National standards of_excellence_for_headteachers
Published on: Mar 3, 2016
Transcripts - National standards of_excellence_for_headteachers
National standards of
Departmental advice for headteachers,
governing boards and aspiring
About this departmental advice 3
Review date 3
Who is this advice for? 3
Main point 3
National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers (2015) 4
Preamble: the role of the headteacher 4
The Four Domains 5
Domain One 5
Domain Two 6
Domain Three 6
Domain Four 7
Supporting guidance 8
Who are the standards for? 8
What are the standards for? 8
What are the standards not for? 8
Using the Standards 9
Further information 11
Equalities Issues 11
National programmes to support the development of middle leaders and senior leaders
Teachers’ Standards 11
About this departmental advice
This is departmental advice from the Department for Education. This advice is non-
statutory, and has been produced for headteachers, governing bodies and aspiring
This advice will next be reviewed by 2020.
Who is this advice for?
This guidance is for:
• Headteachers and aspiring headteachers
• Governing boards
These standards replace the National Standards for Headteachers 2004.
National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers
The National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers (2014) define high standards
which are applicable to all headteacher roles within a self-improving school system. These
standards are designed to inspire public confidence in headteachers, raise aspirations,
secure high academic standards in the nation’s schools, and empower the teaching
The context for headteachers changes constantly. In most contexts, a headteacher has led
one school; in some settings headteachers are responsible for leading more than one
school. Job titles are various - including principal, executive, associate and co-
headteacher – as are the governance arrangements to which headteachers are
These standards are intended as guidance to underpin best practice, whatever the
particular job description of the headteacher. They are to be interpreted in the context of
each individual headteacher and school, and designed to be relevant to all headteachers,
irrespective of length of service in post.
The standards can be used to:
• shape headteachers’ own practice and professional development, within and
beyond the school
• inform the appraisal of headteachers
• support the recruitment and appointment of headteachers
• provide a framework for training middle and senior leaders, aspiring to headship.
The Teachers’ Standards (2011, as amended), including the Personal and Professional
Code of Conduct which applies to all teachers, provide a foundation upon which the
standards for headteachers are built.
Preamble: the role of the headteacher
Headteachers occupy an influential position in society and shape the teaching profession.
They are lead professionals and significant role models within the communities they serve.
The values and ambitions of headteachers determine the achievements of schools. They
are accountable for the education of current and future generations of children. Their
leadership has a decisive impact on the quality of teaching and pupils’ achievements in the
nation’s classrooms. Headteachers lead by example the professional conduct and practice
of teachers in a way that minimises unnecessary teacher workload and leaves room for
high quality continuous professional development for staff. They secure a climate for the
exemplary behaviour of pupils. They set standards and expectations for high academic
standards within and beyond their own schools, recognising differences and respecting
cultural diversity within contemporary Britain. Headteachers, together with those
responsible for governance, are guardians of the nation’s schools.
The Four Domains
The National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers are set out in four domains,
beginning with a Preamble. There are four ‘Excellence As Standard’ domains:
• Qualities and knowledge
• Pupils and staff
• Systems and process
• The self-improving school system
Within each domain there are six key characteristics expected of the nation’s
Excellent headteachers: qualities and knowledge
1. Hold and articulate clear values and moral purpose, focused on providing a world-
class education for the pupils they serve.
2. Demonstrate optimistic personal behaviour, positive relationships and attitudes
towards their pupils and staff, and towards parents, governors and members of the
3. Lead by example - with integrity, creativity, resilience, and clarity - drawing on their
own scholarship, expertise and skills, and that of those around them.
4. Sustain wide, current knowledge and understanding of education and school systems
locally, nationally and globally, and pursue continuous professional development.
5. Work with political and financial astuteness, within a clear set of principles centred on
the school’s vision, ably translating local and national policy into the school’s context.
6. Communicate compellingly the school’s vision and drive the strategic leadership,
empowering all pupils and staff to excel.
