Headlines: April 17th, 2007



The Policy Exchange, an independent think tank, has challenged the conventional view that head teachers are the major factor in developing successful schools. A new report from the Policy Exchange argues that headteachers have little impact on pupil learning within the first five years of their appointment. The research shows that the quality of the teaching staff is a much more important influence on school performance than the quality of the head, and that politicians’ emphasis on leadership is therefore misguided.

The statistical analysis estimating the impact of headteachers on school performance and pupil attitudes was carried out by the University of Durham. Their methodology was based on a previous project that examined the fate of underperforming Premiership football teams that changed their managers during the season. That piece of research investigated whether teams that changed their manager were more or less likely to be relegated or stay up than those that did not.

The report also makes a number of recommendations for improving under performing schools including the school being taken over by an existing school, federation, trust, academy or private company with a track record of educational success. Schools should also replace senior management and create a new governance structure so that they can benefit from a highly autonomous regulatory regime to enable the new leadership team to recruit the best possible teachers to the school. The team should have complete freedom to hire and fire staff, be exempt from national pay-bargaining and have the ability to reward good performance and pay more for hard-to-recruit subjects.