Strengthening school leadership to improve education in Peru
By Fenton Whelan and Richelle George
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 (2005) found that the effectiveness of school principals explained 25% of a student achievement. In the UK, analysis of school inspection results 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 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 programmes, particularly when focused on coaching and mentoring, 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 programme led to considerable improvements in schools. 

The Pedagogic Leadership Training Programme (PFLP) was implemented from June to November 2017 with a group of school directors from public schools in Lima, Peru. The programme had low costs and required only a small amount of each director’s time. The PFLP 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 programme changed the way participating school directors lead their schools and interacted with their teachers. Feedback from participating school directors revealed that most felt that the PFLP 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

About the author

Fenton Whelan founded Acasus, he has more than a decade of experience in public health and education development.

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