Excellent headteachers: pupils and staff
1. Demand ambitious standards for all pupils, overcoming disadvantage and advancing
equality, instilling a strong sense of accountability in staff for the impact of their work
on pupils’ outcomes.
2. Secure excellent teaching through an analytical understanding of how pupils learn and
of the core features of successful classroom practice and curriculum design, leading to
rich curriculum opportunities and pupils’ well-being.
3. Establish an educational culture of ‘open classrooms’ as a basis for sharing best
practice within and between schools, drawing on and conducting relevant research
and robust data analysis.
4. Create an ethos within which all staff are motivated and supported to develop their
own skills and subject knowledge, and to support each other.
5. Identify emerging talents, coaching current and aspiring leaders in a climate where
excellence is the standard, leading to clear succession planning.
6. Hold all staff to account for their professional conduct and practice.
Excellent headteachers: systems and process
1. Ensure that the school’s systems, organisation and processes are well considered,
efficient and fit for purpose, upholding the principles of transparency, integrity and
2. Provide a safe, calm and well-ordered environment for all pupils and staff, focused on
safeguarding pupils and developing their exemplary behaviour in school and in the wider
3. Establish rigorous, fair and transparent systems and measures for managing the
performance of all staff, addressing any under-performance, supporting staff to improve
and valuing excellent practice.
4. Welcome strong governance and actively support the governing board to understand its
role and deliver its functions effectively – in particular its functions to set school strategy
and hold the headteacher to account for pupil, staff and financial performance.
5. Exercise strategic, curriculum-led financial planning to ensure the equitable deployment
of budgets and resources, in the best interests of pupils’ achievements and the school’s
6. Distribute leadership throughout the organisation, forging teams of colleagues who have
distinct roles and responsibilities and hold each other to account for their decision
Excellent headteachers: the self-improving school system
1. Create outward-facing schools which work with other schools and organisations - in a
climate of mutual challenge - to champion best practice and secure excellent
achievements for all pupils.
2. Develop effective relationships with fellow professionals and colleagues in other public
services to improve academic and social outcomes for all pupils.
3. Challenge educational orthodoxies in the best interests of achieving excellence,
harnessing the findings of well evidenced research to frame self-regulating and self-
4. Shape the current and future quality of the teaching profession through high quality
training and sustained professional development for all staff.
5. Model entrepreneurial and innovative approaches to school improvement, leadership and
governance, confident of the vital contribution of internal and external accountability.
6. Inspire and influence others - within and beyond schools - to believe in the fundamental
importance of education in young people’s lives and to promote the value of education.
Who are the standards for?
1. The standards are intended to be a helpful tool for headteachers, those responsible for
governance and aspiring headteachers.
What are the standards for?
2. The intention is for these standards to represent contemporary headship in schools
today, inspire public confidence in headteachers, secure high academic standards in
the nation’s schools, and empower the teaching profession. They are intended to
replace the 2004 National Headteacher Standards by bringing the standards up to date
so that they are relevant for the school system that has developed since 2004.
3. They have been written to be relevant to all headteachers, irrespective of setting or
length of service, but are to be interpreted in context.
4. These standards are designed to be thought-provoking, and to require discussion in
5. They are developmental. All headteachers are on a journey to improve throughout their
career, and the standards can be used to support this.
6. The standards will help headteachers to develop and increase their capability to
support the development of the school-led system, and in many cases lead this
development. The standards challenge headteachers to develop and improve
themselves, their own schools, and other schools.
7. The standards are aspirational and challenging.
What are the standards not for?
1. The standards are different from The Teachers’ Standards in that they are non-
mandatory and they do not set a baseline of expected performance. They therefore
should not be used as a checklist or as a baseline, and any shortcoming with respect to
the standards is not, in and of itself, the basis for questioning competence or initiating
2. This being the case, it would be inappropriate to create complex ‘levels’ or gradations
for each characteristic set out in the standards.
