Three Key Values of Great School Leaders

Staff development network

Dr Mark Dowley May 2nd, 2024 · 2min read

Author, Head Teacher and educational expert Tom Sherrington runs training for schools all over the world and has identified three key values of leaders in great schools, that differ to those in good schools.

Key points

  • Energy and Drive
    All schools are mad busy places but where you see strong teaching, leaders prioritise time for talking about curriculum and teaching. Leaders are regularly visiting lessons, knowing what is happening and boosting the energy of those around them.
  • Motivating Powers
    Great schools have developmental feedback cultures where teachers engage in productive professional dialogue about the challenges they face and the solutions that might be worth pursuing. It’s striking that the strongest teacher teams are often the most self-aware and self-critical.
  • Expertise in teaching and learning
    The very best practice I see is nearly always led by someone who seems to really understand the mechanics and spirit of a strong learning process within their context. They are constantly trying to get a better sense of what goes on inside that big black box … how exactly do we get better outcomes? What things can we work into routines?

They are a fair way along the axis of learning nerdiness, deeply interested in cognitive science or more general concepts about learning and the reasons that some children find learning difficult.

Read the full article

What you can do

What this means:

Use these articles as a checklist for your leadership team. Ask them:

  • Compared to a high-performing team, how would you describe the energy in our leadership team? Does the team look forward to the challenges and successes that come from running the school or is there a sense of resignation and avoidance?
  • Ask your team members to share the last time they had some structured feedback on their performance. This could be in the form of staff surveys, 360-degree feedback, or annual data points. If the team isn’t getting this feedback, maybe it’s time to start.
  • Who are the edu-nerds in your team? These are the people who give up their Saturday to go to researchED, they listen to educational podcasts on the way to work and read books about education.
  • Ask your team, ‘Describe the actions you’ve taken in the last six months to help you learn more about school leadership or high-quality instruction?’ Those with dozens of responses are your edu-nerds. Note that I use the term edu-nerd with positive regard – I consider myself one.

Happy coaching,


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