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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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