Leading from the front


Looking at the qualities needed to be a successful teaching leader 

The teaching arena is facing numerous changes and challenges that are altering what employers require from those who lead and manage it. In today’s fast-paced environment, education institutions now need two key things to succeed: high standards of teaching and effective leaders able to drive this. However, what this changing landscape has created is a greater demand for a broader set of skills that are more commonly associated with those in corporate senior positions than teachers.

Perhaps one of the most sought after skills of today is a level of analytical understanding. Education institutions now require a much greater understanding of what happens in them than ever before. This includes understanding every pupil’s current level of attainment, their goals, and the progress being made in reaching these goals. This analytical upstanding also extends to the assessment of teacher performance and their effectiveness in fulfilling their roles. One of the most important considerations for any school is its current Ofsted rating, and these are prominently based on this data.

School leaders must be able to use relevant data to analyse an institution’s success, demonstrate the value of financial investments and monitor the impact of new developments.

Building on from this, schools are in need of true leaders. By this I mean an individual who doesn’t just make key decisions as to the institution’s future plans, budget spend or staffing requirements, but also ensures that the entire workforce is pulling together in the same direction.

Under-performing schools are in need of transformational leadership if they are to overturn years of poor results and deliver to the level that is currently expected of them. Transformational leadership requires a head or a principle to change the conversations of all stakeholders in a school – staff, pupils and parents – about the school and about what is possible.

Involving stakeholders

A wide variety of stakeholder groups is involved in an education institution, including both internal and external audiences such as governing bodies, pupils, parents and the local community. Given that each of these will have a different interest in the education outlet, the best professionals will need to be able to build meaningful relationships with each group. This will, of course, include the ability to balance the needs of each to ensure all remain on board with any future plans and continue to support the school.

While the sector is plagued by constant challenges, the best managers must recognise wider issues that will affect the school and its pupils. These could range from local community group disagreements that could impact pupils, to the difficulties in attracting new staff due to the location of the institution. While creating meaningful relationships with stakeholders will aid this knowledge gathering, the best professionals should ensure they can demonstrate their understanding of what is really impacting a specific school.

The current crop of outstanding headteachers operate beyond their school gates and act as system leaders. Those who are national leaders of education mentor other headteachers and disseminate best practice to the schools in their area. Many of these heads will go on to take up executive positions such as academy group leaders or regional education directors.

How the education arena will evolve in the coming years is perhaps anyone’s guess, but what is clear now is that those individuals able to demonstrate the broadest range of skills will be the experts leading reform in education in the very near future. The most in demand teaching leaders will be those who demonstrate that they themselves are willing to learn.

Further information

John Carter is a director at recruitment consultancy Veredus Education:

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