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Looking back: recent trends in school leadership

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What were school leaders thinking about during the previous term, and what might we learn from this? It’s been a tumultuous year in education, but the popularity of two particular topics on our School Leader website – recruiting and inducting staff, and the new National Curriculum – suggest that our members nonetheless had their heads above water, and were looking ahead to the this term.

It is the season to… recruit

It’s no surprise that school leaders were thinking about recruitment during the final few months of the school year. Our members’ overall interest in articles on recruitment (total page views per 100 schools) was over 50% higher in summer term than in spring term.

Our articles on recruitment are divided into three groups, covering senior leaders, teachers, and support staff. Our members were interested in articles on recruitment of senior leaders throughout the year. However, their interest in articles on recruiting teachers and support staff was almost twice as high in summer term as in spring term.

Some of our more popular articles in this area look at interview questions and tasks for specific roles. For example, one includes examples of data-analysis tasks for candidates for deputy headteacher at a primary school. Another looks at interview tasks to help recruit classroom teachers.

While summer term saw higher levels of interest in recruitment across the board, we’ve noticed that members in schools with different Ofsted rating showed different levels of interest in articles on the three groups of staff.

Members in schools rated ‘outstanding’ were more interested than other members in articles on recruitment of senior leaders. Meanwhile, members in schools graded ‘requires improvement’ were more interested than average in articles on recruiting support staff.

Perhaps schools judged to require improvement are focusing on classroom-level interventions (the most popular articles in this area are on teaching assistants), while schools judged to be ‘outstanding’ are more concerned about recruiting senior leaders who can maintain the school’s performance.

The new curriculum

Back in November of last year, we asked our school leader members whether they felt ready for the introduction of the new National Curriculum for maintained schools. Of those who responded, 59% said they felt ‘quite prepared’. Since then, we’ve seen members reading more articles on the curriculum. In the spring term, members in both maintained schools and academies showed a high level of interest in our area on the curriculum. Then, in summer term, this became the most popular area on our website. Our most viewed articles in this area looked at how schools could implement the new curriculum.

As expected, we saw more interest in articles on the new National Curriculum from members in maintained schools. Among members in academies, the most popular articles focused on the structure and implementation of the curriculum.

Academies don’t have to teach the new curriculum, but many will do so, and leaders in these schools may also have used information about the new curriculum to help them evaluate and restructure their own provision ahead of the new school year.

In this are, too, we’ve seen differences between members in schools with different Ofsted ratings. Per 100 schools, we see more page views from members in schools judged as ‘good’ or ‘requires improvement’ than those in schools rated ‘outstanding’.

It seems that in summer term, across the full range of schools, our members were focusing on getting the basics in place ready for the changes. But perhaps leaders in schools rated ‘requires improvement’ or ‘good’ were feeling particular pressure to make sure they were well prepared and ready to go in September.


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