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'Excellent school leaders need identifying and investing in'

The new National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers were released recently. Here, deputy chair of the Headteachers’ Standards Review and director of the National Education Trust Roy Blatchford explains why they are needed and what impact they should have.

We know that our expanding school system will flourish rather than merely survive if we have very strong leadership at all levels. So it has been a pleasure to act as deputy chair of the Headteachers’ Standards Review. I have worked with ministers to create a clear set of standards that at once seek to provide a platform for professional development, raise headteachers’ aspirations and inspire confidence in the teaching profession.

The four domains that make up the new standards contain a set of expectations of headteachers that are an ambitious agenda to secure excellence in the nation’s schools. They include what is expected of a headteacher’s personal and professional qualities, their knowledge of a school’s organisational systems and the skills needed to work productively with staff and pupils. Perhaps of greatest demand is their expected ability to shape what is termed the self-improving school system, part of a future educational landscape beyond Ofsted and other externally imposed accountability systems.

But we have to address the fact that excellent leaders are not readily found, too; they need identifying and investing in. Research and evidence on the ground tells us we are getting better at growing the next generation of heads, and these new standards offer an exciting and comprehensive framework for training middle and senior leaders. This opportunity must be seized.

So, too, with governing boards. Headteachers get the governors they deserve. By that, I mean that heads shape the composition, quality and impact of governors. With more than 24,000 schools and an average governing body of 12+, there are approximately 300,000 unpaid volunteers responsible for the school system.

As the preamble to the standards affirms, governors and headteachers together are "guardians of the nation’s schools". It is clearly vital that the self-improving school system takes seriously the selection, training and development of governing boards. How governors then appoint, nurture and work with their greatest resource – namely the headteacher – is fundamental to the achievements of schools. The new standards provide for governors a compelling template for working effectively with headteachers as new models of governance evolve within school partnerships, clusters, academies and trusts.

Excellence in any endeavour is never an accident. It is always the result of high intention, sincere effort and intelligent execution. Excellent leadership in schools believes with a passion that a child’s birth is not their destiny. The national standards are rooted in a vision for excellence. Their professional demand is considerable. Yet, if grasped with alacrity and an open spirit by the country’s headteachers – from two-form rural primaries to the largest urban secondaries – pupils everywhere will realise their talents and gifts. That’s a prize worth questing for.

Roy’s book, A Practical Guide to the Headteachers’ Standards, is published by John Catt Educational.





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