr Tracey Allen, Professor John Howson, Rebecca Nelson and Shenila Rawal (IOE), Sarah Lynch, Laura Morton, Palak Mehta and David Sims (NfER). The report presents a snapshot of a changing educational landscape, particularly in the case of academy status. The main findings are summarised under the following headers:

  • The demography of school leadership
  • Responding to change and the current policy landscape
  • Current models of leadership and future challenges
  • The balance between operational and strategic leadership
  • New leadership skills and capabilities: support, development and training

In its final chapter the report suggests that the complexity of school leadership and headship in particular, continues to increase with a consequent intensification of work. The need to develop internal school capacity and effective partnerships appear essential for schools as they navigate numerous national policy changes, within their particular contexts. There is a substantial risk however that the nature and demands of current policy change will disrupt the focus of schools and leaders from teaching and learning and their authentic improvement. The landscape is also uneven and there are signs that potential fault lines could be emerging between leaders across school phases, contexts and Ofsted gradings. These fault lines include not only school capacity, but also the ways in which school leaders view the potential impacts of and respond to new policies.

Read the full report: download the PDF version attached.