March 2021 edition: Using the New Headteachers’ Standards Across a Multi-academy Trust

Using the New Headteachers’ Standards Across a Multi-academy Trust

The brief to the Headteacher Standards Review Group was to develop Headteachers’ Standards for leaders of single schools. The review group, however, were very aware that there are many thousands of leaders working in a range of ‘non-Headteacher’ leadership roles both in multi-school groups and in single schools. Recognising this, the group took a broad view and gave full consideration as to how to develop new standards for headteachers of single schools that would also be of real practical use across a range of leadership positions including within multi-school groups.

Our approach to developing the standards varied from the 2015 standards in that we moved away from the ‘aspirational’ nature of the previous standards, in order to provide benchmarks that all headteachers should be expected to meet. Following feedback that the current standards were not used widely, we were determined to develop standards that would be of real practical use to heads, employers and those engaged in leadership training and development. The group recognised that the standards needed to be evidence informed, so we started by curating research evidence about what makes for successful leadership of schools, and examined what leadership standards were used in other jurisdictions and professions. We believed it was important for there to be a coherent progressive career pathway, as teachers moved into various leadership positions. So, building a direct link from the Teachers’ Standards and the Early Career Framework was important.

With our strong emphasis on relevance and usefulness, it was important that we rooted these standards in what a ‘good school leader’ knows, understands and does in leading and managing a school. We noted that, given the specificities of the complex activities involved in leading a school, there is a great deal of expert knowledge and experience that is a critical and necessary requirement of being an effective school leader. The new standards reflect this domain specific leadership.

One of the main changes from previous versions of the standards is that these standards lead with a section on Ethics and Professional Conduct for Headteachers building from Part 2 of the Teachers’ Standards; an aspect of the new standards that received universal support during our consultations. This section emphasises the Principles of Public Life (the ‘Nolan Principles’) and we sought to express how school leaders uphold public trust in school leadership and maintain high standards of ethics and behaviour as leaders of their school community and the profession. We placed this section at the heart of the 2020 Standards.

With our strong emphasis on relevance and usefulness, it was important that we rooted these standards in what a ‘good school leader’ knows, understands and does in leading and managing a school.

Malcolm Trobe

We established an Organisational Effectiveness domain to cover the leadership and management aspects of the role. In parallel with this we looked to give coherence and consistency across the standards by developing the Culture and Ethos, and Curriculum and Teaching domains directly from the Teachers’ Standards. As headteachers are accountable for fulfilling their professional responsibilities and need to uphold their obligation to give account and accept responsibility for what goes on in the school, we placed those three domains within the ring of the Governance and Accountability domain.

As the Standards cover the full breadth of leadership responsibilities within a single school, all the standards are relevant to most headteachers in maintained schools and single academies. The review group’s remit did not include executive leadership, however given that it was charged with taking into account the changes in school structures since the previous review, the group considered how the new Headteachers’ Standards could be used for other leadership roles. 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. They could indicate clearly which of the standards apply to a specific role where that person does not have access to all the Headteachers’ Standards, for example the Head of School in a multi-academy Trust, or someone with cross-trust leadership responsibilities. We believed that the standards could be used in these cases as we could see the employer determining which standards apply to a specific role. This would make it clear to the individual what standards are expected of them and be helpful in both their personal development and appraisal. Similarly, within individual schools for leadership posts such as deputy or assistant headships, it may well be wholly appropriate to expect those leaders to meet standards relevant to their roles.

With reference to the Trust leader role, the group felt that not enough was yet known about executive leadership, so our report recommended that ‘the DfE should consider how it can learn more about the role of executive leaders in school Trusts with a view to supporting high quality Trust leadership’.

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.” Throughout the pandemic, school and Trust leaders have demonstrated huge commitment and professionalism and more than met the high expectations of society. I believe that having and using a set of clear standards is key in demonstrating that those high expectations continue to be set and met. 

Read the Headteachers' Standards 2020 here.