Headteacher performance management in England: Balancing internal and external accountability through performance leadership

David Eddy-Spicer, Sara Bubb, Peter Earley, Megan Crawford, Chris James

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (SciVal)


This article reports on research into headteacher performance management in England. The English school system couples organisational autonomy with close scrutiny of educational outcomes. The management of the performance of headteachers is a central aspect of such a system. The research involved a systematic literature review and the collection of data via national surveys, expert interviews and case studies. The findings point to three overarching conditions essential for what we identify as ‘performance leadership’: relational trust between the headteacher and the governing body; situational awareness by the governing body of the school’s circumstances and the headteacher’s lived experience of the role; and a systems perspective shared by the headteacher and governing body of performance management as one aspect of a comprehensive, interactive system of internal accountability, not merely an annual rite of passage. The study found that capacity in any two conditions offers a foundation for developing capability in the third. It also revealed the dominant role played by middle-tier structures in defining what constitutes ‘effective’ performance for any school or group of schools. The article offers insight into the changing landscape of performance expectations, for school leaders as well as for those who oversee their work.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)170-188
Number of pages19
JournalEducational Management Administration and Leadership
Issue number2
Early online date27 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2019


  • Accountability
  • appraisal
  • external advisers
  • governing body
  • headteacher
  • performance management
  • school principal

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • Strategy and Management


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