Improving the Effectiveness of School Leaders and Teachers

Submitting Institution

University of Nottingham

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Education: Curriculum and Pedagogy, Specialist Studies In Education

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Summary of the impact

A sustained and substantial research programme on teacher's lives and careers has influenced policy development, informed communities of practice and shaped leadership training materials and programmes. The work provides new insights into the complexity of teacher development which has been taken up widely around the world and used extensively by government policy makers and school leaders in the assessment of professional competencies and targeting of support to improve performance and enhance retention in the profession.

Underpinning research

The original research was developed in response to the urgent needs of successive governments to understand how to develop policies and professional development programmes that raise standards of teaching and thus pupils' learning and achievement. Building on Professor Christopher Day's extensive foundational work over a twenty year period, three large-scale collaborative research projects have provided critical insights to government policy makers and training organisations nationally and internationally.

In 2000, the Department for Education commissioned the Variations in Teachers' Work and Lives and Their Effects on Pupils (VITAE-which ran from 2001 to 2005). The research was led by Day, with co-investigators Sammons and Stobart from the Institute of Education, University of London and Kington and Gu from Nottingham. It was a mixed methods study of 300 teachers in 100 primary and secondary schools serving different socio-economic communities in seven regions in England. The key findings were that: i) teaching expertise and effectiveness do not necessarily increase with experience; ii) there are statistically significant associations between levels of teacher commitment and measurable pupil outcomes and iii) there are close associations between teachers' perceptions of their effectiveness in classrooms and the quality of school leadership [1]. The study remains the largest of its kind in the UK and one of only two internationally of this magnitude.

Also in 2000, Day delivered a National Association of Head Teachers-commissioned study [2] on the challenges head teachers faced in responding to an environment of considerable change. The interest generated by this study led, In 2001, to the National College for School Leadership agreeing to pump prime Day's existing collaborative research network, the International Successful School Principals Project (ISSPP). This enabled the network to provide new empirical evidence about the values, strategies and skills applied by successful school leaders in the diverse policy and social contexts of 20 countries in North and South America, Africa, South East Asia, Australia, Middle East and Europe [3]. The network has assembled the world's largest number of international multi-perspective case studies of successful school principals, and has generated more than 100 academic publications (see: These case studies and comparative analyses provide new knowledge of the short and long term effects of school principals on raising standards in schools.

The third project was The Impact of Leadership on Pupil Outcomes project (IMPACT-2005-2009) funded by the National College for School Leadership and the Department for Schools, Children and Families. This was led by Day with co-investigators Sammons and Gu from Nottingham, Hopkins from London, Harris from Warwick and Leithwood from Toronto. It remains the largest and most extensive mixed methods study of contemporary school leadership to be conducted in England and one of only three worldwide. The IMPACT project investigated associations between the measurable achievements of pupils in demonstrably successful schools and the values, qualities and strategies of their head teachers. Key findings of this study were that: i) head teachers in effective and improving schools possess common sets of personal qualities and values, as well as common leadership strategies and management competences; ii) the employment of these leadership strategies differs in response both to policy imperatives and the unique contexts in which head teachers work and iii) key to the success of these strategies are capacity-building and trust-building relationships with staff and the attention given to professional learning and development at both the individual and the collective level [4, 5, 6].

References to the research

1. Day, C., Sammons, P., Stobart, G., Kington, A. and Gu, Q. (2007) Teachers Matter: Connecting Work, Lives and Effectiveness. Maidenhead, Open University Press. Available on request.


2. Day, C., Harris, A., Hadfield, M., Tolley, H. and Beresford, J. (2000) Leading Schools in Times of Change. Buckingham, Open University Press. Available on request.


3. Moos, L., Johansson, O. and Day, C. (Eds.) (2011) How School Principals Sustain Success over Time: International Perspectives. Dordrecht, Springer. Available on request.


4. Leithwood, K., Day, C., Sammons, P., Harris, A. and Hopkins, D. (2006) Seven Strong Claims About Successful School Leadership. National College for School Leadership, Nottingham.
Available at:


5. Day, C., Sammons, P., Leithwood, K., Hopkins, D., Gu, Q., Brown, E. and Ahtaridou, E. (2011) Successful School Leadership: Linking with Learning and Achievement. Maidenhead, Open University Press. Available on request.

