Improving school leadership is critical to raising educational outcomes.

Effective school leadership is one of the most powerful ways to improve educational outcomes.

Good school leadership can have a powerful effect on learning and achievement. Research conducted by Marzano, Waters and McNulty found that the effectiveness of school principals explained 25% of student achievement. Analysis of school inspection results from England found that for every 100 schools that have good leadership and management, 93 will have good standards of student achievement.

School systems can improve school leaders through three main levers:

  • Selection: When selecting school leaders, it is important to carefully consider the personal traits of applicants. Research conducted by the fommer National College for School Leadership found that a small handful of personal traits among school leaders (such as open-mindedness, readiness to learn from others, optimism and an ability to be flexible in one’s thinking) are responsible for a high proportion of the variation in leadership effectiveness among schools.

  • Training: Leadership programs, particularly when focused on coaching, mentoring and practical skills, can be highly effective in enhancing school leadership.

  • Accountability: Holding school leaders accountable for their school’s performance and removing ineffective leadership, when appropriate, is one of the fastest ways to improve a school’s performance.

In Peru, a year-long leadership and training program led to considerable improvements in schools. 

The Pedagogic Leadership Training Program was implemented with a group of school directors from public schools in Lima, Peru. The program had low costs and required only a small amount of each director’s time.

The Program had six main characteristics:

  • A focus on pedagogic leadership

  • Participants mentored by highly effective directors

  • Utilisation of peer-mentoring networks between participants

  • Practical, dynamic activities focused on producing concrete outputs for use in schools

  • Reflection, critical thought and feedback

  • In-school trainings (around 40% of the programme took place inside the participating schools, in order to contextualise learning to their specific environments)

The program changed the way participating school directors led their schools and interacted with their teachers. Feedback from participating school directors revealed that most felt that the program had helped them to significantly improve their school’s performance.  

  • 72% said that their leadership skills were extremely improved  

  • 78% said that participation in the programme had a positive impact on their schools

  • 78% said that their collaboration with teachers in their school improved

  • 80% said that school leadership at their schools improved in general.


Fenton Whelan