Ethical Leadership for a better education system

The nation trusts us to form young people into the best that they can be. The public expects us to know what kind of example we should set them, but do we? How do we know what’s right or wrong?
- Carolyn Roberts, Commission Chair (April 2017)


The Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) announced a commission on ethical leadership in education at their annual conference in March 2017. The commission included senior representatives across the education sector and its final report, Navigating the educational moral maze, was launched at a summit in London in January 2019. The Commission developed the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, which builds on the Nolan Principles of Public Service. Further information about the commission is available here:

The Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education

Pathfinders for the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education

NGA  has supported the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education through the pathfinder project. Pathfinders have examined ethical decision making through a review and reflection programme, to help school leaders look at the principles underpinning the decisions they make. NGA views ethical leadership as a cornerstone of good governance, and therefore good school leadership. Free and open to all, pathfinders tested out the resources, designed new resources, and created the ‘paths’ for other schools to follow to enable ethical leadership to flourish. The aims of the pathfinders are to answer two fundamental questions:

  • How well do we fulfil our roles as trusted educators?
  • What kind of role models are we to the children in our care?

Blogs for Ethical Leadership

In their own words, a number of pathfinders and others have published blogs about the experience of being a pathfinder, which you can read here: 

Michelle Kilburn-Bond , of The Athelstan Trust shares how she created CPD opportunities using ethical leadership. 

Amanda Gledhill, of South Otterington CE Primary School shares her ethical leadership journey during the coronavirus pandemic.

Karen Cornell, of The Coleshill School writes about the experience of using ethical leadership to create inclusive schools.

Mark Wilson, The Wellspring Trust writes about living the values within The Wellspring Trust.

Ian Courtney MBE, Chair of Trustees Dartmoor MAT has referenced ethical leadership in the foundations of it's trust, he writes about how he did this and how pathfinders might do the same.

Rosemary Hoyle, Chair of Governors Wrawbry Church of England School reflects how Wrawbry used the framwork and where they started

Jonny Uttley, CEO of The Education Alliance breaks down ethical leadership with The Education Alliance, and how ethical leadership can be easily identified, but hard to pinpoint. This is where the framework can be useful in building competencies of school leaders.

Victoria Wells, reflects on the Second Annual Ethical Leadership Summit (January 2020) and wrote her blog about the role of ethical leadership within the Multi Academy Company where she is Chair of Trustees, and finding her way through the moral maze

Pathfinder schools and trusts

In June 2019, we asked pathfinders to confirm that they were involved and engaging with the Framework for Ethical Leadership in Education, and have 100 schools and trusts registered in this cohort (cohort 1). They are now joined by 114 schools that have also put the framework into action since September 2019. This list and map represents all those who have currently registered and agreed to share their details. 

Please be aware that due to GDPR we will not be able to share email address for schools and trusts registered. If you are interested in working collaboratively, or hearing from other schools about their experience asa pathfinder, then do contact the school directly, or contact [email protected]

Pathfinder impact

We are continually developing the resources and support for
pathfinders on feedback we receive. However, a number of schools and trusts have already made commitments to ethical leadership. This was showcased at our first Ethic Exchange in July 2019. Read about the exchange.

Ian Courtney MBE, Chair of Trustees at Dartmoor MAT writes about how the trust determined its ethical leadership model from its inception to ensure the trusts ethos and values were maintained with growth.

Rosemary Hoyle, Chair of Governors at Chair of Governors at Wrawby St Mary's Church of England School explores the role of ethical leadership from all levels is important, and that the language of leadership should always be considered.

Jonny Uttley, CEO of The Education Alliance explained how he supports ethical leadership and how this is modelled at the Education Alliance

If you would like to be on this list do get in touch with us at [email protected]

Benefits of being a pathfinder

Being a pathfinder means you join over 250 schools and trusts testing out the framework either through the resource pack provided, or through resources you develop yourself to engage your school community in the framework.

Great reasons to be a pathfinder:

  • Improve school/trust’s ethical foundation
  • CPD for school leaders and governing boards
  • Opportunity for further development, i.e. public speaking and writing articles and blogs for ethical leadership
  • Access to pathfinder resources and support
  • Networking with similar-thinking schools/trusts
  • Lead the way as an exemplar of ethical leadership and inspire other schools with good practice
  • Engage in the ethical leadership debate

Pathfinders were required to:

  • Have senior leadership support to be a pathfinder school/trust. Ideally this would be agreed by governing/trust boards or chair of governors/trustees.
  • Be interested in improving governance/leadership and have an interest in ethical leadership
  • Commit to one of the ‘paths’ to explore ethical leadership; this could be an ethical audit, discussion of ethical dilemmas provided in resource pack, completion of governing board activities, or review of school values and ethos in light of the framework. Alternatively, you may wish to develop your own resources or programme for developing the framework within your school or trust.
  • Respond to two light touch surveys to provide feedback on your progress/impact of ethical leadership and attend two free events for pathfinders.

You can read more about the experiences of pathfinders in our latest report of Pathfinders:

Ethical Leadership in Practice report

We have now closed our applications for pathfinders after registering over 350 pathfinders, who will inform the resources and shape the paths of ethical leadership. We expect the resources and pathfinder information to be open-access after the final feedback of pathfinders this summer.

Pathfinder Annual Summit 

A second annual summit was held on 30 January 2020, and the third is being planned for January 2021: for further information, please contact [email protected]


The Ethics Forum

The Ethics Forum will be the home of ethical debate for the profession, hosted by The Chartered College of Teaching. This will help us reflect not only on our own actions and diligent public servants and trusted educators, but also consider the example we set to our young people, so we can really be confident in our development of future citizens. For information on how to join the forum, please visit and read the Constitution of the Ethical Forum.

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