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School Leadership: Our quick explainer

Quality leadership can help improve student outcomes. It is especially important in shaping a school’s climate, classroom conditions and teachers’ mind-sets—all of which impact student outcomes indirectly and to varying degrees. Our research note, Anchoring the Abstract, reviews the international and local evidence for this, and considers the case study of a Decile 1, high-performing South Auckland school, Highfields Primary.

Our policy paper, Joining Forces, asks whether sharing expertise across schools helps to improve student outcomes. There is evidence that it can, and we apply this evidence to analyse the leadership aspects of “Investing in Educational Success.”

Here we summarise our nine recommendations for how the Government can effectively harness school leadership as a lever for system improvement. These recommendations mostly apply to the “Community of Schools Leadership Role” (COSLR) and cover three broad areas:


Culture change:

1. Stress common ground, partnership and collective responsibility to get buy-in

2. Lessen demands on individual schools by shaping achievement goals through partnership (COS Leader as a facilitator of partnership)

3. Manage workload and build capacity through in- and out-of-service leadership training (COS Leader’s school as a leadership development hub) 

Financial resources:

4. Resource each Community of Schools to improve teaching and learning (where financial resource is shared across the Community)

5. Consider education bonds as a way to invite external funding for potential shared initiatives like Information and Communications Technology

The application process:

6. Carefully evaluate each applicant’s school arrangements—its leadership structure and relationships—to ensure the school is a good fit for the initiative

7. Carefully evaluate all schools in each Community of Schools, especially inter-school leadership dynamics and relationships. This should cover relational trust given its importance to a culture of partnership. Know in this that “people solutions” take time

8. Ensure successful applicants report back to the Ministry of Education on their successes and difficulties

9. Where possible, use the Principal Recruitment Allowance in a “preventative” rather than “curative” capacity. A simply reactive policy may be too late for some schools and children 

Download the papers here:
Anchoring the Abstract Research Note
Joining Forces Policy Paper


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