Headteachers' standards list 24 'key characteristics'

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Photo: iStock

The 24 "key characteristics" that should be "expected of the nation's headteachers" have been spelt out in new headteachers' standards.

The standards, which have been published by the Department for Education, are not mandatory, but aim to set out the "skills, knowledge and behaviour that headteachers should aspire to".

School leaders have welcomed the standards as "challenging and aspirational", but warn that they must not become a "punitive tool".

The standards are listed in a 12-page document, entitled National Standards of Excellence for Headteachers, and they cover four "domains" – qualities and knowledge, pupils and staff, systems and process, and the self-improving school system.

Within each domain there are six "key characteristics" which the document states are "expected of the nation's headteachers". An example from each domain is given below:

  • Qualities and knowledge: "Headteachers demonstrate optimistic personal behaviour, positive relationships and attitudes towards their pupils and staff, and towards parents, governors and members of the local community."
  • Pupils and staff: "Headteachers create an ethos within which all staff are motivated and supported to develop their own skills and subject knowledge, and to support each other."
  • Systems and process: "Headteachers 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 society."
  • The self-improving school system: "Headteachers develop effective relationships with fellow professionals and colleagues in other public services to improve academic and social outcomes for all pupils."

The standards have been created after a review of the existing 2004 standards led by Dame Dana Ross-Wawrzynski, CEO of the Bright Futures Educational Trust, and a panel including representation from headteachers, middle leaders and governors.

The new document says that the standards can be used for shaping headteachers' own professional practice and development, to support headteacher recruitment, and to inform headteacher appraisal.

Both the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL) and the National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) have welcomed the new standards.

ASCL's immediate past president Ian Bauckham said: "What is good about the new headteacher standards is that they were developed by a group of practitioners representing many types of schools and groups of schools. They aim to capture a vision of excellence that is relevant to today's context.

"The standards are written to reflect what excellence looks like. They are aspirational, rather than setting out a minimum standard, and they are not mandatory.

"Employers and governors will need to understand this and use the standards in the way that they were intended, especially when recruiting a new head or reviewing performance."

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the NAHT, added: "Headteachers needed a set of standards dedicated to their role and responsibilities. These standards offer a challenging but aspirational vision of the duties of headship in the modern education system. They show just how complex and demanding the job is.

"We hope that the guidance to employers makes clear that these standards are designed to support development, reflection and self-review. They are not a punitive tool to use against head teachers but a celebration of what is best in the role. We will, of course, monitor their application closely to ensure it remains true to this vision."

Dame Dana added: "The review was a process which gave headteachers a genuine opportunity to review and set their own professional standards. The review group devised standards which are applicable to all headteacher roles in the current educational landscape, and will support the move to a self-improving school-led system.

"The review group hopes that these standards will inspire public confidence in headteachers, drive aspiration and excellence, and empower the profession."
You can download the new standards at http://bit.ly/1B8h8Wl

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