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School leadership
This page contains the findings of systematic reviews undertaken by review groups linked to the EPPI-Centre

One review investigated the impact of headteachers and principals on school outcomes:[1]

  • There was some evidence that school leaders can have some effect on student outcomes, albeit indirectly. One study found that change of leadership can have a substantial negative effect.
  • Evidence on achievement was mixed.  Some studies reported weak positive effects; one study found a significant effect on language.  One study found little or no effect on mathematics, while another found a significant effect on mathematics test scores.
  • Two primary school studies provided mixed evidence about leaders' effect on attitudes to learning. One reported no significant effect on student engagement, while a second found evidence of a moderate correlation between principals' leadership and attitudes to learning. One secondary school study reported indirect effects on non-academic student variables: participation in school, engagement with school and academic self-concept.
  • None of the studies collected specific data on recruitment or behaviour (i.e. student discipline). One descriptive study did provide some positive evidence based on proxy measures, while a case study highlighted the negative effect of change of leadership. One secondary school study found evidence of indirect effect on student retention.


1. A systematic review of the impact of school headteachers and principals on student outcomes (2003)

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