The field of school leadership studies is characterised by a prevalence of committed and competing theories about the contribution of leadership to student outcomes. What, if anything, do we know that is supported by quantitative evidence rather than faddish assumption?
New Research into School Leadership Commissioned
The Centre for the Study of Market Reform of Education is an international education research and policy unit based in the heart of Westminster. Its purpose is to explore the potential of market-oriented solutions to improve education.
Following his attendance at a number of their events, One Education’s CEO Kieran McDermott began discussions with CMRE about how One Education could contribute to the important research being undertaken by James Croft and his team. James is Executive Director of the CMRE, and has authored or co-authored a number of reports for the Centre and its partners, including most recently, ‘Collaborative overreach: why collaboration probably isn’t key to the next phase of school reform’ (2015).
After a number of discussions it was decided a research paper on school leadership, and its perception and effect on school structure, organisation, and middle leadership would be an ideal way for both organisations to work together.
James’ review of the literature on school leadership provides a probing and insightful analysis of the state of the evidence base and a clear indication of where the future of leadership studies, policy, and effective practice, lies.
Effective education system design and policy formation can and should be built on hard, high quality evidence from research. Where such evidence is lacking, we need to be transparent about the limitations of what we know. Research internationally suggests that mission and goal setting, decisions related to the setting of the curriculum and pedagogy, and the provision of instructional guidance for teachers, are important means by which leaders exercise their influence. How leaders motivate staff, including through the use of appropriate pay and conditions incentives, also appears important for raising academic achievement. And in more autonomous school contexts the importance of leadership in these areas is accentuated.
But researchers have a long way to go before clarity is achieved about what specific decisions and practices are impactful, and in what contexts. In this connection, James Croft’s proposals for a model of headship training and continuing professional development that is research-led, school-based, and leader- and demand-led, offer a promising way forward for policy.
Members of One Education’s executive team were joined by a number of colleagues from within the education sector for the official launch of the paper at the Institute of Economic Affairs on 28 June.
James Croft delivered an introduction and executive summary of the paper to attendees which was followed by insightful commentary from Professor Daniel Muijs, Director of Research, Southampton Education School, University of Southampton.
Questions from the floor were plentiful and showed a real passion for school leadership and the effect that it has on student learning.
Continued investment and research
This research should prove to be the catalyst for further research and study into our understanding of the effects and influence of school leaders on their staff and schools.
One Education is committed to endorsing and enhancing the current knowledge-base in this key area. We are privileged to work with many schools on school improvement and we eagerly anticipate future findings and discussions positively influencing education practice and the support that we provide to schools and academies.
To find out more about One Education school improvement services, our intentions for future investment in leadership development, or any other questions or queries, please contact Sean Peloe on 0844 967 1111.