11.1 Along with supporting and strengthening the quality of teaching, the TSF report identified supporting and strengthening the quality of leadership as "the two most important and achievable ways in which school education can realise the high aspirations Scotland has for its young people". Recommendations related to leadership include clearer pathways to senior management and improvements to the quality of professional learning opportunities relating to leadership - especially for head teachers.
What's working well?
Sharpened focus on leadership
11.2 Although there was already a considerable focus on leadership prior to TSF, it has increased further. In addition to TSF, this can also be attributed to the need to adapt to CfE and other significant changes (see also section 4.13) and to continued problems with the shortage of applicants for head teacher positions.
11.3 Participants in the qualitative research felt that newly qualified teachers were more aware of, and more interested in, the leadership aspects of the role than previous generations.
…and newly qualified teachers that we're getting in, are also of a different mind-set, because there's this whole idea of leadership and leadership learning, they've come here for that, they're quite happy to do that.
Increased professional learning opportunities in leadership
11.4 The evidence from the qualitative research was that teachers are becoming increasingly aware of professional learning opportunities in leadership. The survey shows that awareness increased steeply by grade: only 27% of probationers said they were 'very aware' or 'aware' of professional learning opportunities to develop their leadership skills, compared with 43% of class teachers, 69% of principal teachers and 91% of depute head teachers and head teachers.
11.5 Participants in the qualitative research talked about there being more opportunities for teachers to take a lead on projects/initiatives in school and in sharing practice on pedagogy and curricular expertise. Again, this was driven in part by necessity, including the need to adapt to major changes and the reduction, in many schools, of the numbers of promoted posts. However, it was also driven by head teachers' desire to encourage distributive leadership and to develop the leadership skills of their staff.
Because you do have that jump from an un-promoted staff, you don't have that PT in the middle, the kind of faculty there, I think staff, younger staff, are much more conscious that they need to be looking at opportunities and upskilling themselves, because it is that much bigger jump as well.
Secondary head teacher
Clearer leadership pathways
11.6 Participants agreed that the introduction of the new GTCS Standards for Leadership and Management (which comprise the Standard for Middle Leaders and the Standard for Head Teachers) had helped clarify the pathway for formal leadership positions and use of these Standards was high among those in the most senior positions. Almost all head teachers surveyed had used the Standard for Head Teachers and almost all depute head teachers had used either the Standard for Head Teachers or the Standard for Middle Leaders.
11.7 However, there is scope to increase the use of the Standard for Middle Leaders among principal teachers - particularly in secondary schools: 82% of principal teachers in primary schools and 65% in secondary schools had used them. (A very few in both sectors had also used the Standard for Head Teachers).
11.8 While 82% of all those who had used the Standards for Leadership and Management found them 'very' or 'fairly' helpful, principal teachers in secondary schools were slightly less positive (72% found them 'very' or 'fairly' helpful). Those in the independent sector were also less positive (64% found them 'very' or 'fairly' helpful).
Improved CLPL opportunities for head teachers
11.9 The TSF report recommended improvements to the quality of professional learning opportunities relating to leadership, especially for head teachers, and while the views on the current provision of CLPL for head teachers were mixed (43% were satisfied and 23% were dissatisfied), respondents did feel that both the range and the number of high quality opportunities had increased over the past five years (see Figures 11.1 and 11.2). While these questions were about CLPL in general, it was clear from the qualitative research that leadership skills were the main focus for head teachers' own CLPL.
Figure 11.1 How satisfied are you with the current provision of career-long professional learning targeted specifically for head teachers?
Base: Head teachers (557)
Figure 11.2 Range and quality of learning opportunities for head teachers
Base: Head teachers (557)
11.10 In the qualitative research, head teachers talked positively about the benefits of headship qualifications (both the previous Scottish Qualification for Headship and the new Into Headship qualification), particularly in relation to learning about theories of leadership and then applying the theory to their own practice. Some also felt they were benefitting from the increased focus on leadership among their colleagues.
