Guidance on the headteacher standards

19 January 2015

The DfE has published a new set of headteacher standards for England, titled National Standards for Excellence for Headteachers. These are non-mandatory standards intended to be suitable for use across all types of schools and colleges.

The new headteacher standards were developed by a group of practitioners, including ASCL Past President Ian Bauckham and a range of representatives from many types of schools and groups of schools. They replace the previous version dating back to 2004 and aim to capture a vision of excellence for today's context, rather than a minimum standard.

The standards aim to reflect the fact that leadership of our schools and colleges has never been more important. A fast changing educational landscape with an increasing emphasis on a self-improving system – with schools and colleges making their own decisions – means that more than ever the quality of a school is dependent on its leadership.

The standards are written to set out what excellence looks like. They include the core responsibilities of all headteachers: teaching, achievement, behaviour, professional development, finance and resources. They also aim to reflect the need for political astuteness, accountability and a strategic and outward facing approach, which are so essential in a self-improving system.

Because they are written to reflect a standard of excellence, rather than a minimum requirement, they will need to be used with care by employers and governors, especially in performance management or appraisal.

They should be read in conjunction with the DfE’s guidance, which makes clear how the standards should and should not be used, as well as ASCL’s own guidance to members . We would advise all heads to read both these documents and to share them with their governors.

It is our hope that the new standards will communicate to a wider audience just how central the headteacher's role is in our society. We need more school leaders to be prepared to take on headship roles, and it is important that what we articulate about headship inspires more people to do so.