Successful School Leadership Latest 2020 publication

Christopher Day

Pamela Sammons

Kristine Gorgen

This new edition of Successful School Leadership brings in the latest evidence and material to what has remained a popular publication. While the fundamentals of what drives successful school leadership remain the same, new evidence further supports the arguments put forward by Christopher Day and Pam Sammons back in 2016. The growing interest in system leadership that we have witnessed over the last five years also features in this edition, as does a reflection on the expanding body of international literature focused on school leadership in low-income contexts.

The evidence examined by this review indicates that effective school leadership is important but, in isolation, is not a sufficient condition for successful school improvement. It shows that leadership has important effects on school organisation, culture and on teachers. Effects on student outcomes are largely indirect operating through direct effects on the organisation, culture and teaching and learning environment.  

The review draws particular attention to three concepts of leadership: transformational, pedagogical/instructional and distributed. While there is evidence that pedagogical/instructional leadership is important for promoting better academic outcomes for students, it is concluded that the three concepts of leadership are not mutually exclusive. It finds that most leadership effects operate indirectly to promote student outcomes by supporting and enhancing conditions for teaching and learning through direct impacts on teachers and their work, and that successful student outcomes are defined more broadly than academic performance alone (including attendance, behaviour, engagement and motivation, etc.). Moreover, single leadership strategies unrelated to educational purposes and national and local contexts are less likely to lead to success than combinations and accumulations of values-led and context-sensitive strategies which best illustrate the dynamic and complex nature of schools in the 21st century.  

Whether CEOs of multi-academy trusts, groups of schools, or principals of individual schools, school leaders have a key role to play in setting direction and creating and sustaining a positive school culture. This includes establishing a proactive, collaborative school mindset, supporting and enhancing staff, as well as student motivation, engagement and well-being, and the collective commitment needed to foster improvement and promote and sustain success for schools and classrooms which serve a range of advantaged and disadvantaged communities.