Leadership is the ‘most significant factor’ in driving primary school improvement


Effective leadership is the most important influence in raising standards, improving teaching and learning, and embedding a culture of self-improvement in primary schools.


Estyn’s report, ‘Leadership and primary school improvement ’ draws on inspection evidence and case studies from a broad range of schools across Wales to identify the common characteristics of successful improvement for schools at different stages of development –whether starting from a low point or looking to sustain high standards.

It also shows how schools can learn from each other’s experiences and use them to meet their own needs. 

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says,

“Every school has its own challenges, but all schools can improve. For effective improvement you need leaders with a clear vision of what needs to change. Inspection supports this process by identifying schools’ strengths and areas for improvement, and by prioritising possible next steps.” 

Making the improvement journey

The case studies in the report illustrate the four stages of a school’s improvement journey - starting the journey, making progress, building momentum, and then sustaining high standards.

For example, Deighton Primary School (Blaenau Gwent) started from requiring ‘significant improvement’ after a 2011 inspection. A new school leadership team focused on improving teaching and instilling a culture of high expectations.  The school also developed the role of governors and built stronger links with parents and the local community.  By 2015, pupil outcomes were improving and a full Estyn inspection judged the school as ‘good’ in terms of its current performance and prospects for future improvement.   

The report also features a model for effective improvement at all these stages, based on a set of common characteristics such as:

  • a clear vision and strategic direction from leaders that evolves as the school improves

  • making improving standards and wellbeing of pupils the main priority

  • delivering a curriculum that fully meets the needs of all pupils

  • sustaining a consistent focus on literacy and numeracy skills

  • raising professional standards - improving teaching, developing staff skills, and ensuring staff are accountable for driving improvement and

  • ensuring self-evaluation is based on solid evidence and linked to improvement priorities.

Notes to Editors:

About the report

  • It builds on the findings of an earlier report:  ‘Best practice in leadership development’ – published by Estyn in 2015 
  • The report:
    • examines how leadership and developing leadership capacity  are fundamental to improving primary school performance
    • identifies a model for improvement based on common characteristics that support improvement at all levels
  • Inspectors gathered evidence from:

  • visits to 27 primary schools across Wales that have made improvements
  • additional evidence from primary school inspections between September 2010 and July 2015

Case studies of how primary schools are improving:

  • Deighton Primary School – Blaenau Gwent

  • Ystrad Mynach Primary School - Caerphilly

  • Ysgol Gynradd Brynaman - Carmarthenshire

  • St Alban’s Catholic Primary School - Cardiff

  • Ysgol Glan Gele - Conwy

  • Hawarden Village Voluntary Aided Church In Wales Primary School - Flintshire

  • Ysgol Cymunedol Y Friog – Gwynedd

  • Deri View Primary School - Monmouthshire

  • Tonau Community Primary Schoool – Neath Port Talbot

  • Ysgol Gynradd Gymraeg Rhosafan – Neath Port Talbot

  • Glasllwch Primary School – Newport

  • High Cross Primary School - Newport

  • Tavernspite School – Pembrokeshire

  • Templeton School – Pembrokeshire

  • Craig Yr Hesg Primary School – Rhondda Cynon Taf

  • Ysgol Gynradd Dolau – Rhondda Cynon Taf

  • Parkland Primary School - Swansea

  • Wat’s Dyke Community Primary School - Wrexham

Publication date

Thursday, 15 September, 2016