Leadership Roles


By Rachel Foster
on 16 October, 2016

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Leadership Roles in Education

Why are there so many different job titles for school leaders?

As we all know, structures within the education system are constantly evolving, not just with academy conversions, the creation of free schools and MATs, but also with the existence of federations, grammar schools and the independent sector. 

Confusion around leadership roles

The holy grail of the ‘best leadership model’ is elusive, given the context of individual schools which is evidenced by recent research by the CMRE. One source of the confusion is the vast range of differing job titles that are in use. Leadership roles are no longer limited to headteacher and deputy, as the complexity of issues constantly widen the operational and strategic remits of leadership teams. Structures often now include any of the following; Principal, Assistant Head, Head of School, Executive Head and Chief Executive. This list I’m sure is not exhaustive!

It is often said that an effective teacher doesn’t always make for an effective deputy or headteacher. The same can be said for the progression from headteacher to executive head and chief executive. This is not helped by the fact that these roles have organically emerged in the education sector and are not defined in education law, although surprisingly this is not often understood. Additionally, the CPD opportunities and networks for such levels of leadership are limited or still in their infancy.

Just because a school changes status or a MAT expands, doesn’t necessarily mean that additional layers of management are the answer. Governing bodies need to be clear about the rationale for each leadership position to ensure that every role has a particular remit with associated responsibilities, which will ensure transparent accountability.

Common errors for governance & management

Common errors about lack of clarity in leadership roles can be caused by the overlap in duties, vague performance related pay policies, unspecified or irrelevant qualifications, or unclear accountability for day-to-day management. Often these issues are only addressed, or indeed recognised, when matters go wrong and the performance of individuals comes into question and HR support is sought. The key phrase for accountability is ‘substantive headteacher,’ but that too is often misused or even misunderstood.

Best practice in leadership structures

The ability to strategically review leadership accountability is necessary. As educational organisations merge and leadership remits are realigned, it must be remembered that leadership structures are not set in stone. Organisational growth rates and economies of scale determine that clarity in leadership roles is paramount. ‘Delayering’ sometimes has to be undertaken, especially if growth has occurred organically rather than by strategic mergers such as the creation or joining of MATs. Indeed, leadership roles need to be reviewed to ensure the delivery of the best outcomes for pupils.

If you would like help with leadership reviews or clarity on leadership job roles, please contact the One Education HR team on 0844 967 1111, who have a proven track record in assisting with organisational change and management support in all types of educational establishments.

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