Release date: 13/10/2020

A set of new standards for headteachers has been published by the Department for Education today (13 October).

The non-statutory standards, which are intended as guidance to be interpreted in the context of each individual headteacher and school, set out how headteachers can meet the “high expectations” placed in them by parents, communities and the wider public.

The first section outlines the Ethics and Professional Conduct expected of headteachers and, like the Framework of Ethical Leadership in Education, build on the Nolan Principles of Public Life and the Teachers’ Standards. As such, they consist of statements that define the behaviour and attitudes which should be expected of headteachers.

The second section contains 10 headteacher standards:

  1. School culture
  2. Teaching
  3. Curriculum and assessment
  4. Behaviour
  5. Additional and Special Educational Needs
  6. Professional development
  7. Organisational management
  8. School improvement
  9. Working in partnership
  10. Governance and accountability

The numbering does not indicate hierarchy, as illustrated by:

This stresses the centrality of ethical and conduct at the heart of the standards, and governance as an important part of the system of accountability.

With regard to governance, the standards say that headteachers should “understand and welcome the role of effective governance, upholding their obligation to give account and accept responsibility”. It also says that headteachers should “establish and sustain professional working relationship with those responsible for governance”.

The standards can be used by governing boards to support the recruitment and appointment of headteachers; inform the performance management and appraisal of headteachers; and to shape the professional development of headteachers.

Read the Headteacher Standards 2020

Chaired by Malcolm Trobe, the former general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), NGA’s chief executive Emma Knights was part of the external expert review group appointed to review the 2015 standards, alongside serving headteachers and MAT executive leaders s and representatives from ASCL, NAHT, Ambition and CST.

Emma Knights, chief executive of the National Governance Association said: “The recruitment and development of the senior executive of a school or trust is arguably the most important function a board undertakes, as part of its core responsibility to support and challenge the professional leadership. The headteacher standards 2020 can be used to inform this work of governing boards, feeding into the development of job descriptions and specifications; the setting of annual objectives and conversations about the support needs and development aspirations. However the standards need to be used intelligently, amended as befits the context and role, not as a check list nor in place of productive, honest discussion.

"NGA is pleased to see ethics and conduct at the heart of the standards and governance taking its rightful place as part of school accountability. The standards also throw a welcome light on the importance of culture, but the place of strategy in leadership is less developed and I would commend both governing boards and senior leadership to read our new Being Strategic guide to explore this further.

"We know from the evidence from the Annual Governance Survey that senior leaders struggle with organisational management (including management of staff, strategy, risk and particularly finances) and to a lesser extent, parental engagement, partnership working and leading change, those elements of the role that are outside the experiences of a classroom teacher, more than any other aspect. We have been lobbying for these aspects to be at the forefront of development programmes for senior leaders and new headteachers. If we are truly in the business of improving schools and trusts and the experiences of pupils, these needs to be taken seriously by both DfE and those delivering programmes.”

NGA resources for governors and trustees on recruiting and appraising an executive leader:

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