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National standards of excellence for head teachers

Early in 2014, the DfE announced a review of the 2004 non-mandatory head teacher standards. NAHT had the opportunity to be involved in the review as NAHT's vice president, Tony Draper, was on the review group and took part in a number of meetings to represent our views. 

The review group elected for very aspirational standards, which will remain non-mandatory,  and while these are useful to support head teacher professional development, we were very concerned they could be used against heads by employers and governing bodies. The review body accepted this was a risk and decided to develop some associated guidance on how these should be used, which is very helpful, and states that:

“The standards are different from the teachers’ standards in that they are non-mandatory and they do not set a baseline of expected performance. They therefore should not be used as a checklist or as a baseline, and any shortcoming with respect to the standards is not, in and of itself, the basis for questioning competence or initiating capability." 

These standards are intended as guidance to underpin best practice, whatever the particular job description of the head teacher. They are to be interpreted in the context of each individual head teacher and school, and designed to be relevant to all head teachers, irrespective of length of service in post.

The standards are intended to be used to: 

  • shape head teachers’ own practice and professional development, within and beyond the school;
  • inform the appraisal of head teachers;
  • support the recruitment and appointment of head teachers; and
  • provide a framework for training middle and senior leaders, aspiring to headship.
The national standards of excellence for head teachers are set out in four domains, beginning with a preamble. There are four ‘excellence as standard’ domains:

  • Qualities and knowledge
  • Pupils and staff
  • Systems and process
  • The self-improving school system
Within each domain there are six key characteristics expected of the nation’s headteachers. 

The standards and associated guidance are available below.
First published 03 February 2015