“Rooted in what a ‘good head’ knows, understands and does in leading and managing a school”
Few would argue with the core purpose of a Headteacher as given in the 1998 Headteachers’ Standards
“to provide professional leadership for a school which secures its success and improvement, ensuring high quality education for all its pupils, and improved standards of learning and achievement.”
That core purpose has stood the test of time recognising that Headteachers have a critical role in our education system and occupy an influential position in society. The school sector, however, has evolved since the last review of the Headteachers’ Standards in 2015, and the review group felt it important to consider how the standards could be used across the developing range of leadership roles in schools.
Feedback indicated that the current standards were not being widely used. Therefore, our driving focus in making our re-assessment was to take note of the latest evidence to develop standards that were clear, fit for purpose and of real practical use to heads and employers.
With our strong emphasis on relevance and usefulness we considered it important that these standards should be rooted in what a ‘good head’ knows, understands and does in leading and managing a school. To give coherence and consistency across standards we looked to build on the Teachers’ Standards, in parallel with establishing the leadership and management aspects specific to headship. We also recognised there was significant value in leading with a section on Ethics and Professional Conduct for Headteachers building from Part 2 of the Teachers’ Standards, an aspect of these standards that received considerable support during our consultations.
We agreed that the revised standards will essentially have the same practical purposes as the previous standards in that they would
- Shape headteachers’ own practice and professional development, within and beyond the school.
- Support the recruitment and appointment of headteachers.
- Provide a framework for training middle and senior leaders, aspiring to headship
- Inform the performance management of headteachers.
However, our approach to meeting these aims changed from the 2015 standards in two key ways. Firstly, we moved away from the ‘aspirational’ nature of the 2015 standards in order to provide benchmarks that all headteachers should meet and secondly we looked to describe good leadership for the full range of responsibilities for the headteacher of a stand-alone school.
The ethics and professional conduct section is at the core of the standards. This outlines the ethics and professional conduct expected of headteachers. It consists of statements that define the behaviour and attitudes which should be expected of headteachers.
The standards in the second section cover interlinked domains of the headteacher’s role all underpinned by the governance and accountability domain.
Culture and ethos
school culture - behaviour - professional development
Curriculum and teaching
teaching - curriculum and assessment - additional and special educational needs
school improvement - organisational management - working in partnership
This year there will be cases, where the headteacher’s performance review and setting of objectives for the current school year has already been completed, so there will need to be a transition period. However, all schools should be able to use the revised standards as part of ongoing development conversations and next year’s performance review meeting.
The review group also proposed a practical way forward to use the revised standards applicable to those with senior leadership roles in schools that carry many, but not all, of the responsibilities of a headteacher, for example someone who is a Head of School or a Deputy Head. By having standards that cover the full range of activities that a headteacher can undertake, employers would have a useful tool they could use to adapt or draw from to suit individual circumstances, indicating clearly which of the standards apply to the specific role.
I said when we started this review that “both the profession and society rightly have high expectations of those that lead our schools and it is important that the standards accurately reflect those expectations.” I believe that, through our review, the review group has helped to develop a set of standards that both reflects those expectations and are of real practical use to current and aspiring headteachers, governors, trustees and the wider school community.
NGA’s Chief Executive Emma Knights was a member of the review group chaired by Malcolm Trobe and she writes in this blog about how NGA is supporting governors and trustees to use the Headteachers’ Standards
Read the review groups' report