New report shows the impact of effective headteachers on school success

A new report has found that replacing an ineffective headteacher with an effective headteacher increases pupil attainment by an average of two GCSE grades across all subjects.

The report, from the Education Policy Institute (EPI), explores the impact of headteachers on school performance in England, and the ways headteachers influence performance. 

The report measures headteachers’ performances by percentiles. An ‘effective’ headteacher is at the 84th percentile of effectiveness, an ‘average’ headteacher is at the median, and a ‘less-effective’ headteacher is if the head is at the 16th percentile of effectiveness.

Replacing an ineffective headteacher with one of average quality can deliver improvements, equivalent to an increase of one grade in one GCSE subject, according to the report.

Primary schools that switch from an ineffective to a more effective headteacher were found to gain an additional three months of learning for pupils, and that in secondary schools, effective headteachers reduce staff absenteeism to a greater extent than less effective headteachers. The report additionally found that effective headteachers reduce teacher turnover in both primary and secondary schools.

With these results, the report recommended steps that can be taken. One of these was that the government should prioritise enhancing the quality of school leadership, which could be a cost-effective way of improving school performance.

James Bowen, assistant general secretary at school leaders’ union NAHT, responded to the report, saying: “This report shows that effective school leaders have a direct and positive impact on pupil outcomes.

“Put simply, school leaders make a difference and we should be supporting and investing in them.

“The finding that effectiveness increases with experience shows the importance of keeping head teachers in the profession for as long as possible.

“Sadly, the growing crisis in retention of school leaders means that this is not currently happening with too many leaving the profession prematurely.”

Other steps the report recommended include school governors and Ofsted focussing on supporting new headteachers, and the government, working alongside Multi Academy Trusts (MATs) and local authorities, considering how they can encourage their most effective school leaders into the mot challenging schools, as headteachers are more likely to move within school groups than between them.

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