Top of the class? Examining the state of leadership and management in education

Education is strongly linked with economic success, yet education quality in the UK lags behind many comparable countries. This report examines the central role that better leadership and management have to play in addressing this, and makes recommendations for how the government can improve the quality of leadership and management in the UK education system.


  • A substantial minority of schools and further education colleges in England are poorly led. Between 2017-2023, an average of 30% of schools and colleges were rated ‘inadequate’ or ‘requires improvement’ for their leadership and management, yet efforts to address this have fallen short.
  • Leaders and managers in education considered motivation and morale to be the second most important factor for success, yet 26% (and 30% of those working in schools) felt that their senior leadership were poor at motivating staff.
  • Recruiting and retaining quality staff is a challenge in the education sector. Only 50% of leaders and managers felt that their organisation performed well at attracting talent in 2022, with only 57% feeling the same about retention. 28% felt that resourcing issues were an obstacle to them doing their jobs well.
  • Leadership and management training is common in education organisations, though more junior managers tend to miss out. 25% of team leaders and 23% of junior managers reported receiving no training at all in 2022.
  • Managers at all levels said that they have considerable autonomy to perform their roles, though majorities said that their managers (58%) and internal rules and policies (52%) interfered with their ability to solve problems.
  • Just over a quarter (28%) felt that organisational culture inhibited their ability to be as effective as they could, with poor communication and morale being particularly salient.
  • Resourcing and funding remains an obstacle that has negative knock-on effects throughout organisations. Almost a quarter (24%) of leaders and managers reported that funding problems made it harder to manage and lead.


  • Make the quality of leadership and management a priority issue across the sector
  • Build on the current Teacher Recruitment and Retention Strategy to develop a more comprehensive approach to help maximise the contribution of leadership and management to the success of schools and colleges.
  • Revamp leadership NPQs and mandate them for everyone in and aspiring to be in leadership and management roles in state-funded education.
  • Develop leadership NPQs or equivalents for other parts of the education sector, such as higher education.
  • Underpin the reformed NPQ framework with a robust regime upholding the quality and consistency of the training to enable people to procure the appropriate training from the best providers.


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