Performance management: its impact on heads in international schools

  • Simon Taylor

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Education (EdD)


In this thesis I explore performance management, its impact on heads of not-for-profit international schools and possible links to tenure (length of service). In this study, international schools are those offering a curriculum that is not of the host country (Hayden and Thompson, 2013) and that have an international outlook or international values (Bunnell, Fertig and James, 2016). These schools are generally governed by boards responsible for employing a head of school and for managing his or her performance.

There is a paucity of research on performance management of heads in not-for-profit international schools though two notable studies exist on tenure. In the first of these, Hawley (1994:1995) reports that, in US accredited schools overseas, the average (median) tenure of heads is 2.8 years. In the second, Benson (2011) reports the average (median), for those in schools who are members of the European Council of International schools (ECIS) and/or the Council of International Schools (CIS), to be 3.7 years. My research aimed to provide further insights by asking four questions:

1. How are heads of not-for-profit international schools prepared for their work?
2. How is performance management of heads of not-for-profit international schools conceived, structured and organized?
3. How do heads of not-for-profit international schools perceive their performance management processes?
4. Does performance management of heads of not-for-profit international schools appear to be linked to tenure?

Using a mixed methods approach that comprised semi-structured interviews with 10 heads of school and a questionnaire yielding data from a further 63 heads of school, I investigated the perspectives of heads in schools where a national system of performance management is not employed. My research revealed that formal regular performance management is not ubiquitous in these schools. Where performance management is found, it varies in terms of structure, regularity and effectiveness. Among the findings it was seen that formal and regular processes were more likely to lead to comprehensive feedback. Where the relationship between the board and the head was one of partnership, processes were considered more effective and when expectations and the setting of criteria were shared, tenure was longer. The average (median) tenure of heads was found to be 5 years with a mean average of 6.9 years. However, the data suggest that performance management was effective in only about half the cases and did not seem to have any bearing on decisions relating to the tenure of heads. It was for other reasons, often personal, that heads left. In particular, the relationship with the board and the board chair appears to have been an important factor for those interviewed. This research offers some insights into the value of performance management and raises questions about its impact on tenure in the light of relationships with the board.
Date of Award16 Sept 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Bath
SupervisorMary Hayden (Supervisor) & Chris James (Supervisor)


  • Performance management
  • Headship
  • International schools

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