3. While the standards, taken together, can help to identify areas for development in a
particular context, it is important not to lose sight of the full range of characteristics of
highly effective leadership which the standards as a whole describe.
Using the Standards
1. They can be used by headteachers to shape their own practice and professional
development, within and beyond the school
• Self-development is key to the development of a headteacher. These standards can
be used by headteachers as a framework for such self-development, for them to
consider what they have done already or need to do going forward to move closer
to the aspirations set out in the standards. They may choose to seek feedback from
colleagues and governors based on the standards.
• Headteachers can use the standards to have a constructive conversation with their
governors about the areas in which the headteacher feels they need support to
develop. Headteachers should feel empowered and entitled to seek such support.
• Headteachers can use the standards as part of supporting their staff, and for
identifying the skills and knowledge they need in their leadership team.
2. They can be used by governors, to inform the appraisal of headteachers
• These standards can be used to inform the appraisal of headteachers by serving as
a background document to assist governing boards, rather than as a set of
standards against which the headteacher’s performance can be assessed in an
• For example, the standards may be used to inform objective setting. The
headteacher standards should not be used as 'cut and paste' objectives. Objectives
must be tailored so that they are relevant to the context of the individual school and
headteacher. It is good practice for governors to set headteachers specific school-
related objectives and targets linked to their school or schools’ priorities on an
annual basis. Governors should use the standards aspirationally and
developmentally. Actions for the headteacher can be agreed with these aspirational
standards in mind, but will need to be in the context of where the school is now in a
certain area and what is needed to move it to the next step of improvement.
• Governors can use the headteacher standards in appraisal to frame a broad
overview of leadership in the specific context of the school. The standards may
further serve as a starting point for the identification of specific objectives for the
next stage of the school's continuous improvement journey, as well as to identify
areas of development where the headteacher requires support and improvement.
• Governors should work with headteachers to understand what the school needs in
order to progress. They should consider what needs to be done to support the
headteacher to implement the school improvement plan and support colleagues.
3. They can be used by governors, to support the recruitment and appointment of
• The standards can be used to underpin and shape role descriptions and person
specifications. It is important to focus on the particular context of the individual
school, as schools in differing contexts and at different stages of development will
require differing blends of skills and experience of headteachers. Governors may
want to investigate some of the characteristics set out in the standards in more
detail than others with prospective headteachers.
• Equally, given the broad and holistic nature of the standards, governing boards can
use the standards as a check to ensure that their selection process is sufficiently
comprehensive, covering all of the key areas of headship set out in the standards.
4. They can be used by headteachers, governing boards and aspirant headteachers, to
provide a framework for training middle and senior leaders, aspiring to headship.
• The transition to headship involves mastering a broad range of competences. The
standards are not an exclusive or complete list of these skills.
• Headteachers and governors may use the standards to help them identify potential
future leaders. The standards can be used to shape the developmental experiences
offered to middle and senior leaders.
• Aspirant headteachers can use the standards to evaluate their own progress
towards being prepared for headship, and to identify and articulate the areas they
want to gain more experience in. For example, a middle leader may decide that
they have not as much experience of the fourth domain of the standards and so
may seek experience as part of school collaboration in a different school in order to
broaden their experience.
• The Education (School Teachers’ Appraisal) (England) Regulations 2012
• The Governors’ Handbook
• The Schoolteachers’ Pay and Conditions Document
• ‘Implementing your school’s approach to pay, Departmental advice for maintained
schools and local authorities’ (September 2014)
• ‘A guide to recruiting and selecting a new headteacher’, NCSL and NGA
Links to advice on the Equalities Act 2010:
• The Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC)
• The Equality Act 2010: advice for schools
• EHRC Publication - Equal Pay: Statutory Code of Practice
National programmes to support the development of middle
leaders and senior leaders
• National Professional Qualifications for Middle Leaders
• National Professional Qualifications for Senior Leaders
The Teachers’ Standards can be found in Annex 1 of the Schoolteachers’ Pay and
Conditions Document. More information is available at
• Teachers’ standards
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