11.11 In addition to their role as leaders within their own school, head teachers also saw involvement in local and national working groups as opportunities to develop their leadership skills.
What are the challenges?
Understanding of leadership
11.12 There was a lack of shared understanding about the different forms of leadership. Some class teachers equated leadership with career advancement rather than seeing it more broadly in terms of leading pieces of work or aspects of the curriculum. These teachers therefore felt that there were limited opportunities for class teachers to develop leadership skills within their existing roles. The emphasis on promoted posts is perhaps exacerbated by the focus on leadership pathways and the new Standard for Middle Leaders and Standard for Headship, and the fact that many leadership programmes are aimed at head teachers or aspiring head teachers.
I'm fascinated by the whole idea that everybody is a leader, because leaders of what? You'll be a leader of pupil learning and a leader of developing the curriculum and a leader of the pedagogy that you demonstrate in your class. But, this discussion that takes place about "we're all leaders in this collegiate system", I think we're getting away from the sense that [in] some way the Head Teacher runs the school whether we like it or not.
Depute head teacher
11.13 This lack of a shared understanding about the different forms of leadership led to disagreements regarding the extent to which taking a lead on projects/initiatives constitutes a genuine leadership opportunity. For example, some felt that situations where teachers were given responsibility for a task or a piece of work, where the outcome and the means of achieving it were prescribed from the start, were being erroneously described as 'leadership' opportunities. This issue was raised both by the teachers who were being given these opportunities and by senior staff who felt that teachers were sometimes 'inflating' experiences by describing them as leadership when they were not (e.g. in PRDs).
Yes, I've got a member of staff, for instance, who has taken on […] a lot of reading into autism and dealing with people on the autistic spectrum. She put that down as being 'leadership and management' because she eventually would like to go into a leadership role and sees that as something she would need […] I'm seeing that as a professional development in other ways. […] But, it's not leadership; it's not leading for leadership and reflecting on leadership.
Teachers in promoted posts
Learning from leadership experiences
11.14 While class teachers often had experience of leading pieces of work, in the qualitative research, they talked much less about reflecting on those experiences in terms of leadership skills or consciously using the opportunities to develop their skills. There was a sense in which they were 'just doing it'.
11.15 Related to this, there was a concern raised by class teachers that these opportunities were often short-term and there was a lack of feedback or review afterwards. It was felt that guidance was needed on how opportunities can be extended, or joined up, so that leadership skills can be more fully developed in the longer-term.
Head teacher specific barriers
11.16 Some teachers in the qualitative research expressed concerns about the equity of access to head teacher positions because of barriers to achieving the new Into Headship qualification. These related to the time commitment required to complete a Masters level qualification while practicing as a class teacher/depute head teacher and to the cost. This is particularly pertinent as the Into Headship qualification will become mandatory in 2018-2019. There was a worry that this will exacerbate the shortage of applicants for head teacher positions.
Knowledge of the main new initiatives related to leadership
11.17 Participants agreed that the introduction of the new GTCS Standards for Leadership and Management had helped clarify the pathway for formal leadership positions and use of these Standards was high among those in the most senior positions. Almost all head teachers surveyed had used the Standard for Head Teachers and almost all depute head teachers had used either the Standard for Head Teachers or the Standard for Middle Leaders.
11.18 However, there is scope to increase the use of the Standard for Middle Leaders among principal teachers - particularly in secondary schools: 82% of principal teachers in primary schools and 65% in secondary schools had used them. (A very few in both sectors had also used the Standard for Head Teachers).
11.19 While 82% of all those who had used the Standards for Leadership and Management found them 'very' or 'fairly' helpful, principal teachers in secondary schools were slightly less positive (72% found them 'very' or 'fairly' helpful). Those in the independent sector were also less positive (64% found them 'very' or 'fairly' helpful).
Key areas for consideration
- Improving understanding of the different forms of leadership
- Encouraging class teachers to reflect more on experiences of leading initiatives and more actively use the experiences to develop leadership skills.
Email: James Niven