6. Day, C., Sammons, P., Hopkins, D., Harris, A., Leithwood, K., Gu, Q. and Brown, E. (2010) Ten Strong Claims About Successful School Leadership. National College for School Leadership, Nottingham. Available at:

Project Funding

• The Variations in Teachers' Work and Lives and Their Effects on Pupils Project: £1.2 million, Department of Schools, Children and Families. Day PI [2001-5]

• The Impact of Leadership on Pupil Outcomes Project: £760,000, the National College for School Leadership and Department for Schools, Children and Families. Day PI [2005-9]

• The International Successful School Principals Project: Initial funding of £40,000 from the National College for School Leadership. Each participating national team is funded from its own country. Day PI [2001 to present]

Details of the impact

Key findings of this research programme have been incorporated into national training materials for headteachers in a range of countries, and have been taken up within professional communities of practice internationally. The research has influenced policy on teacher development and school leadership both in the UK and more widely.

Shaping leadership training materials and programmes

The key messages of the IMPACT publications, Seven Strong Claims and Ten Strong Claims, have been integral to the National College for Teaching and Leadership's core national leadership training programme. These modules have also been adapted for use as an international online teaching resource: the NCTL translated Ten Strong Claims into Chinese in 2012, and it has been used as the core resource in a training programme for leading headteachers in Zhejiang Province, China designed to introduce new approaches to school leadership into Chinese schooling. Seven Strong Claims is recommended reading in the South African Department of Basic Education's Advanced Certificate: Education (School Management and Leadership) programme [A].

In England and Wales, VITAE research was incorporated into the CPD and training courses provided by the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL):

In particular, courses preparing people for senior leadership and headship took into account the findings from the research in the sessions on motivating staff, teacher well-being (including that of the school leaders themselves) and school effectiveness.[B]

ISSPP research has largely shaped Israeli developments in principal training [C]. ISSPP-based materials have been delivered to more than 400 Mexican principals since 2008, and formed the basis of a new Masters' programme for school leaders in Sonora State with its first graduates in 2011. In Chihuahua State, a leadership development programme was made available to school leaders for the first time as a result of ISSPP [D]. In South Africa, Day advised in the establishment of a Postgraduate Diploma in Higher Education and a Bachelor of Education (beginning 2014) at the Vaal University of Technology, one of the ISSPP partners [E].

Informing professional communities of practice

The VITAE project was supported by all of the UK's national teacher unions and professional associations, who ensured that the findings were widely disseminated to members. This has impacted upon the ways in which staff well-being and resilience are supported. For instance, John Dunford, then General Secretary of the ASCL, notes that

Through the association's training courses and publications, its 15,000 members, all engaged in school and college leadership, would have become more aware of the issues highlighted in the VITAE research of managing staff in the best way, taking into account their work-life balance in ways that had not been considered by previous generations of school and college leaders. ... Following the research, I have observed a marked increase in the level of support given to classroom teachers. The link in the research between this support, teacher effectiveness and school effectiveness has been made in many schools. ... the VITAE research has produced a wider recognition of the issues of work-life balance for school leaders and teachers. It has changed practice in many schools. [B]

The messages of the IMPACT project have been widely taken up amongst the professional community in the UK, largely through the influence of two publications, Seven Strong Claims About Successful School Leadership which, because of its popularity and perceived impact, was followed four years later by Ten Strong Claims. The National College for Teaching and Leadership reports approximately 10 000 sales and downloads of the two reports, which are also available on other websites. Ten Strong Claims was the only research output cited in Ofsted's 2012 guidance about leadership in outstanding schools.

Evidence of the reach of the IMPACT research can be found on numerous government and teacher association practice development websites internationally. For example, project findings are summarised or linked to by the New Zealand Ministry of Education; the Australian Institute for Training and School Leadership; and the British Columbia Teachers' Federation. In 2013 both the States of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo invited Day to design research and development projects replicating the IMPACT project, which are planned to begin in 2014. Since 2008, Day has been invited to give keynote addresses on the research to professional teachers and school leaders' conferences in 12 countries, including Australia, Brazil, China and the USA.

