Schools need to develop the leadership skills of staff at all levels

In successful schools, staff at all levels show strong leadership behaviours. These schools develop the leadership skills of all their staff, from classroom practitioners to senior leaders. A strong learning ethos, leadership development and succession planning are integral parts of the professional development culture in these schools.

Estyn’s report, ‘Best practice in leadership development in schools’, highlights how the most successful leaders identify and nurture the leadership potential of their staff. Case studies outline how primary and secondary schools across Wales have successfully developed the leadership skills of their staff.

Meilyr Rowlands, Chief Inspector, says:

“Strong leadership behaviours at all levels is a key part of creating successful schools. It is important for schools to support all their staff, including those at the beginning of their careers, to develop their leadership potential.

“Although in some schools there is good practice, the opportunity to develop key leadership skills is not available in all schools and there is a particular shortage of Welsh-medium training.”

Nearly all of the schools Estyn visited for this report have confident senior leaders who have established a culture where professional learning is valued. Many of the school leaders carry out detailed analyses of the knowledge, skills and attributes required for each leadership role within their school and successfully develop a system of ‘distributed leadership’ among staff. Distributed leadership means that all staff have opportunities to lead aspects of school work.

Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni has created a ‘Realising Potential Strategy’ which is built on existing performance management principles. The purpose of this strategy is to assist leaders in developing the leadership potential of staff early in their careers. Talented teachers are identified to safeguard future leadership capacity.

Increasingly, schools are distributing leadership roles among staff at all levels. The best school leaders involve their senior leadership team in a range of activities in preparation for headship. They encourage these leaders to play an active, strategic role in leading aspects of the school.

The report contains a number of recommendations, including that schools should develop a strong culture of professional learning for staff at all levels, improve succession planning, identify the leadership potential of staff early and support their career development, and use the leadership standards as the basis for evaluating their own leadership skills. Local authorities and regional consortia should provide guidance for schools and more opportunities for skills development. Finally, it recommends that the Welsh Government implements a strategy for the development of leadership in schools.

Notes to Editors:

About the report

Estyn’s report Best practice in leadership development in schools was commissioned by the Welsh Assembly Government and is available in full at

The evidence base of the report includes:

  • Interviews with senior leaders, middle leaders, class teachers and learning support assistants
  • Scrutiny of the school improvement plan, staffing structure, job descriptions, and continuous professional development records

Additional evidence was drawn from:

  • primary and secondary school inspection reports from 2010 to 2014
  • Estyn thematic survey reports
  • additional best practice case studies from the Estyn website and from other schools not visited

The report contains case studies on

  • Ysgol Gyfun Cwm Rhymni (Caerphilly)
  • Cardiff High School (Cardiff)
  • Herbert Thompson Primary (Cardiff)
  • Bryngwyn Comprehensive School (Carmarthenshire)
  • Ysgol y Foryd (Conwy)
  • Elfed High School (Flintshire)
  • Ysgol Dyffryn Ogwen (Gwynedd)
  • Glan Usk Primary School (Newport)
  • Ysgol Gyfun Gŵyr (Swansea)
  • Barry Island Primary School (Vale of Glamorgan)

Publication date

Thursday, 11 June, 2015