Home / Leadership / Defining and Understanding Leadership in Education


In much the same way that business leaders are responsible for the success of their companies and government leaders work towards the best interests of the nation, leaders in education are responsible for the success and best interests of the school system.
At every level, leaders work behind the scenes in schools throughout the UK to build a better future for students. Leadership in education revolves around the establishment of a community for successful learning, the improvement of academic success, and setting and achieving educational goals; leaders are crucial to the development of world class education.
Defining and understanding the role of leaders in and outside the classroom shows a unique glimpse into the inner workings of the UK school system…


Education Leaders: Who Are They?

Leadership in education takes on many forms, from leaders who work in the classroom to those that oversee the entire workings of a school. The School Leadership in England 2010 to 2016 report from the Department of Education defines a leadership position in education as being in one of three categories: headteacher, senior leader, and middle leader. A number of positions are included amongst these categories:
• Executive Headteachers
• Headteachers
• Deputy Headteacher
• Assistant Headteacher
• Leading Practitioner
• Advisory Teacher
• Classroom Teacher (such as year, house, or department heads and behavioural specialists and managers)
The position of leaders in education goes some way to define who they are, but much of what makes a leader a true leader is the characteristics of leadership. There are many examples of the characteristics of leadership in education, with one such example of eight leadership characteristics being produced by academics at the Institute of Education; their list includes:
• Building of partnerships
• Providing opportunities for students
• Creating clear strategies
• Providing intervention and support
• Focusing on improvement
• Showing achievement is possible
• Valuing student achievement
• Ensuring inclusion


What Are Educational Leaders Responsible for?

In order to understand leadership in education, the responsibilities of leaders are one of the best areas to explore. Education leaders have a vast number of responsibilities, with their decisions impacting either the entire structure of a school or core processes, both of which can have a major impact on student life and quality of education.
The National Standard of Excellence for Headteachers report from the Department of Education has established four domains for ‘Excellence as Standard’. These are designed to create environments of high academic success, empower teachers, and create confidence in school leadership.
The four domains for headteacher excellence laid out in the report, are:
• Systems and Processes
• Pupils and Staff
• The Self-Improving School System
• Qualities and Knowledge
The main concerns of leadership in education are different to that of management and administration and are similar to the concerns of leaders in other positions. According to the National Standards for Headteachers, it’s the responsibility of leaders in education to:
• Shape the Future
• Strengthen the Community
• Secure Accountability
• Manage the Organisation
• Lead Learning and Teaching
• Develop Self and Work with Others


From creating visions to building communities, leadership in education encompasses almost every process that makes a school successful. The previous Chief Inspector of Schools, Sir Michael Wilshaw, has previously stated that the improvement in school performance is in part due to the improved leadership, demonstrating the importance of great leadership in the development of a world class school system.



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