Head-to-head: school leaders’ perceptions of excellence in high-performing secondary schools and academies in England

Devonish, Peter (2019) Head-to-head: school leaders’ perceptions of excellence in high-performing secondary schools and academies in England. Doctoral thesis, University of East Anglia.

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This is a qualitative study of leaders’ understanding of excellence and conceptions of leadership at eleven high-performing English secondary schools and academies. It uses semi-structured interviews between a headteacher-researcher and school leaders.

The leader’s role in achieving and sustaining excellence is considered in the light of theories of leadership, notably Instructional, Transformational and Leadership for Learning. Distributed leadership, literature on Continuing Professional Development and the practices in successful and high-performing schools are also considered. Models of Servant Leadership, rarely seen in the literature on schools, are used to build a conceptual framework to understand leaders’ practices.

The study confirms prior research that models of Leadership for Learning predominate, supported by Distributed Leadership practices. Servant Leader attributes complement the focus on pedagogy.

Characteristics of schools in the study focus on pedagogy and innovation. Continuing Professional Development is a further feature, supported by the importance of recruiting talented staff. Leadership characteristics include the pursuit of high standards and expectations. Headteachers are ‘human’ leaders, who are visible, care for and empower colleagues. Moral purpose is also important in driving school leaders.

The study also finds that leadership stability and succession planning are important. Furthermore, that for some leaders, whilst understanding the OFSTED accountability expectations, these do not unduly influence their actions in the pursuit of excellence.

The study’s conclusions are useful to inform policy and practice with the aim of improving outcomes more widely for pupils. To this end, it is recommended that further research should be conducted into practices in high-performing schools and, in addition, their use of innovation, particularly in relation to pedagogy. Using models of Servant Leadership and the allied conception of moral purpose would also provide additional insights into the success of these schools.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Faculty \ School: Faculty of Social Sciences > School of Education and Lifelong Learning
Depositing User: Chris White
Date Deposited: 04 Nov 2020 11:57
Last Modified: 04 Nov 2020 11:57
URI: https://ueaeprints.uea.ac.uk/id/eprint/77534


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