The introduction and subtopic 1.1 have emphasised that leadership matters, that it is a key factor in improving schools and that it makes a difference to learner outcomes. Given its significance, are there things that we can say about what constitutes effective leadership? This section looks at some significant claims that have been made about leadership.
Leithwood and colleagues (2006) identified a set of seven strong claims about successful school leadership. This was used to inform a three year investigation into the impact of leadership on student outcomes. In turn, this confirmed and built on the original list to generate 10 strong claims (Day et al, 2010). From this research it was clear that leaders of successful schools defined success not just in terms of test and examination results but also in relation to:
- personal and social outcomes
- learner and staff motivation
- engagement and well-being
- the quality of learning and teaching
- the school's contribution to the community.
The practice of successful leaders, particularly headteachers, was reflected in strategies outlined in these strong claims, but their success lay not just in what they did. It also depended on how they went about it, how they adapted the strategies to their own specific context, and most of all on who they were. Headteacher values, virtues, dispositions, attributes and competences are important (as explored further in subtopic 3.1: ‘The moral imperative of leadership’).
Reflect on the 10 strong claims below and choose three that you think are compelling and significant. Then access the full publication [.pdf] (external link) and read the sections related to the claims you have chosen. From your experience explain why these are particularly relevant and powerful.
- Headteachers are the main source of leadership in their schools.
- There are eight key dimensions of successful leadership.
- Headteachers’ values are key components in their success.
- Successful headteachers use the same basic leadership practices, but there is no single model for achieving success.
- Differences in context affect the nature, direction and pace of leadership actions.
- Headteachers contribute to student learning and achievement through a combination and accumulation of strategies and actions.
- There are three broad phases of leadership success.
- Headteachers grow and secure success by layering leadership strategies and actions.
- Successful headteachers distribute leadership progressively.
- The successful distribution of leadership depends on the establishment of trust.
Ten Strong Claims about Successful School Leadership (Day et al (2010), p.3)