Testimony from participants in the ISSP indicates that membership of the network has empowered members to take on greater national leadership development roles. For instance, since joining the project in 2008, Professor Tubin of the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev acknowledges that

Based on my ISSPP experience and knowledge, I became ... a member of the steering committee that develops the policy and practices of principal training programs in Israel. [C]

Internationally, the research is helping transform leadership practices in schools and school districts. Michael Gallagher of the Sunnyvale School District, San Francisco states that

Your [Day's] work is truly making a difference in our district and throughout the Bay area. ... As a direct result of your research, we began a support group this spring [2012] for mid- and late-career teachers focusing on their social emotional well-being and the relationship to student social emotional well-being and learning. The result of this five session, ten week pilot was very positive. ... In some cases they reported their resilience was "strengthened". In others, they gained clarity about their mission and purpose in teaching. ... I'm very appreciative of your hard work. It is making a difference in the lives of our teachers and our students' learning. [F].

Connie Moloi, Professor of Educational Management, Vaal University of Technology, South Africa states that

The research impact of the ISSPP has ... penetrated into the neighbouring district attached to our university where I conduct workshops on school leadership, drawing from the research literature of the ISSPP... (it) is making substantial impact in the lives of teachers and school principals involved in the project. [E]

Arturo Marin, Principal of the Jose E. Medrano R. Normal School in Mexico writes that

...the ISSPP project has had a positive impact at different levels. It has benefitted our institution providing professors and students with opportunities to learn and engage in educational research projects. It has allowed us to collaborate with state education authorities and other institutions ... we believe that the community of educational practitioners has and will continue to benefit from the professional development programs based on the research findings derived from ISSPP's efforts in Chihuahua, in Mexico and in other countries around the globe. [D]

Influencing policy

Government policy on teacher development and teacher quality across UK jurisdictions has been strongly influenced by the VITAE project. The research is cited in both a House of Commons Education Select Committee Report (2010: 18) [G] and the General Teaching Council of England Policy Paper 6, `Professional Learning and Development' (2010: 79) [H]. A literature review produced by the Scottish Government, `Teacher Education in the 21st Century' (2012), contains references to six publications from the project. A Northern Ireland Assembly briefing paper on `Qualities for Effective School Leadership' (2011) is largely drawn from the IMPACT project.

The international influence of the IMPACT project is evidenced by the extensive use of its findings in two of the most highly influential reports on teachers and leadership of the past five years. Four out of 25 references in McKinsey and Company's 2010 report, Capturing the Leadership Premium [I], are to IMPACT project outputs. Led by Sir Michael Barber, former advisor to Prime Minister Blair, this report has received very widespread media and policy interest. Two outputs from the project are referenced in the major Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) policy document, Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders (2009) [J].

Moreover, Day was appointed to the international expert panel created by the OECD to advise on the writing of the report. This report combines PISA data with key findings from the academic literature. It was the key input to the first International Summit on the Teaching Profession, co-convened by the US Department of Education, OECD and Education International.

Sources to corroborate the impact

A. South African Department of Basic Education —

B. Former General Secretary, Association of School and College Leaders.

C. Professor, Department of Education, Ben Gurion University, Israel.

D. Principal, Jose E. Medrano R. Normal School, Mexico.

E. Professor, Department of Education, Vaal University of Technology, South Africa.

F. Assistant Superintendent, Sunnyvale School District, San Francisco, USA.

G. House of Commons Education Committee (2012) Great Teachers: attracting, training and retaining the best: government response to the Committee's ninth report of Session 2010-2012. Available online at:

H. General Teaching Council for England (2011) Teaching Quality: Policy Papers 6, Professional Learning and Development. Available online at:

I. McKinsey and Company (2010) Capturing the Leadership Premium: How the world's top school systems are building leadership capacity for the future. Available online at:

J. OECD (2009) Preparing Teachers and Developing School Leaders. Available online at: